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McCaffery: Sixers need to deal with James Harden problem sooner, not later

Through driveway-hoop tryouts to a sinful lose-to-win scheme, through bad players and worse coaches, through burner phones and refusals to practice, through horrifying draft picks and unfortunate injuries and both of Charles Barkley’s two cents, there is one thing the Sixers have done well since 1983.

They’re good – they’re really good – at creating distractions.

They will hand microphones to 19 dozen screamers so they can run around during a game and order customers to, quote, “Make some noyyyyyyy-zzzzzzzz?” They will introduce H-list celebrities – including, of all warped ideas, a prominent New Jersey Devil – at courtside. They will break up good teams at a trade deadline. They will rest prominent players and tell customers it is just load management. They will tub-thump for some proposed arena on Market Street that basically would require fans to access via government-run choo-choo trains.

Piece of work, that operation is.

The latest scheme, well-meaning as it may be, has been to run their new coach about the region for heart-warming photo ops. Hey, look, it’s Nick Nurse at the Little League World Series pulling for the Media team. And – ha, ha, ha – there is N-Squared his own self making like Craig Kimbrel before tossing out the first pitch at Citizens Bank Park.

By the way, Media lost that game and Kimbrel blew that other game, and the Phillies would lose some once-in-a-decade momentum. Because, of course all that would happen. It’s been that kind of summer for a wintery basketball team whose bad vibes are contagious.

So, Eagles fans, be warned. Yes, that was the other Coach Nick visiting Jalen Hurts at the NewsControl Compound the other day. Like Nick Sirianni needed that omen.

Anyway, none of that is the fault of Nurse, an NBA champion whose reputation about the coaching industry is flawless. He’s trying to fit in and at least he was inventive enough to try something other than running up those bloody steps. Then again, that might have to be tried next week, because it is going to be a while before the Sixers can skip the trick plays and expect people to concentrate on basketball again.

Not that there hadn’t been enough disappointment since the Sixers lost the last two games of a second-round playoff series with the Celtics – that no-pick draft was a showpiece – but James Harden had to top it off by being the way he is. Not satisfied with big-timing Doc Rivers with a virtual end-of-season no-comment and in essence beginning the coaching transition, he waited until August to call the guy who fired Rivers for him, Daryl Morey, a liar. Quite the double-double that it was, it should have been well-scouted. It’s what Harden does best – be a pain in the tuches.

He used to be great – the Hall of Fame has a spot open for his display – but recently he has just been good. And with that, as Nurse would know, the No. 1 question about any player is in play: Is he better than his problems? The answer: No. No, James Harden is not better than his problems. Not at this point in his career.

While he may have the occasional great game, Harden is too inconsistent. At age 34, all of those flops onto wood to try to make referees look foolish and grant him three undeserved free throws have cost him some youthful bounce. The fable that he complements Joel Embiid is warped, because the MVP of the league plays his best on the nights Harden is not around. And the Sixers are not winning much if Embiid is not at his best.

Morey and the Sixers were trapped when they traded for Harden. They had capital-L Loser Ben Simmons sulking and not playing and they had a chance to try something else. They tried Harden, who carries exactly the same team-destroying characteristics as Simmons, except that he is a better basketball player. And it almost worked. The Sixers did win 54 regular-season games last season and another seven in the tournament. But Harden’s carry-on ever since has made it impossible to expect a repeat as long as he is around.

Training camp starts in a month, and Harden will be contractually obligated to attend. Then again, the man is wealthy. And wealthy men generally can do as they please. All Nick Nurse must know, deep inside, is that the sooner Morey figures out how to offload that problem, the sooner Tyrese Maxey can be validated as the everyday point guard. With that, and with some other intriguing pieces, Nurse can try to win games with (technically) the best player in the sport.

Though Rivers did not deserve to be punted, Nurse has a chance to succeed. He can coach and sometimes a new voice helps. But until that winning starts, if it is to start at all, there can always be more  distractions. By the way, look over there, Josh Harris just bought a football team. Fire off a confetti cannon and make some noise.

Contact Jack McCaffery at


Source: Berkshire mont

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