Tag Archives: Brett Brown

The Dilemma: Should the 76ers Sit Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons for the Rest of the Season?

16 Feb
embiid-and-simmons

Sixers Joel Embiid and first round draft pick Ben Simmons share a moment on the bench. Will 76ers see the two starting games near the end of the season? Photo courtesy CSNPhilly.com

Unlike years past, the Philadelphia 76ers have a decision to make that doesn’t involve ping-pong balls.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Right now, the Philadelphia 76ers find themselves in the horns of a dilemma.

That dilemma? Do they let potential stars Joel  Embiid and Ben Simmons play after the All-Star break if they recover from their injuries, or should the team think about the future and shelve their young phenoms in anticipation of future greatness?

With the team still dealing with the fallout of not being on the level with the public about the torn meniscus in  Embiid’s left knee, the big talk around town is whether or not the team should shut down the former Kansas star for the rest of the season.

Because Embiid’s injury won’t require surgery, he could theoretically be back before the end of the season.  There’s also the possibility that rookie Simmons, who is recovering from a foot injury, could be ready late in the season.

But given Embiid’s history with injuries, especially the foot injury that sidelined him for the first two years of his career, and the fact that the team isn’t within striking distance of the NBA playoffs, it wouldn’t seem illogical for the Sixers to put both players on ice until next season to give them the chance to get completely healthy for next season.

But Sixers head coach Brett Brown wouldn’t necessarily agree with that line of thinking.

Since Dec. 30, the 76ers have a 14-11 record. During that time, they’ve been fun to watch as the team, led by Embid, has started to show flashes of what could be.

Brown even appears to be having fun coaching the team despite a 21-34 record. He believes that the team is finally buying into his defensive philosophy and has been making progress.

During a gathering of reporters earlier this week, Brown said he was more concerned about keeping the team focused for the rest of the season and getting better.

He’d like to see them end the season on a high note.

“We want to take this final third [of the season], move the program forward, and try to set the stage for a great summer,” Brown said on Sixers.com  “I’m excited for that final third, and so is my staff. This All-Star break will be dealt with on those terms.”

It’s safe to assume that Brown would love to see what the team would look like with both Embiid and Simmons on the floor. He wants to build some momentum and perhaps create some buzz for next season. After stinking up the joint the last few years in the name of getting a lottery pick, Brown wants to show fans a glimpse of what could be a promising future.

But for Sixers fans still smarting from the Andrew Bynum debacle, seeing Embid dancing on stage at a Meek Mill concert caused flashbacks of a Bynum too injured to play taking to the bowling lanes.

While I can see both sides of the argument, the outstanding play of Dario Saric and Nerlens Noel in the absence of Embiid and Simmons makes me lean toward shutting both of them down for the season so that they can get healthy and tear through the NBA next year.

Considering the dilemma that the Philadelphia 76ers usually face at this point in the NBA’s regular season, that’s an improvement.

Light at the End of The Tunnel: Young Sixers Showing Promise

21 Jan
embiid

Rookie Joel Embiid is giving Sixers fans hope that better days are ahead in the City of Brotherly Love.

Now that the team appears to be making progress, the phrase “trust the process” is no longer a laughing matter for the Philadelphia 76ers.

By Chris Murray  

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown visited the Philadelphia Eagles training camp at Nova Care, he told reporters that he could see the light at the end of a long tunnel with his young team, expressing some cautious optimism with the pending debut of Joel Embiid and No. 1 draft choice Ben Simmons.

So far this season, Brown has a reason to believe that this light at the end of the tunnel is no longer an oncoming train.

Fans are starting to see some semblance of progress thanks to the way that the Sixers (14-26) are playing. While that probably won’t lead to a playoff spot this year, you get the feeling that a playoff game at the Wells Fargo Center isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

“We’re all starving for some success, we’re starving for some good feelings and some wins,” Brown said. “Fans are dying for us to get this right and pull this off.  This city and these fans deserve it.”

The Sixers have won seven of their last 10, three of which came against playoff teams, the most recent being a 94–89 win over the Toronto Raptors (28-14).

