76ers

How Brett Brown got Sixers through 'The Process'

How Brett Brown got Sixers through 'The Process'

Nineteen wins. Eighteen wins. Ten wins.

As the 47-199 record mounted over his first three seasons as head coach, the same question arose loss after loss: How does Brett Brown keep the Sixers together?

Those who played for Brown during this time could have given generic answers. They simply could have been happy for the chance to play in the NBA and commented on his optimistic demeanor.

When Henry Sims told the story about Brown dancing, though, it was clear there was more to their experiences with the coach than just going through the motions of losing basketball. Other players were quick to offer their enthusiastic responses, whether they had been on the Sixers for multiple years or 10-day contracts. 

Brown has the opportunity to coach a team on the rise next season. The Sixers are coming off a 28-win season. They have young talent, at least one future All-Star, a pair of No. 1 picks nearing their NBA debuts and a highly-coveted veteran free-agent signing. The playoffs even are in reach. 

To get a better sense of how Brown got his team to this point after the early years of “The Process,” the players explained it themselves last month at summer league.

Henry Sims
Two years have passed since Sims played for the Sixers, yet one specific afternoon stands out vividly. Sims played 99 games for Brown during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. 

“We had went on a road trip and lost like four straight. They were pretty bad losses. We got home and Brett Brown came in the gym dancing with the assistants. They had some song. It lifted guys’ spirits — life isn’t so hard playing basketball. 

“I give a lot of credit to Brett Brown because he kept everybody positive and in a good attitude. I know it was tough for him to walk in that locker room every day. As a coach, you want to win. He kept us going, he kept us working hard. If you were watching our practices, you would have thought we were one of the top teams in the NBA because of how hard we were playing in practice.”

JaKarr Sampson
Brown had a fondness for Sampson, exhibited when Brown said “I miss JaKarr” a day after Sampson had been waived. Brown admired Sampson’s spirited attitude, and the sentiment was mutual. Sampson suited up for 121 Sixers games over the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. 

“The energy he brings is natural. He’s very good with the young guys and keeping us energized and motivated when things aren’t looking good, he’s always there motivating us. He really cares about his players, that’s what makes him a good coach. Even now, he texts me sometimes now and then. He cares, that’s the key with him. 

“[He organized] a lot of team stuff, team dinners, we had a Christmas gift swap. He was really good at keeping us together and keeping us liking each other during that time. We never turned on each other. He kept the locker room a good atmosphere. Things are looking bright for him right now.”

Larry Drew II
Before Drew was on the Sixers' summer league roster this year, he was with the team for a pair of 10-day contracts during the 2014-15 season (he played in 12 games). While Brown made an impact on the court, Drew remembers very unique conversations away from the game. 

“A lot of people don’t know, I don’t watch too much television and when I do, I watch a lot of National Geographic, the History Channel, Discovery Channel. One of the first non-basketball conversations I had with Coach Brown was actually about the universe and the stars and the galaxy. That was one of the things that stood out to me. I’m a huge geek when it comes to stuff like that, and just the fact we were able to have an open dialogue about theoretical physics and what not, it was cool. He has a very open mind and he’s very easy to speak to.

“His spirits were never down. Even after losses, he never made it feel like we were doing anything wrong, per se, but that we were headed in the right direction and that it was a couple of little things we needed to tweak. I think that’s huge for a coach to be able to speak to his team in a way to make them feel that it’s going to be OK at the end of the day.”

Hollis Thompson 
Thompson was one of the longest-tenured players under Brown (September 2013 to January 2017). The two shared an interest for deep conversations about education and world events. Thompson played 256 games for Brown.

“He’s got a great attitude, a positive spirit. Even when you’re going through a tough year and losing a lot of games, he finds a way to get everybody going, get everybody excited to play. Even in the midst of a tough game, a tough losing streak, he finds a way to make you laugh or finds the positive in it. … You could see him for who he is as a man [talking about shared interests]. He’s a great coach, but he’s a great human being. I love that dude and I wish him the best.”

Kendall Marshall
Marshall’s stop in Philadelphia was filled with injuries and a crowded point guard position that kept him off the court. He played 30 games during the 2015-16 season. Nonetheless, Marshall barely had finished hearing the question about Brown when he jumped to answer with a strong tone of emotion. 

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Brown as a coach, from what I’ve seen as a father, as a competitor. His ability to come to that practice floor and game arena every single day with the intensity, passion, willingness to teach in those circumstances winning 10, 15, 20 games every single year, that’s one of the most impressive things that I’ve seen in the pro level. … He was always in a great mood, unless we were messing up (laughs). He’s always joking, that Boston accent is always strong.”

Chris Johnson
Johnson played for Brown during training camp and saw how he prepared the team for the regular season, even though the odds of winning were against it. His time with the Sixers spanned nine games over less than two months in the fall of 2014. 

