Despite their unceremonious playoff exit, the Philadelphia 76ers still have what it takes to win — at least according to team president Daryl Morey.
Less than two days after the top-seeded 76ers saw their season come to a crushing close in a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Morey struck an optimistic tone.
“A lot of what I’m reading I frankly don’t understand,” Morey said in his end-of-season press conference. “People saying the Sixers are in a bad situation. I don’t choose to come here, (coach Doc Rivers) doesn’t choose to come here if this is a bad situation.
“I mean, really 25 or 26 teams in the league would love to be in our situation with an MVP-caliber top player and All-Star, near All-Star, great young players who are signed for the long term, good veterans. So, we’ve got a good foundation. We just have to do better. I have to do better, everyone has to do better.”
Philadelphia entered the playoffs with expectations of capturing the franchise’s first championship since 1983. But after ousting the Wizards in five games in the opening round, the 76ers met their match in the upstart Hawks, who notched three wins on Philadelphia’s home court, including a historic 26-point comeback in Game 5.
The 76ers’ abrupt playoff exit has largely been pinned on Ben Simmons, who shot just 32.7 percent from the foul line and often drew intentional fouls. Simmons’ disappearing act grew more pronounced as the series progressed — he scored just 19 total points across the final three games.
On the heels of Rivers’ concession that Simmons needs to become a better shooter, Morey danced around questions regarding Simmons’ future with the franchise.
“We have a very strong group we believe in,” Morey said. “None of us can predict the future of what’s going to happen in any place. We love what Ben brings, we love what Joel (Embiid) brings, we love what Tobias (Harris) brings. In terms of what’s next, we’re gonna do what’s best for the 76ers to give us the best chance to win the championship with every single player on the roster.”
Morey joined the organization as the new president of basketball operations in November, with the 76ers still reeling from a first-round playoff sweep dealt by the Boston Celtics. He acquired an array of shooters — Seth Curry, Danny Green and Tyrese Maxey — to surround Embiid with more offensive firepower. But the additions were not enough to get the team over the hump come the playoffs.
“Frankly, if we’re just squeaking by the second round, we are not good enough to win the title,” Morey said. “We have to get better. That series is still incredibly painful.”