The Raptors took the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in last year’s Eastern Conference finals and currently have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.

His team’s effort on defense over these last 10 games is something that Brown can be proud of. The Sixers held a Raptors squad that averages about 111 points per game to just 89 points.

“We’re playing with a defensive mindset,” Brown said. “There is a belief in each other amongst the team that it’s the best that it has been since I’ve been here. There’s a rhythm to what we’re doing, there’s a beat to what we’re doing.”

One of the obvious reasons for the Sixers current run of success has been Embiid, who despite being limited in terms of minutes has proven that quality is far more important than quantity. He has scored at least 20 points in his last 10 games.

In the win over the Raptors, Embiid scored 26 points and pulled down nine rebounds.  It was his defense and clutch free-throw shooting in the last 30 seconds that enabled the 76ers to come away with the victory.  On the defensive end, Embiid came up with a huge block and rebound of a shot by Raptors guard Kyle Lowry. He sank four free throws.

“When you have a five man that can make free throws … if you can find a five man that has the defensive presence that Joel has and isn’t a liability on offense when they start fouling. … If they wrap him up and he’s a 40 percent free-throw shooter, you’ll have problems,” Brown said. “[Embiid] shot 32 free throws in the last two games. So apart from the percentage, the volume that he gets there (free-throw line) makes it a luxury, too.”

Embiid said the biggest takeaway from beating Toronto was the confidence they gained from beating a playoff contender like the Raptors.

“Winning against the second-best team in the Eastern Conference is just amazing and we’re going to keep on working,” he said. “Everybody is buying into the system and coaches are doing a great job of preparing us and everybody has bought in and we’re playing good basketball.”

Brown said he was really impressed with Dario Saric’s commitment to contribute on the defensive end. In the second half of the Raptors game, Saric had two consecutive blocked shots including one against Raptors power forward Jared Sullinger.

Known as a guy who likes to hit the outside shot, Saric has really made a commitment to playing defense.

“I try to bring the teams some kind of energy,” Saric. “I just want to be in the game.”

The Sixers aren’t ready to be a playoff team just yet, they’re still are a work in progress and that’s what the fans want to see. They want to root for a team that’s moving in the right direction.

Finally, fans have a reason to trust the process.

 

A Glimmer of Hope for the Sixers? Brett Brown Excited About Upcoming Season

21 Aug
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Sixers head coach Brett Brown can’t wait for the season to start. Photo courtesy of Philly.com

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Because he hasn’t had much of a team to work with, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown hasn’t had a lot of reasons to feel optimistic about an upcoming season.

In fact, the Sixers have been so bad that the only thing they’ve had to look forward to is possibly getting enough ping-pong balls to get the No. 1 draft pick.

But if you bump into Brown these days, there seems to be a little bit of pep in his step.

About two weeks ago, Brown shared his enthusiasm about the Sixers upcoming season with reporters while hanging out at Philadelphia Eagles’ training camp.

And much of that enthusiasm is spelled B-E-N  S-I-M-M-O-N-S

“Just that there’s a real delineated feeling of hope,” Brown said. “I feel that we all ought to look at people and players that we believe can be with this organization and in this city for a long time.  That although they are young and they are still 20-years-old, they’re talented.”

Simmons, the team’s No. 1 draft choice, showed glimpses of his tremendous potential during the games he played in the NBA’s summer league. If you got a chance to watch Simmons play, you saw a kid who made his teammates better by his court vision and passing ability.

When Simmons did score, he proved that he could use his athleticism to take the ball to the bucket, but he still needs to work on his jump shot.

With center Joel Embiid apparently 100 percent after his longtime foot injury and the recent addition of Dario Saric, who shot 40 percent from three-point range, and the team’s big men, including Jahlil Okafor and Nerlins Noel, the Sixers are looking like they have the beginnings of what could be a decent team.

Granted, no one is expecting to see the Sixers in the NBA Finals or even the playoffs, but there are some good young pieces that could really make some noise if a veteran is added through a trade or via free agency or another strong player can be added through next year’s draft.

