(Photo credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
Training camp opened Monday in Philadelphia where the narrative around the 76ers became abundantly clear.
Team president Daryl Morey disagrees with the sentiment the 76ers aren't on the same tier as retooled title contenders in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks."We come in every day and feel like we're going to show the league this is a team that can win. I understand there's a lot of skepticism right now," Morey said. "Let us show you in the regular season. Let us show you in the playoffs."
Morey hired a new head coach, Nick Nurse, to replace Doc Rivers and his final roster might not have taken shape. The 76ers and James Harden, who demanded a trade, remain at odds over the best path forward. Harden was missing when the 76ers met with media on Monday.
Morey put added emphasis on the tandem of league MVP Joel Embiid and point guard Tyrese Maxey.
"We have the MVP of the league. We have one of the great up-and-coming players in the league," Morey said of Embiid and Maxey.
Boston failed to reach the NBA Finals last season but acquired point guard Jrue Holiday as part of a massive roster reconstruction. The Celtics acquired Kristaps Porzingis from the Wizards in an offseason deal that sent Marcus Smart to the Memphis Grizzlies. Malcolm Brogdon and Robert Williams were dealt to the Portland Trail Blazers for Holiday. Grant Williams joined the Dallas Mavericks.
Milwaukee has fewer moving parts as the Bucks return to work but will need to assimilate point guard Damian Lillard into the system alongside two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
But the 76ers aren't trying to prove they are contenders for the Eastern Conference and NBA title, Morey insisted. But there are no indications the third All-Star level talent, Harden, plans to join the team picture any time soon.
"In terms of a trade, I will continue to work on those fronts and, if he's here, then coach will work with him on the court. I think it's pretty straight forward," he said. "He continues to seek a trade and we are continuing to work with his representation to find the best solution for the 76ers and all parties."
Nurse said not having Harden is a possibility that forces him to use a "Plan A or Plan B" approach, leaving open the possibility that he could join the team.
He tipped his hand that without Harden, "Tyrese gets the ball in his hands a lot more."
Maxey averaged 20.4 points, 3.5 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game last season. The 22-year-old is scheduled to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
Embiid opened the door to discussion around his future in the offseason when he said his only goal is to win an NBA title "in Philly or anywhere else."
Morey said he spoke with Embiid on Sunday and came away with the belief he's committed to the team long-term.
Embiid signed a four-year, $213 million contract extension in 2021 that runs through 2026-27 and averages more than $52 million per season.
Embiid said it's "unfortunate what's been going on" with Harden, who was fined by the NBA for calling Morey a liar. Embiid said his focus has to be on what he can do for the 76ers.
"I believe any team that I'm on is going to have a chance (to win the NBA title). We just need a little bit of luck and to stay healthy," he said.
--Field Level Media