76ers

5 takeaways from Brett Brown’s fiery end-of-season press conference

5 takeaways from Brett Brown’s fiery end-of-season press conference

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown is staying in Philadelphia, and he had a lot to say Tuesday at his end-of-season press conference about the reports he might be fired, the culture he’s built with the Sixers and what’s next for the team.

Here are five takeaways from his press conference, which lasted almost 45 minutes:

Passion 

Brown is rarely short on fire. He enjoys talking about his players, his program and basketball in general. His demeanor Tuesday, however, was different from the norm. This was a new level, even for him.

He was proud of the culture he has built in his six years as head coach.

People are treated well here. Forget my words, listen to the players. And so for us to be able to retain, recruit, grow, empower, watch this program unfold — are you serious? This is incredibly exciting. Here we are with a 22-year-old All-Star and a 25-year-old All-Star and people that want to be here, and Elton [Brand] is going to do his job, and Josh [Harris] and [David Blitzer] are so driven to provide the resources to win a championship. Look across the water. To me, it’s like, what are we missing? To me, we have everything we need to move this program forward. Your question about culture, we’re proud of the fights we’ve had to fight in order to do what we’ve done. Culture is a word that means something to me and means something to us. And I believe that we’ve delivered. 

One exchange with a reporter about when exactly Brown learned he would indeed be returning as coach turned combative. Brown explained that Harris and he have had direct discussions throughout this tenure about his status as coach, with the last one occurring during the Toronto series.

“I was completely aware of how he saw my role in the future as the playoffs unfolded,” Brown said.

When the reporter asked Brown whether that meant Harris had told him he’d be staying on, his response was sharp.

“What language do I have to say it in? Yes.”

Thoughts on all the noise 

Because Brown’s future — at least publicly — remained uncertain until late Monday night, his players supported him strongly at their exit interviews.

Brown said their support made him “proud,” noting it “validates in perhaps a more defined way that the program is on track.”

He didn’t have a problem with the Sixers’ organization putting his players in a position where, the day after a devastating loss, they had to be asked about their coach’s job status and whether he deserved to hold his role.

“This is my sixth year in Philadelphia,” he said. “I have been fired every one of these years. It’s true. It’s Philadelphia. Every single one of these years somebody has me not coming back. And it will happen again next year, early. I’m just fine with them not responding to the noise that surfaced.”

‘This is a destination’ 

Brown preached often about the Sixers being a “destination,” which makes sense given the Sixers have eight unrestricted free agents and two players with player options. Some of what he said was clearly catered toward those free agents. He preached about the Sixers’ culture, the city of Philadelphia, how his team shares the ball, and their potential to be a title contender, painting the Sixers as a team any player would enjoy being a part of.

Much of what he said, though, didn’t seem shrewd or calculated. He was blunt about the extent to which he feels the team has grown during his tenure.

“I put sort of my rearview mirror hat on and I remember going to PCOM,” he said. “We were in PCOM. Think about that — we were in PCOM. I had one court. I wouldn’t even go down to my players’ locker room. I was ashamed — I didn’t even want to go down there. And now we’ve arrived at a place where we have a chance for annual success. We have a chance to annually knock out 50-win seasons and truly contest for a championship. I can’t look at you more sincerely and say that. This is a destination. It wasn’t when I came here. In fact, it wasn’t even close.”

He wants to run it back 

Unlike 11 months ago, when Brown was the Sixers’ interim general manager, decisions about the draft and free agency are not primarily in his hands. He said Monday “the money side of it all and the strategy of how do we build this team” will fall on Brand, Harris and Blitzer.

But Brown does have a strong preference to keep the core of the Sixers together. He spoke at length about his evolving relationship with Jimmy Butler and glowed about Tobias Harris’ basketball and human qualities.

“There is a connection from just a human being side that is also a fit for this program,” Brown said. “He’s incredibly polished; he’s elegant. He’s all class.”

Brown wants more than a mere 10 regular-season and 11 playoff games together with this starting lineup.

“The ability to have a team back and have corporate knowledge and continuity and carryover, that’s when you can take off,” he said. “That’s when coaching and playing has a chance to go to a higher level.”

The months ahead 

Though reluctant to divulge too many specifics, Brown did express confidence that, through a “holistic” offseason program, Joel Embiid would arrive in September “in the best shape that he’s been since he’s been a Philadelphia 76er.”