At the very least, the motor is running for the Sixers, but how fast this car will go is anybody’s guess at this point.

“We’ve got a team that we’re excited about, that we think can put more wins on the board,” Brown said. “We understand that’s become more a part of our blueprint in our judgment day and it should.”

During his impromptu confab with reporters, Brown talked about the potential of Embiid despite not yet taking the floor in an NBA game. The former Kansas star is on pace to play this season even though he did not participate in summer league competition, Brown said.

“(Embiid’s) summer is going to the way we hoped,” Brown said. “We’ve crafted a plan, we’ve scripted a plan from him that he is following religiously. When we start talking about all these different pieces, the city is going to see something very unique in a seven-foot-two that has a skill package that is exceptional.”

Brown’s excitement about the upcoming season is about the potential of Simmons with his size and the playmaking ability of a point guard.  He said how Simmons plays on the court will determine what position he will play with the team.

“(Simmons) is going to have some taste of that for sure. You know he will dictate that himself when he rebounds and leads the break,” Brown said. “The NBA point guard is the hardest position in the NBA. He’s never played a point guard, let alone an NBA point guard. … Initially, we’re going to play him in different positions and (point guard) will be one of them.”

With his 6-10 and 240-pound frame, Simmons can play multiple positions to help the Sixers, Brown said.

The Sixers will need to add some additional pieces and if they win more than 10 games next season, it will be seen as progress, especially considering how badly this team has been for the last few years. Any movement upward for the 76ers should be considered a step in the right direction.

Time for the 76ers to Stop Talking Process and Start Showing Progress

20 May

The Philadelphia 76ers won the 2016 NBA Draft Lottery and Will Get the No. 1 Pick. It’s Time to Stop Tanking and Starting Building a Contender. 

Ben Simmons

The Philadelphia 76ers have the top pick in 2016 NBA Draft. Will they pick LSU’s Ben Simmons? Photo by NBA.com.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

After several years of tanking, the Philadelphia 76ers efforts at being really bad have finally yielded something good.

On Tuesday night, the Sixers won the NBA Draft Lottery and got the number one pick in the 2016 NBA draft. That means that either LSU’s Ben Simmons or Duke’s Brandon Ingram is going to hold up a white 76ers jersey after their names are called.

Add this to the other two picks the Sixers will have in the first round and you get a team that has the opportunity to get some exciting young players that have the potential to point a Sixers team that badly needs it in the right direction.

If you saw 76ers head coach Brett Brown during the NBA Lottery broadcast on ESPN, he was like a kid at Christmas when he saw his team logo in the No. 1 slot. He seemed like a guy who’s looking forward to coaching a team capable of winning more than 10 games.

“We’ve taken hits for three seasons,” Brown told ESPN. “We’re excited with the position that we’re now in. I love some of my current players. We think we can grow them. I’ve got a real belief in Joe Embiid and I have faith in Dario Saric. I’m thrilled for our city.”

We have to take a moment to acknowledge former General Manager Sam Hinkie and the “process” of serial tanking that brought the Sixers to this moment.

But now that we’ve done that, it’s time to talk about winning. It’s time to stop having prolonged losing streaks. It’s time to stop tanking.

It’s time to start moving forward.

The last time the Sixers got the number one overall pick, it was 1996 and the team used it to draft Allen Iverson. Five years later, the 76ers became a perennial playoff team, made it to the NBA Finals in 2001, and Iverson went on to become a Hall of Famer. While nobody is expecting the Sixers to improve immediately, we’d like to be able to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Shucks, I’m willing to accept five to 10 games below .500 as a show of progress.

The Sixers will also have a heckuva choice between Simmons and Ingram.

The 6-foot-10 Simmons averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds per game. He’s a good ball-handler for a big man, has point-guard-like court vision and averaged 4.8 assists per game. From what I’ve seen, he has an NBA body and reminds me of Magic Johnson with his ability to handle the ball for a big man. But in a game where the three-point shot has become king, his suspect jump shot might give the team pause.

