76ers Rumors: Mike D'Antoni, Doc Rivers Report Denied 'Instantly' by Team Insiders

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIFebruary 13, 2022

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 25:  Assistant coach Mike D’Antoni
of the Brooklyn Nets looks on against the Boston Celtics in Game Two of the First Round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center on May 25, 2021 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Steven Ryan/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers have embarked on a new chapter after landing James Harden in a blockbuster deal with the Brooklyn Nets that saw Ben Simmons leave town.

Now, longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein has relayed a "conspiracy theory" that is "making the rounds in league coaching circles" that 76ers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey will eventually want to hire New Orleans Pelicans coaching adviser Mike D'Antoni to replace current Philly head coach Doc Rivers:

"Rivers might have a more significant problem to manage than merely tuning out the naysayers questioning his presence on the Top 15 list. The conspiracy theory already making the rounds in league coaching circles holds that Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey will eventually want Mike D’Antoni to take over in the hot seat for Philadelphia’s new Joel Embiid/James Harden tag team after D’Antoni’s offensive creativity helped catapult Harden to three scoring titles in Houston."

However, Kyle Neubeck of the Philly Voice checked in with some team sources on the rumor, and it was shot down.

Kyle Neubeck @KyleNeubeck

Sorry to interrupt Super Bowl talk:<br><br>Checked in on rumor regarding Morey looking to replace Rivers with D’Antoni. Was shot down instantly by multiple team sources, who noted the job Rivers has done this year in strange circumstances in addition to Embiid’s leap under Doc’s watch

Morey, Harden and D'Antoni were all part of the Houston Rockets from 2016 to 2020. Harden enjoyed the best years of his career under his ex-head coach, leading the league in scoring three straight years and winning the 2017-18 NBA MVP award.

Morey served as the architect for those Rockets teams, which were perennial playoff contenders. Houston's best season resulted in a 65-17 record in 2017-18 and a Western Conference Finals appearance against the Golden State Warriors.

The idea of pairing Harden and D'Antoni again could be enticing, but the conspiracy theory will likely remain just that.

For starters, Rivers is in the second year of a reported five-year, $40 million contract. It doesn't appear likely the 76ers would cut bait so early and eat a ton of dead money.

In addition, the 76ers have done well under Rivers.

Philadelphia finished first in the Eastern Conference standings under Rivers in his first year. The 76ers fell to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round, but that was largely because of Simmons' significant offensive struggles.

With Harden in the mix, the 76ers are clearly among the Eastern Conference favorites. He should be a huge boost to a team that's already 34-22 and just two-and-a-half games behind the Miami Heat for first.

It remains to be seen how the tandem of Harden and MVP candidate Joel Embiid will work out with Rivers calling the shots, but for now, the arrow is clearly pointing up in Philly as it looks for its first NBA Finals appearance since 2001.