NEW YORK -- Brett Brown is talking about practice.
In the thick of an NBA season, practices can be a rare commodity, especially on an injury-stricken team shorthanded in healthy participants. Between games, travel days and the basic need to rest, the schedule doesn’t allow for many afternoons to run drills and scrimmages in the gym.
But Brown wants to have more of those opportunities and balance them with the awareness of the team’s injury situations.
“I think we need to get better individually,” Brown said Sunday after practice. “I think that we’re going to have to do a little bit more practice and be maybe a little less concerned always about load management. We are so mindful of sports science and the rhythm of the NBA calendar, you just need to work to improve. It’s a simple formula.
“And we work. We try to work intelligently and not take tolls on their body all of the time. It’s especially been effective with just the mass injury we’ve had. So there’s a portion of what I’m saying that needs to be tempered with the reality of a schedule and a reality of a health. But we have to find ways to improve individually that will add up collectively and to the obvious areas that we need a little bit of growth.”
The Sixers are in the midst of a season-high five-game skid, as they approach the next four games on the road (Knicks, Trail Blazers, Nuggets, Suns). It is no secret Joel Embiid is the key to their success, and while he did return Saturday after missing three games because of back tightness, he did not go participate in Sunday's practice. Embiid received treatment while the team went through their work.
Embiid isn’t the only one missing out at this time. Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) has not been cleared for full-contact, preventing him from being completely involved when the Sixers do practice.
Justin Anderson participated in his first complete practice Sunday since being sidelined by shin splints in his left leg in mid-November. Anderson has missed the last 18 games and is eyeing Thursday to play, so a day like Sunday morning was key to his upcoming return.
Having a full roster would be ideal, but that’s not the case for the Sixers.
“We need to be able to point to ways that we think we can improve,” Brown said. “It starts with just like team practice. It’s just the rhythm of our schedule is challenging and the realities of our injuries to date are challenging. Somewhere we got to find that.”
If the Sixers are going to squeeze in on-court work, it won’t be easy. The team will play in four cities over the next seven days, including a back-to-back against the Nuggets and Suns.
“It’s really hard to go out and compete and play and turn around less than 24 hours and practice and then go play again the next day,” JJ Redick said. “So there’s days between games where a lot of times you need the recovery and to sharpen your own skill work.”
Brown enters the next third of the season — his measurement for breaking down the 82-game schedule — with the goal of getting over this losing skid. The extra time on the court couldn't hurt in reaching that target.
“To cleanse ourselves of the past losing, that losing isn’t a part of how we see the world,” Brown said of his objective. “There’s one layer that I got to try to keep our spirits up, but keep it incredibly honest. We aren’t accepting losing. This doesn’t represent who we are.”