At 6-foot-9, Ingram is a good scorer and can hit the outside shot. He was 41 percent from three-point range, but needs to work on being a ball-handler as a playmaking guard. He scored 17 points per game and pulled down six rebounds and averaged two assists per game.

And the team will also have to figure out how to work with what it already has…and what shape it’s actually in.

Speaking of the 7-2 Embiid, he was reportedly seen at the team’s practice facility at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine working out in the gym, taking some shots and throwing down a few slam dunks.

Embiid is coming off of a couple of surgeries to repair his right foot, and can either be the player that he was projected to be coming out of Kansas and the big man the Sixers need to anchor the low post or the second coming of Greg Oden or Sam Bowie, both of whom had chronic foot or leg problems that stunted their careers. It’s anybody’s guess.

Meanwhile, the 6-9 Saric has let it be known that he is going to be leaving the Turkish team, Anadolu Efes, to play for the Sixers in the 2016-2017 season. He averaged 11 points and five rebounds per game. According to several scouting reports, Saric has become a better at hitting the three-pointer and is shooting 37 percent from behind the arc.

And don’t forget about young guys like Jahlil Okafor, who averaged 17.5 points per game last season, and Nerlens Noel, who averaged 11 points and eight rebounds per game and is a solid defensive presence.

The Sixers have a lot of pieces that could become an interesting puzzle when you add the three new first-round picks they’re going to get this year.

Whether the puzzle is going to look like a lush landscape or a haunted house will determine how many people come to the Wells Fargo Center to see them.

 

 

 

 

Enough Wheeling and Dealing, the Sixers need to Start Showing Progress

26 Feb
Former Sixers point guard Michael Carter-Williams takes the ball to the bucket against new 76ers point Isaiah Canaan. Photo from Spin.com

Former Sixers and new Milwaukee Bucks point guard Michael Carter-Williams takes the ball to the bucket against new 76ers point guard Isaiah Canaan in the Sixers Wednesday night loss to the Bucks . Photo from Spin.com

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—Now that the Philadelphia 76ers have traded 2014 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, what’s next?

If you look at it from the viewpoint of Sixers management,Williams struggled with his outside shooting, clashed with head coach Brett Brown and wasn’t part of the Sixers’ grand vision of success.

More importantly, the Sixers got a possible top-five lottery pick from the Los Angeles Lakers in the dealConsidering the fact that the 76ers are in constant rebuilding mode, this is a good thing. Right now, the Sixers are 12-44 and will have someone hanging out in Secaucus, N.J. and looking for a magic NBA Lottery ping-pong ball.

While being in a position to land high-end draft pick is a good thing, it’s also a huge risk. For every Kobe Bryant, there’s someone who turned out to be a wasted pick. Moving forward, the Sixers and general manager Sam Hinkie had better hope that their next pick is the real deal, is ready to play upon arrival, and that there’s light at the end of this rebuilding tunnel because there’s only so much more rebuilding the fans can take.

I remember people telling me two years ago that it was necessary for the 76ers to unload point guard Jrue Holiday, who was coming off an All-Star year in 2013, by the way, to get some younger impact player.

The Sixers came away with Nerlens Noel, who didn’t play last year because of an ACL injury, and Carter-Williams, who was the 11th player taken out of Syracuse. At the time, we all gushed over Carter-Williams’ athleticism and his upside as a 6-6 point-guard.

While we all knew that Carter-Williams was a poor shooter, he played well enough to be the league’s best rookie. He averaged 15 points and 6.3 assists per game, shot at 40 percent from the floor and 26 percent from three-point range.

Before he was traded to Milwaukee, Carter-Williams shooting percentage fell to 38 percent and he was averaging just 25 percent from behind the three-point line. Yet, he was still averaging 15 points and seven assists per game.

The Sixers pulling the trigger on Carter-Williams is an example of how the 76ers and its brain trust, a title I use loosely, might not know what they’re doing. While they got rid of Carter-Williams, who could have been worked with, their two most recent lottery picksNerlens Noel and Joel Embiid were drafted when they had both had leg problems. The big question for these guys is will they eventually be good enough to make the Sixers a consistent winner.