“He brought a positive attitude to practice. He kept everybody’s spirits together. We kind of knew what was going on, but Brett was a great coach, he was a smart coach, and he had the best interest for his team and the players. In preseason, two-a-days, guys were tired, but one thing I always remembered was he always came in and tried to keep everybody’s spirits together, let everybody know it’s part of the grind and it makes you better.”

NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

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NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls say forward Nikola Mirotic suffered multiple broken bones in his face as well as a concussion in a fight with teammate Bobby Portis during practice.

The team says Mirotic will likely need surgery and is out indefinitely. They say they are "evaluating disciplinary action" after Tuesday's incident.

Mirotic averaged 10.8 points over his first three seasons with Chicago. A restricted free agent, he signed a two-year contract that could pay as much as $27 million in September. The club holds an option on the second season.

A 2015 first-round pick, Portis has averaged 6.9 points and 5 rebounds.

The Bulls open at Toronto on Thursday. Chicago is rebuilding after trading Jimmy Butler and parting with Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo (see full story).

Nuggets: Jefferson reportedly agrees to deal
DENVER -- Michael Malone knows all about Richard Jefferson. Just not Tuesday, with the deal for the veteran forward still waiting on official word.

"Who's Jefferson?" the Denver Nuggets coach coyly said after practice.

Jefferson will join the Nuggets on a one-year deal, a person with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement hasn't been disclosed by the team. ESPN first reported the deal, which it said is worth $2.3 million.

After weeks of fine-tuning his roster through training camp and the preseason, Malone suddenly has to juggle things around. Not that he minds carving out minutes for a player he can't even name just yet. Jefferson adds another leadership presence to a young, playoff-hopeful roster (see full story).

Jazz: Timeline unknown for injured Exum
SALT LAKE CITY -- Dante Exum knew he had a significant injury the moment he awkwardly hit the floor during a preseason game against the Suns on Oct. 6. The diagnosis was a separated shoulder, and the Jazz guard and the team took the next 10 days to decide what to do.

Exum saw three doctors and spoke to several more before deciding to have a surgery on Oct. 24 that will keep him out for an unknown amount of time.

"Even just walking back (to the locker room), obviously I was frustrated," Exum said. "Everything was going through my head. I remember just looking up at everybody and they were just speechless. Didn't know what to say. A lot of people within the Jazz organization know how hard I've worked to get to the point I was. To get an injury like that and the way it took place just sucked."

There were non-surgical options for Exum, but the decision was made in his long-term interest after talking to family, his agent and the organization. That, however, complicates things in the short term financially. The 2014 No. 5 overall pick was hoping to have a breakout year as a restricted free agent.

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid will be restricted to less than 20 minutes per game early in the season, that much is known (see story). How Brett Brown fills the remainder of the minutes at the center position remains to be seen.

Brown has three healthy big men he can play behind Embiid: Amir Johnson, Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric. Richaun Holmes, an early candidate for backup minutes, is sidelined by a fractured wrist.

“Even without Richaun, you like the depth and versatility, the variety that is available to me at the five,” Brown said Tuesday. 

Each player is unique in their skill sets and experience levels. There’s the proven veteran in Johnson, the undersized center in Saric, and the sometime-starter-sometime-reserve-sometime-DNP in Okafor. 

Let’s take a look at Brown’s options and why he may lean toward one player over another. 

Okafor
Okafor finds himself in another season of uncertainty. The third-year Sixer still doesn’t have a consistent role in the rotation. In the past, his biggest opportunity for minutes has come when Embiid is out for the entire game. Could the slimmed-down Okafor return to the starting lineup when Embiid doesn’t play? The Sixers face their first set of consecutive games of the season on Saturday. 

Brown on Okafor 
“[His role is] evolving … it’s always fluid. There are times we’ll assess Joel, say, in a back-to-back situation that might free something up. We have one in Toronto coming up. … We all respect his attitude and we respect his body. I think he’s had a good preseason.”

Johnson
The 30-year-old Johnson gives the Sixers a veteran presence and assuring presence on the court. He started in 77 of his 80 games for the Celtics last season and will be an in-game leader for younger players like Markelle Fultz in the second unit. 

Brown on Johnson
“He started for a really good team last year. He’s been in the league for a while. He’s a great pickup. Bryan (Colangelo) did a really great job of signing him. He’s good people.” 

Saric
At 6-foot-10, 223 pounds, Saric is the most unlikely candidate of the three backups. Brown has seen enough from Saric in the NBA and internationally, though, to feel confident in shifting him from the four to the five. Saric showed he can hold his own against traditional bigs when he shot 5 for 8 against the Nets in the preseason. 

Brown on Saric
“He’s stronger than you think. He’s been used to guarding behind people over in Europe on switch outs with four-five pick-and-rolls. … He gives up some weight, he gives up some height. But the trade-off might be he pulls them out and makes threes like he did against (Timofey) Mozgov. You weigh it all up. It’s a little bit unconventional but it is there in our arsenal if we choose to go there.”