Last season, expectations were high for the Philadelphia 76ers as it very well could be the end of the Joel Embiid, James Harden, and Doc Rivers era in Philly. All three of their legacies were on the line with critics saying they couldn’t get it done, saying Doc Rivers can’t make it out of the Conference Semifinals, and Harden will never win a ring it was time to do something about it. With young star Tyrese Maxey and proven veterans in Tobias Harris and PJ Tucker, the stage was set with one of the best starting lineups in the entire NBA. The team would end up taking the leap in the regular season finishing the regular season with a 54-28 record and third in the Eastern Conference. Joel Embiid would also go onto win the MVP award after being runner up to Nikola Jokic the previous two years.
In the first round of the 2023 playoffs, the Sixers would go on to play the sixth seeded Brooklyn Nets and would defeat them with ease going on to win 4-0 in a sweep. The next round would be against longtime rival, the Boston Celtics who seemed to be the kryptonite of the Sixers beating them in the playoffs in 2018, and 2020 going 8-1 against Philadelphia in the span. This left many fans unsettled in nervousness this could’ve been the beginning of the end. After suffering a minor injury, Joel Embiid would be forced to sit out game one against Boston which made this series feel hopeless. Things would turn out different in game one and James Harden went on to silence some of the critics putting up 45 points and a game winning three pointer giving the Sixers the win in game one which gave fans something that hadn’t had in a while, hope. The Sixers would go on to win games four and five leaving them in the driver’s seat in the series up 3-2. This wouldn’t last for long though. Ultimately the Sixers would lose Game 6 and go on to put up the worst playoff performance in the Embiid, Harden, Rivers era losing in horrific fashion to their rivals once again. Doc Rivers struggles in the playoffs would haunt him and his legacy of not being able to make it past the Conference Semifinals would continue to haunt him for a third straight season.
This devastating loss would leave the front office with no other choice to dismiss head coach Doc Rivers only two days after the Game 7 melt down against Boston. In a statement by 76ers president of operations, Daryl Morey to pay his respects he said “We’re grateful for all he did in his three seasons and thank him for the impact he made on this franchise.” Rivers made a winning impact on the franchise and ended his stint in Philadelphia with a 154-82 record
The search for a new head coach was on. Philadelphia would join Milwaukee, Phoenix, Toronto and Detroit with teams searching for a new head coach. After a lot of buzz and speculation on who the Sixers would hire to help them content for a championship in the upcoming season it seemed that they made a choice.
On May 30, 2023 Daryl Morey would come out with the statement “We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Nick Nurse as the new head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. His championship pedigree and diversity of experience mixed with his uniquely creative approach made him our top priority. We are confident that his leadership and expertise will help us unlock the full potential of our talented roster and bring an exciting new era of championship basketball to Philadelphia”. Morey made this statement after receiving the blessing of last year’s MVP, Joel Embiid to give the job to Nurse.
Nick Nurse comes into Philadelphia with an already familiar face to most. Nurse was head coach of division rival Toronto Raptors from 2018 to the end of this 2023 season. Nurse had a 227-163 record in his five seasons with Toronto and raking in an NBA championship and a coach of the year award in his tenure with the Raptors. Joel Embiid and the Sixers have had some serious battles with Nurse and his Raptors in the past couple years in 2022 where the Sixers finished the Raptors in 6 games and in 2019 Nurse led the Raptors to the 2019 NBA championship after they beat Embiid and the 76ers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on a heart-breaking buzzer beater from Kawhi Leonard. Nurse and Morey also have ties and reunite from years prior coaching the Houston Rockets G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
After not making it out of the play-in round in 2023, the Toronto Raptors would go on to fire Nurse after discussions of culture change inside of their organization. Nick Nurse and his new team look to get past the hump and bring home a championship to the Philadelphia faithful.
Nurse steps into Philadelphia in a win-now mode with most of the team in the peak of their career including MVP Joel Embiid, rising star Tyrese Maxey and a very capable roster. The first big piece of news in the Nurse era is the James Harden situation. Recently Harden has opted in to is $35 million player option and requested a trade from the Sixers. Until there is more light on this situation and Harden makes his decision all he can do is work around it and keep the team focused on the bigger goal.
Ultimately the Nurse has one job and that is to take the Sixers to the promise land and bring an NBA championship to the Sixers before the window closes and Embiid gets older and battles injuries. This is going to be a very difficult task as the other teams in the Eastern Conference like the Celtics, Heat, and Bucks are all trying to do the same, but Nurse has been very successful in his career and is trusted to do so. The front office, players, and fans all believe he is going to be the guy to do it.