So far, the reviews on Noel’s rookie year have been predictably mixed. The 6-foot-11 is one heck of a defensive player who really needs to develop his offensive game. He is averaging 8.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

Noel’s defensive skills landed him a spot in the NBA Rookie game during All-Star Weekend.  He is averaging 1.8 blocks and 1.6 steals per game. According to Basketball Reference.com, the last rookie to accomplish that was Hall-of-Famer David Robinson.

Offensively, Noel needs work, lots of work.  He needs to develop some moves in the low post and he also needs to put on a few pounds, especially if he’s going to float between playing the power forward and center spots.

Meanwhile, at this year’s trade deadline, Hinkie was reportedly willing to part ways with Embiid, who has yet to put on a Sixers uniform and has supposedly put on a few pounds.  

For all of his reliance on basketball’s version of sabermetrics and his endless search for the bigger and better deal, Hinkie is going to have to put a team on the floor that’s going to develop into a consistent winner.

Before investing their dollars for season tickets, fans at the very least have to see some tangible progress. If you play for the lottery too many times, you’re not winning…and you wind up being the East Coast version of the Los Angeles Clippers of the Donald Sterling years

And besides, if fans want fantasy basketball, they can get that anywhere on the Internet.

Feets Don’t Fail Me Now: Sixers Gamble On Injury Prone Draft Picks

29 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If Joel Embiid can stay healthy, the Sixers could be a good team in the future.

If Joel Embiid can stay healthy, the Sixers could be a good team in the future.

PHILADELPHIA-Last Sunday I was a guest on 94 WIP-FM with Ricky Ricardo and we were discussing the NBA Draft and the possibility that the 76ers would draft Kansas’s 7-foot center Joel Embiid who has a stress fracture in his right foot.

A fan called the show and vented his spleen about how felt it would be idiotic for the Sixers to take draft another big man in the draft with a damaged leg. It was to the point where the caller was breathing to the point where it sounded like he was hyperventilating.

While there are bigger things than basketball to be that upset, the sentiment among fans is certainly understandable given how the 76ers franchise seems to be enamored with big men with leg and foot problems.

The Sixers made the injured Embiid the third pick of the draft much to the chagrin of Sixers fans, who are wondering what are general manager Sam Hinkie and head coach Brett Brown trying to do? This guy has the same fractured navicular bone that ended the careers of Bill Walton and Yao Ming.

During the last three years, 76ers fans have been enduring big men with leg problems. Last year, the Sixers drafted Nerlens Noel, who did not get any playing time with the team because he was rehabbing the ACL in his left knee.

And speaking of big men with bad feet, the Sixers fans are still smarting from the “thievery” of one free agent center Andrew Bynum whose bum legs prevented him from putting on a Sixers uniform. That was a true embarrassment for the franchise considering the huge welcome for him by thousands of 76ers fans at the National Constitution Center in 2012.

Meanwhile, Hinkie has been telling fans to patient with the team. On one hand that’s understandable, the Sixers rebuilding process is going to take some time. Hopefully, fans won’t have to experience another 19-63 season.

I know a large number of fans are upset about the team picking Embiid because of his injured foot and they should be given the team’s recent history of injuries. They are also ticked off about acquiring 6-10 Croatian power forward Dario Saric, who will spend the next two years playing for a pro team in Turkey.

The bottom-line here is that the gambles this management team is making had better pay off into the team being a contender for an NBA title or Hinkie and Brown will be run out of town quick, fast and a hurry.

If Embiid and Noel become the forces in the low post the Sixers think they can become with a mature Michael Carter-Williams at point guard and Saric is the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki, Hinkie and the Sixers will be hailed as geniuses who will never want for a steak dinner or alcoholic beverage in this town again.

The seasons, like last year, that they will have tanked will be looked upon as a fond memory, especially if there’s a parade down Broad Street in the next five or six years.

Now if those injuries keep bothering those guys to the point to where they are missing a significant amount of games, every columnist in this town (including yours truly), sports talk radio host and fans on the various social media platforms, will never let the Sixers hear the end of it.

