Sources: 76ers fire Rivers after three seasons

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The Philadelphia 76ers dismissed coach Doc Rivers on Tuesday, sources told ESPN.

The Sixers were eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals for a third straight season, losing 112-88 in Game 7 to the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

The Sixers’ search for a new coach is expected to include Mike Budenholzer, Sam Cassell, Mike D’Antoni, Nick Nurse, Frank Vogel and Monty Williams, sources told ESPN.

Rivers delivered a 154-82 (.653) record in his three seasons, including 54 victories in 2022-23 — the franchise’s most since 2000-01. The Sixers were one of three teams in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Philadelphia joins the Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons among teams with head-coach openings.

Rivers, who delivered his 16th straight winning season as a head coach, lost for the 10th time in a Game 7, including five in a row. The defeat to the Celtics also marked the ninth straight time that Rivers lost with a chance to reach the conference finals.

Now, Philadelphia heads into the offseason not only conducting a search to replace Rivers as head coach, but also needing to navigate James Harden’s impending free agency.

After Sunday’s Game 7 loss in Boston, Harden was asked about the state of his relationship with Rivers, and whether he believed Rivers should return for a fourth season as Philadelphia’s coach.

In response, Harden simply said, “Our relationship is OK.”

Harden has a player option for next season worth $35.6 million, after taking a pay-cut last summer to help facilitate Philadelphia signing former Rockets teammates P.J. Tucker and Danuel House.

If Harden opts out of his deal, he’s eligible to sign a four-year, $202 million deal with another team, or a four-year, $210 deal to remain in Philadelphia, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The 76ers are unable to sign Harden for a fifth season, despite having his Bird Rights, due to the over-38 rule in the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.

Should Harden leave in free agency, Philadelphia still wouldn’t have cap space to replace him. Instead, the 76ers would have the full mid-level exception, worth a little over $12 million, at its disposal to try to supplement its roster.

Harden came to Philadelphia in a blockbuster trade in February 2022 after a turbulent 13 months with the Brooklyn Nets, in a deal that saw Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond go from Philadelphia to Brooklyn.

This season, Harden averaged 21 points and 10.7 assists, helping Joel Embiid to win the league’s MVP award for the first time and joining Embiid as the first teammates to win both the scoring and assist titles for a season since George Gervin and Johnny Moore for the San Antonio Spurs in 1982.

He shot 37-for-61 (60.6%) in Philadelphia’s three wins against Boston, including a 45-point game with Embiid sidelined in Game 1 and a 42-point outburst in Game 4, and shot 12-for-55 (21.8%) in the four losses, including going 3-for-11 in Game 7.

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.

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