He also addressed questions about Ben Simmons and his plan to continue working with his brother Liam on his shot this summer. Brown, who said he’s known Liam since he was 4 years old, disagreed with the notion that Simmons might not be challenged enough by his brother.

“In fact, I think that with the family there is an insulation, in a good way, to call him out, to help him get into a gym,” Brown said.

An offseason priority for Brown himself, outside of free agency and the development of his young stars, will be revamping his coaching staff. With the departures of Billy Lange and Monty Williams to take head coaching jobs with Saint Joseph’s and the Phoenix Suns, respectively, Brown has two spots to fill: 

“As I search and try to find with Elton who’s going to be on the bench, what are we going to do behind the bench, there are skills, there are ways people see the world — are you an offensive guy or are you a defensive guy type of thing that will factor into the new hire. As time unfolds, I think in the next month, we will be able to make who’s going to be replacing Monty, as an example.”

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Joel Embiid leaves game vs. Trail Blazers with injury

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Joel Embiid leaves game vs. Trail Blazers with injury

The Sixers already have a tall task in front of them trying to play without All-Star Ben Simmons. Now, their other All-Star is banged up.

Joel Embiid left the Sixers’ game against the Trail Blazers Sunday in the first quarter with a left ankle injury and won't return, per NBC Sports Philadelphia's Serena Winters. 

Embiid was contesting a shot from Portland’s Wenyen Gabriel at the rim when his foot landed awkwardly on the stanchion below the basket. Embiid stayed in the game but then went to the bench at the next timeout. After appearing to try to work the injury out on the sideline, he then headed back to the locker room.

Simmons will undergo surgery to remove a loose body in his left knee, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Noah Levick

We’ll have more details on Embiid's injury as they become available.

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How to watch Sixers at Blazers: Storylines, live stream, game time and more

How to watch Sixers at Blazers: Storylines, live stream, game time and more

Updated: 5:35 p.m.

The Sixers are 7-5 this year without Ben Simmons, who will have surgery to remove a loose body in his left knee. They’ll aim to improve to 43-27 overall on Sunday night when they play the 32-39 Portland Trail Blazers. 

Glenn Robinson III is available after missing the Sixers' first four seeding games with a left hip pointer injury. Hassan Whiteside (left hip strain) is out for Portland

Here are the essentials for Sunday’s game: 

When: 6:30 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6 
Where: Visa Athletic Center 
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Distant memories 

The Sixers came back from a 21-point second-half deficit to win their first meeting with the Blazers this season back on Nov. 2. Furkan Korkmaz’s three-pointer from the right corner with 0.4 seconds to go lifted them to 5-0

There are few similarities between the situation that night and this one, other than that the Sixers were missing a star and relied more heavily than usual on Al Horford. With Joel Embiid serving a suspension after fighting with the Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns, Horford had 25 points, seven assists, five rebounds and one turnover. Tobias Harris posted 23 points on 10 for 15 shooting. 

Seeding implications 

As the playoffs draw nearer, the standings remain bunched at several spots in both conferences. 

The No. 6 seed Sixers are a half-game behind both the Pacers and Heat, who will play each other on Monday night. Since the Sixers have dropped their season series against Indiana and Miami, they’d lose a potential tiebreaker. 

Portland’s main concern is qualifying for the playoffs. After falling to the Clippers on Saturday despite Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony and Gary Trent all scoring over 20 points, the Blazers are ninth in the Western Conference, 1.5 games behind the Grizzlies and a half-game ahead of the Suns and Spurs. If the eighth and ninth seeds are within four games of each other at the end of the seeding games, those two teams will have a play-in tournament.

What’s the response? 

We highlighted four main on-court issues for the Sixers to consider without Simmons here

On a more fundamental level, it’ll be interesting to see how the team reacts to learning that one of its two All-Stars will undergo knee surgery. Brett Brown talks frequently about wanting to maintain his team’s “spirit.” That will be tested yet again.

“You’re numb to it,” he said as Simmons was considering treatment options before Friday’s game. “You just move. It ends up, as I’ve said, like ready, fire, aim. You figure it out. You take something and you figure it out, you coach who you have. And I do genuinely believe that this can galvanize our group and bring us, in a sort of inverted way, together, knowing that Ben is not going to be with us.”

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