Brett Brown doesn't deserve blame for Sixers' late-game failure

Brett Brown doesn't deserve blame for Sixers' late-game failure

SAN FRANCISCO — At some point, the training wheels have to come off. Even if there are bumps and spills along the way, which there will be, it's time for the Sixers to navigate down the stretch without the need for a late-game regroup.

Brett Brown did not call a timeout on the Sixers' final possession of their one-point loss to the Kings on Thursday in Sacramento (see story). For that, he came under scrutiny. 

After De'Aaron Fox hit a jumper to give the Kings the lead with 13.4 seconds left, the Sixers ran a disconnected final play. Ben Simmons dished off to JJ Redick who passed off a shot to instead find Joel Embiid. The big man attempted the game-winner over Willie Cauley-Stein and missed. 

The Sixers ended their wining streak at five, but also failed to close out the game as they have done in the past, making it a sore spot for those watching.

The onus shouldn't fall solely on Brown. As the head coach, it is his responsibility to prepare the players to succeed in that scenario, not physically go on the court and execute it. If the team was out there with no clue as to what it should run, that would be one thing. But that's not the case.

"There was a minute-and-a-half stoppage where I could go tell my team, 'If they score, this is the play we're running,'" Brown said Friday after practice. "We don't have to call a timeout. I'm not calling a timeout. And I got the team on the floor that I want. And maybe by calling a timeout that will allow them (the Kings) to sub their best defensive players and do different things. 

"In that example, here we come, 13 seconds left. We have our play. We know what we want to do. We've drilled it for two weeks now, the exact same look how we've been closing out games. We've been doing a good job. Last night, we didn't."

Yes, the Sixers had won five in a row and have been turning heads early into the season. That doesn't negate the fact this is a young team — and a newly-constructed one at that — that's still learning how to play together, especially in the final seconds. This isn't a veteran squad with the proven know-how to close out games like it's second nature. 

Simmons, who cited "a lot of miscommunication," has played less than 400 minutes in the NBA. Embiid is only at career game No. 40. Redick is a veteran, but he's new to the system. These aren't excuses, they're facts. The Sixers are bound to blunder. It's those mistakes that will help them in the long run to get that been there, done that experience. 

"Should've, could've, would've," Simmons said. "You learn from it and it's on to the next one." 

Brown acknowledged the Sixers aren't at the point where he can just sit back on the sidelines without getting involved. He doesn't have to hold their hands either. Sometimes one of the best ways to learn what to do is by knowing what not to do, a good lesson to experience this early in the season rather than months from now. 

"That's the holy grail of getting to that point where I can just let the team run the team," Brown said. "But at that stage now, it isn't there yet and it shouldn't be now. It's further along than it was Game 5, and it's going to be a hell of a lot further along when it's Game 20. But right now, I've still got to put them a little bit, put them in some spots. Last night's end-of-game execution was disappointing."

Brown emphasized young players holding one another accountable and closing out down the stretch Friday at practice, one day before taking on the defending champion Warriors. The Sixers will be walking into one of the most difficult arenas to play in on the road with a difficult loss to overcome. 

"Now we know," Simmons said. "Now we've got to come in every game ready. It's not easy to win in this league." 

Sixers put bench under construction, but is second unit now any better?

Sixers put bench under construction, but is second unit now any better?

After a relatively quiet offseason, the Sixers’ roster has suddenly turned into musical chairs over the past few days.

In are Mike Muscala and Jonah Bolden. Out are Justin Anderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Richaun Holmes.

Not exactly earth-shattering moves, but moves nonetheless.

Of course, all of those changes were directed at the Sixers’ bench. That’s because the team already has one of the best starting rotations in the entire NBA. The Sixers’ five-man combination of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid was plus-21.4 points per 100 possessions in 600 minutes of action together last season.

The reserves were a different story. The Sixers’ bench was among the league’s worst scoring-wise in 2017-18 before buyout veterans Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova pumped life into the group. With that duo on the squad, the Sixers posted a 20-3 record to close out the regular season and made quick work of the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

Those results changed against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Sixers’ bench was exposed defensively and smothered on offense in the five-game series.