It will go down in the lore of bad moves personnel moves by Philly sports teams like the Phillies trading pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, the Eagles drafting combine workout wonder Mike Mamula who turned out to be a bust or the Sixers drafting Charles Shackleford over Brad Daugherty.

 

Patience: New Sixers Coach Brett Brown Sees the Light at the End of the Tunnel

16 Aug

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report/The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

New Sixers head coach Brett Brown knows that rebuilding the 76ers will be a long-term process. Photo by Chris Murray.

New Sixers head coach Brett Brown knows that rebuilding the 76ers will be a long-term process. Photo by Chris Murray.

PHILADELPHIA—Everyone in the 76ers organization, along with fans and media, is bracing themselves for a season where they’re not going to win many games.

But new Sixers head coach Brett Brown told everyone at his press conference on Wednesday that it wouldn’t be that way forever and that there’s light at the end of what some see as an endless tunnel.

“I hope that everybody understands the level of patience that we’re all going to have, not acceptance. Patience,” Brown said, his thick New England accent perfuming the air. “Because when we’re not playing hard and we’re not executing well, they will be coached. They should be coached, that’s my job.

“But when you step back and you see that we’re undermanned, then we have to patient and grow it, develop it, free agent it and let a ping-pong ball [determine], those types of things. That’s the evolution we’re just going to have to expect.”

Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie said the thing he likes about Brown, who signed a four-year contract with the team, is the ability to understand that building a winner doesn’t happen overnight.

“I like long-term thinkers. I like people who get up and put their hard hat on every single day,” Hinkie said. “I like people who can see the big picture and who think about how important the foundation is to the third floor when you get the old thing built. Doing the foundation right really matters and that really resonated with me.”

Brown does bring a pretty good coaching pedigree to the Sixers.  He has four NBA Championship rings as an assistant to San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich.  Brown also coached in the Australian National Basketball League where he won a championship for the North Melbourne Giants in 1994.

At the 2012 Olympics in London, Brown coached the Australian national team to a 3-3 record, which was one of the best Olympics runs in the history of Australian basketball.  Brown played his collegiate ball at Boston University under Louisville and soon-to-be Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino.

A native of Maine, Brown played for his high school basketball for his father, Bob Brown, a member of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.

After working in the basketball heaven that was San Antonio where he coached players like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, Brown certainly has his work cut out for him with a young team that includes rookies like former Syracuse star Michael Carter Williams and Kentucky big man Nerlins Noel.

But the one thing that seems to bode well for Brown is his background in player development. During his time with the Spurs, player development was Brown’s specialty as an assistant coach.

“We need a staff, we need a mentality that’s going to be heavily, heavily focused on development and it’s going to start with me and it’s going to start with a structure where we’re practicing now and then to evolution of a new practice facility,” Brown said.

“Pre-practice work, video work, all those things contribute to how you develop somebody whether it’s Tony Parker’s jump shot, Bruce Bowen realizing that everybody double-teams Tim Duncan so you better be skilled at that single floor spot in the corner,” Brown continued… “We got fantastic development people in San Antonio…We’ve really have paid a lot of attention to that area.”

With the relatively young players that he has like Thaddeus Young, Brown, like his old mentor Popovich, is a defensive-minded coach. During his press conference, he made it clear that Sixers won’t sacrifice the offensive end of the floor for defense.

“We want to go, we want to get out in open court and we want to run,” Brown said. “One of the main things we’re going to look at is pace …We’re going to run …It’s hard running over 82 games. You really can’t do that unless have an extraordinary fitness base and you play 10 or 11 deep.

“I hope that you’re going to see a team that’s exciting offensively and that is appreciated with the competitiveness and toughness defensively,” he said.

If anything else, Brown does understand the odds of rebuilding a team from loser to a perennial powerhouse are stacked against him. But for him that’s the beauty of this job.

“Can you imagine if we can get this thing right?” Brown said. “Really? If we can get this right with the culture and the history that this city has, with the pride and the toughness that this city has, that is very alluring. It’s tempting. It’s dangerous. Rebuilding is a hard thing. I feel thrilled to be here.”