When Nick Nurse was abruptly fired by the Toronto Raptors, part of him knew in the back of his mind that he would not be waiting very long to find gainful employment in the NBA. The Philadelphia 76ers, fed up with Doc Rivers’ postseason failings, decided to give Nurse a shot.
With an MVP center in Joel Embiid, one of the more automatic double-doubles in the league in James Harden, and an ascending star guard in Tyrese Maxey at his disposal, a coach with a championship ring like Nurse might be the perfect guy to help take this team to new heights.
If Nurse was expecting a relatively easy path to Philly’s first Eastern Conference Finals since the Allen Iverson days, his perfect fantasy has been quickly shattered by the petty nature of one James Harden. For the third time in four seasons, Harden has openly quit on his current team.
After the 76ers refused to either extend or trade him following his opt-in, Harden has branded Philadelphia executive Daryl Morey as a “liar” who he would never play for again. Toronto had some challenges last season, but it looks like Philly has a whole new set of problems for Nurse to deal with.
Nick Nurse saw post-Toronto Raptors life get harder due to James Harden.
While Nurse received more than his fair share of criticism for the lack of offensive innovation and stagnant half-court sets, the criticism that came towards him near the end of his Raptors tenure was due to his ruining of the team’s good vibes. Philly’s positive mojo has already been evaporated.
Nurse is in a lose-lose scenario. Trading Harden means that he would get back a host of players that are not as good as the future Hall of Fame guard, putting a limit on the team’s ceiling. Keeping him either ensures that Philly will be wasting a roster spot on an insubordinate player or playing with a disgruntled star.
While Nurse’s resume in Toronto is beyond reproach due to his championship ring, some fans will be quick to note that he has not won a playoff series outside of the bubble (where he only won one) without Kawhi Leonard. His chance to show himself off as an elite basketball mind once again in Philly just got much rockier.
Nurse failed in his past attempts to be a locker room mediator, and he might be walking into an even worse situation with the 76ers this year.