“I’ve said on record, and I’ll say it again, I believe that anything that kind of matters, you’re probably going to bump into the Celtics,” Brett Brown said during the Sixers’ exit interviews. “So they’re always going to be sort of on our mind in relation to how do you compete with them?”

Competing with the Celtics and beating them are two very different things.

Did the Sixers’ tinkering with their bench put them any closer to knocking off their longtime rival? That’s a tough one to answer right now.

Despite shipping away Anderson, Luwawu-Cabarrot and Holmes, you can argue that the Sixers’ second unit will still be more athletic next season. A fully healthy Markelle Fultz will likely start out as the sixth man, and we know he’s got some incredible bounce to his game. Zhaire Smith already gave a glimpse of what type of athlete he is during summer league. And while 31 years old, Wilson Chandler can still rise up to throw it down.

Defensively is where that athleticism should really shine for the latter two. The rookie Smith has continually said defense is his best skill as he was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive team during his lone season at Texas Tech. Chandler possesses the ability to defend both forward spots and takes pride on that end of the floor.

Meanwhile, Muscala and Bolden aren't anywhere near leapers of Holmes' caliber. However, they are still bigger bodies that have the ability to move their feet to keep up with their man. That’s in addition to known hustlers T.J. McConnell and Amir Johnson putting forth their maximum effort guarding opponents.

But is that enough when a healthy Celtics team gets its projected roster back and rolls out a reserve lineup of Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Semi Ojeleye, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes?

If the Sixers are unable to contain Boston’s talented starters and deep reserve blend, they might really run into problems trying to keep pace with offense of their own now that they lack a serious three-point threat outside of Redick. Belinelli and Ilyasova, who both departed moments into free agency, gave the team a one-two punch off the bench that could drain shots from anywhere. Now the only serviceable shooter in a backup role is the 6-foot-11, 240-pound Muscala (a career 37.8 percent shooter from long range). Kyle Korver, anyone?

The bench reset was necessary if the Sixers planned on getting to the next level. Is it enough to put them on the same level as the Celtics or will they remain green with envy?

We’ll see.

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Sixers trade Richaun Holmes to Suns; Jonah Bolden inks 4-year contract, source confirms

Sixers trade Richaun Holmes to Suns; Jonah Bolden inks 4-year contract, source confirms

The Sixers are not quite done making moves this offseason.

The team on Friday sent big man Richaun Holmes to the Suns for cash considerations. The Sixers also signed 2017 second-round pick Jonah Bolden to a four-year deal, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania first reported the trade and Bolden's signing.

With these moves, the Sixers’ roster remains at 15 players, but that could change if the team finds a way to rid themselves of Jerryd Bayless’ contract — say, in a trade with Cleveland (see story).

The writing has been on the wall for Holmes. Now entering his fourth year, the 2015 second-round pick struggled to find a role in Brett Brown’s rotation last season with a healthy Joel Embiid and veteran Amir Johnson in the fold. While he offered energy, athleticism and weakside rim protection off the bench, Holmes lacked discipline defensively, something Brown hasn’t tolerated during his tenure.

Bolden will essentially take Holmes’ spot on the roster as a developmental big. With quicker feet defensively, Bolden has more versatility to guard fours. While his summer league performance was underwhelming offensively, Bolden did impress defensively, especially against No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton. It’s important to note that the third and fourth years of Bolden’s deal are not guaranteed, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

Drafted by the Sixers out of Bowling Green State, Holmes flashed at times but was only able to get into 48 games this season, averaging 15.5 minutes a contest. He averaged 7.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in 156 career games with the Sixers.

A native Australian, Bolden attended UCLA for one year before heading overseas to play for FMP Beograd of the Adriatic League. As a draft and stash this past season, Bolden played for Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv and tested his skills in the EuroLeague. He averaged 7.2 points and six rebounds in 20.8 minutes a game. He’s shown flashes of a jump shot but shot just 31 percent from three this season abroad and 24 percent in summer league action.

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