CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers' already-shorthanded backcourt will be down another key player against the Bulls.
T.J. McConnell will miss Wednesday’s game to attend his father-in-law's funeral. The Sixers, already down JJ Redick (leg) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist), signed guard Larry Drew II to a 10-day contract Thursday.
There’s no easy substitution for McConnell, who has averaged 12.6 points, 5.0 assists and 4.2 rebounds off the bench in his last five games. So much of his contributions come from hustle.
“You’re especially going to hear us say that the energy and the sort of spark that he gives needs to be generated as a group through our defense,” Brett Brown said Tuesday.
Brown plans to play starting point guard Ben Simmons more than his averaged 35.0 minutes. He also intends to utilize Drew, a familiar face who already has played on the Sixers through 10-day contracts and summer league.
“I respect him,” Brown said of Drew. “He’s good. He’s solid. He’s a true point guard. He was a natural request from my side when these other injuries and circumstances, like T.J. is going through, happened.”
Drew had been playing in the G League this season, averaging 11.3 points, 7.5 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals for the Heat’s affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
“[Brown] gave me kind of the rundown of what he was expecting from me and I told him he has the man for the job,” Drew said. “Come in, run the team, just be a leader, get guys shots and take open jumpers when you have them. No turnovers, just take care of the ball.”
Turnovers a hot topic
That last item on Drew’s to-do list was at the forefront of topics for Brown when he addressed the media the day after the Sixers’ 105-101 loss to the Grizzlies (see story). The team committed 10 of its 24 turnovers in the decisive fourth quarter, a number further magnified when those 10 errors led to 20 Grizzlies points.
“We can say let’s just dribble it up the floor, post Jo (Joel Embiid), and I bet we reduce our turnovers,” Brown said. “Or you can say, we play with a pace, we play with a speed, we lead the NBA in passes, we’re amongst the elite in assists, we like the style of play. But it needs to be filtered, it needs to tempered. All those things end up my answer to where we’re feeling some pain.”
Brown said the players have to “own” their turnovers. Embiid (4.2) and Simmons (4.0) lead the team in that category. Brown noted it is his job as the coach to keep emphasizing it game after game. The Sixers rank worst in the NBA with 17.6 turnovers per game.
“I don’t want to overreact to Memphis,” Brown said. “I’m not discounting it. It’s not in my bucket of, ‘Oh, there’s 82 games.' It isn’t that. It’s a stinky loss. It’s a poor loss. But we’re going to move on.”
James Young (gastroenteritis) is questionable Wednesday against the Bulls.