Sunday, June 13

Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons ‘absolutely can work together,’ says new 76ers boss Daryl Morey

The 76ers were mired in “The Process” of losing games to pile up assets not long ago.  

On Monday, the 76ers ushered in a new era, introducing yet another leadership regime as Philadelphia tries to convert its years of misery into an NBA title.  

Daryl Morey was formally introduced as the president of basketball operations in a video news conference, sitting a safe distance on stage from general manager Elton Brand, new head coach Doc Rivers and managing partner Josh Harris.  

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Morey, who made a mutual decision with the Rockets to end his 13-year tenure as general manager last month, was hired Sunday to a reported five-year deal, and Brand was given a contract extension at the same time.  

While Morey’s role gives him final decision-making power, he stressed that collaboration with Brand and the rest of the front office would be key going forward.  

The most pressing question for the organization is deciding the fates of All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, who have yet to find the optimal blend of their talents on offense.  

“I think they absolutely can work together,” Morey said in response to the popular belief that one of the stars needs to be traded immediately.   

When pressed, however, Morey would not commit to keeping the Embiid-Simmons partnership in place indefinitely.  

“I do think that we have a very, very good roster. Our championship team probably isn’t going to have the same exact players that we have right now,” Morey said.  

“My goal is to win a championship, so whatever gets us there is what we’ll do.  

“But I would say to have two star-plus players at 24 and 26 years old, that is why I couldn’t get Doc Rivers to come interview in Houston. Because he saw the [76ers’] roster, and he said it’s amazing.” 

That roster has failed to live up to expectations in the postseason, however, after a second-round exit in 2019 NBA playoffs and a sweep in the first round at Walt Disney World Resort in August.  

Last offseason, the 76ers parted ways with Jimmy Butler, who helped lead the Heat to the 2020 NBA Finals.

In his stead, Philadelphia has invested heavily in Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Josh Richardson to support Embiid and Simmons, possibly limiting Morey’s flexibility in making improvements.
Another point of curiosity is how Morey may try to blend the trigger-happy small lineups played in Houston with an All-Star center like Embiid and an unwilling shooter like Simmons.
With the analytics-driven Morey leading way, the Rockets hoisted 3-point shots at a record pace the last three seasons, attempting 42.3, 45.4 and 45.3 per game from 2017-18 through last season, the top three totals in NBA history.  

The 76ers attempted 31.6 3-pointers per game last season, the ninth-fewest in the league.  

“The goal is not to shoot 3-pointers; the goal is to win,” Morey said. “You can score on offense in a whole bunch of different ways. 

“[Embiid] happens to be one of the most efficient post-up players in the league. I used to get the question in Houston, ‘What would you do if you had [Shaquille O’Neal]?’ I would give Shaq the ball about 100 times per game. 

“Joel is a talent on both ends. We played the way we played in Houston because that was the best way to utilize the talents we had in Houston.”

While the Rockets were 640-400 with 10 playoff appearances during Morey’s 13-season tenure as GM, Houston never won a title or even reached the NBA Finals.  

The 76ers are now banking on Morey’s decision-making, combined with Rivers’ championship pedigree and the continuity of retaining Brand, to author a victorious end to “The Process” and help them raise their first championship banner since 1983.

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