Philadelphia 76ers

Doc Rivers Enters NBA's COVID-19 Protocols

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers has entered the NBA's health and safety protocols, a source confirmed Thursday morning to NBC Sports Philadelphia. 

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news.

Dan Burke, who's served as the Sixers' defensive coordinator under Rivers, will take over the head coaching role while Rivers is out.

Tyler Johnson and Myles Powell have also entered the league's COVID-19 protocols, a source confirmed an ESPN report. 

Burke, 62, was a longtime Pacers assistant before joining Rivers' Sixers staff ahead of the 2020-21 season. He quickly put aside his opinion that Joel Embiid "gets away with a bunch of crap the league ignores" to work with the All-Star big man and form a strong relationship with him. 

When Rivers missed a practice last season with an illness, assistant coach Dave Joerger took over. However, Joerger, who's been an NBA head coach with the Grizzlies and Kings, announced in November that he was stepping away from the team to undergo treatment for head and neck cancer. 

“Where I like Dave a lot is sitting on the bench during a game, he’ll see something and we’ll discuss it," Rivers said on Dec. 9. “He has such a bright mind that he’s just a great guy to talk to. And he’s also been taken away from me after games."

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“He’s just not right now in a place where he can talk with what he’s going through. That’s been tough. We’ll text here and there, but he’s just ... not doing great right now, so he just has to get through it.”

Both Rivers and Sixers players have had public praise for the job Burke's done with the team's defense.

“He’s been great. ... His defenses have always been good," Rivers said last December. “I love the simplicity and the toughness — doing it the same way, doing it the right way, and being able to change because you’re doing it the right way.

“We come from the same coaching tree. Dick Harter is where I get most of my defensive thoughts from, and that’s where they started, from back when I played for the Knicks and Pat Riley, and Dick Harter was our defensive coach. 

“Dan has the same tree, (Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau) has the same tree. We’re all from that same tree of Dick Harter, really, who I don’t think gets enough credit for the impact that he had on defenses all through the league. We’re just guys who are carrying that same torch.”

Heading into Thursday night's game against the Nets, it appeared the Sixers were getting healthier. Andre Drummond cleared health and safety protocols and Shake Milton was questionable to return, leaving Danny Green as the only Sixer in COVID protocols as of early Thursday morning.

Player and coach availability is as unpredictable as ever these days, though, and Burke is now tasked with assuming Rivers' role.

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