76ers

Brett Brown calls out Sixers' turnover problem: 'Until we fix this, this is a house built on sand'

Brett Brown calls out Sixers' turnover problem: 'Until we fix this, this is a house built on sand'

Brett Brown has been asked about turnovers many times during his six-plus years as head coach of the Sixers. They are a concern, he has acknowledged often. 

“Our turnovers continue to haunt us and we can’t let it go,” he said in December of 2016.

“It is on me, and it keeps us up late at night,” he admitted a little over a year later.

On March 13, 2018, Brown said of the Sixers’ turnover woes, “As a team, we have to get better. Some of it I have to own.”

So, in one sense, what Brown had to say Sunday night about the Sixers’ turnovers shouldn’t be shocking. He hasn’t shirked away from this problem. And, for the most part, it’s been an issue that’s gnawed at the Sixers throughout his tenure. The team has finished either 29th or 30th in turnovers in the NBA every season under Brown besides last year, when they were 25th. After recording 20 turnovers Sunday in a 114-106 win over the Hornets, the 6-3 Sixers are last in the league with 18.8 turnovers per game. But Brown’s comments Sunday were perhaps as impassioned as we’ve heard him on the subject.

This is what I tell the team: Until we can fix this, this is a house built on sand. It is fool’s gold. And we have to find a discipline and a better way to control that. Because the turnovers in the first half, some of them were live ball, a lot of them were just getting things batted out of our hands. We can’t fool ourselves — this is a problem. This is a problem. And we need to own it. I’m the head coach, I’ve gotta find a way to fix it. There needs to be a level of accountability with the players. And that’s that. It’s not anything that we take lightly — we don’t dismiss it. The times are over when you’re looking at some of the young guys and you can justify it. You can’t do that anymore. It’s time that we get better at that. And the players know it. They understand it. But we better fix it.

Like in years past, there are a variety of reasons the Sixers have committed this volume of turnovers. Joel Embiid inflated the number by coughing it up eight times in the Mile High City. There are new starters in Josh Richardson and Al Horford, and some new players coming off the bench. As Brown said, though, youth is no longer a good excuse. 

“That’s definitely our biggest flaw right now,” Richardson said. “I think sometimes we get careless. And I think sometimes we get too unselfish, too. On possessions where you get a decent look and pass it up and then we end up turning it over. It’s like, could we really have gotten a better look at it? But I think that’s a good problem to have. I think we’ve just gotta watch the film and figure out what we’re doing wrong outside of that.”

It’s possible to turn the ball over a lot and still go far as a team. Last year, Monty Williams — at the time an assistant with the Sixers, now the head coach of the Suns — noted that “being in the top five or even the top 10 in turnovers does not guarantee you success.” 

The Sixers have mitigated some of their turnovers by being the best offensive rebounding team in the league. They’re also forcing 16.8 turnovers per game, over four more than they did in 2018-19. The turnovers hurt, but perhaps not as badly as they would for a team also losing possessions in those other categories. 

“That’s been our biggest thing this year,” Tobias Harris said. “A lot of them have just come from — like myself today, I had two travels in the beginning. We’re going to find each other and our spots and how we want to play, things we can do to execute better. If we can just limit to half of those, protect the ball a little bit better, I think that will help us out a whole lot.”

Cutting their turnovers in half would lead the Sixers to be the best in the league at taking care of the ball, so that’s likely not a realistic goal. But Harris’ overall point is fair. It’s not this simple, but if the Sixers could, in each game, eliminate an unforced turnover, an excessively unselfish turnover, and a “new guys getting used to each other” turnover, that would go a long way. 

The NBA started officially recording turnovers in the 1977-78 season. No team has both led the league in turnovers and won an NBA title since then. 

“I think a lot of them were guys mean[ing] well and trying to make certain reads,” Horford said. “We’re just not necessarily clicking how we need to be. Maybe some plays are there … we’re just getting to know each other. Also, we have to be more conscious about taking care of the ball. I believe that as the season goes on, we’ll be fine.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

2 NBA players tested positive for COVID-19 in Orlando; Richaun Holmes breaches 'bubble'

2 NBA players tested positive for COVID-19 in Orlando; Richaun Holmes breaches 'bubble'

Former Sixer Richaun Holmes breached the NBA’s health and safety regulations by picking up a food delivery, he said Monday afternoon. 

Holmes will now have to quarantine for eight additional days. 

Earlier Monday, ESPN reported that the Rockets’ Bruno Caboclo unintentionally broke quarantine. 

Shortly after Holmes released his statement, the NBA and NBPA announced that two players of the 322 tested in Orlando since July 7 were positive for the coronavirus. Those players never cleared quarantine, according to the joint statement. 

All-Star Rockets guard Russell Westbrook announced Monday that he tested positive for COVID-19 before Houston’s departure and is quarantined. New Sixer Ryan Broekhoff said Sunday he didn’t travel with the Sixers to Orlando so that he could focus on his family after his wife tested positive.

Joel Embiid was skeptical last week that all players would follow the league’s protocols.

“Some guys like to go out and some guys like to do stuff, (there are) some guys that like adventure,” he said. “So that’s the way I’m thinking. I know myself. I know I’m not going to put everybody else at risk, but the question is, is everybody else going to do the same? And just being around this business, I surely don’t think so.”

A second-round pick of the Sixers in 2015, Holmes played the first three seasons of his career in Philadelphia as an athletic, high-energy backup big man. He’s had the best season of his career with the Kings, posting 12.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game this year. 

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Why now is the right time for Ben Simmons to change positions

Why now is the right time for Ben Simmons to change positions

When the Sixers drafted Ben Simmons first overall in 2016, Brett Brown told the assembled media that night that asking the Australian to play point guard with no previous experience was “borderline cruel.”

Brown didn’t rule it out but wasn’t 100 percent sure where Simmons would play. We ultimately know what happened. Simmons has been a two-time All-Star as a point guard but has limitations in the half court.

As the team continues its training camp at Disney World, the ultimate solution for Brown and the Sixers may be to take the ball out of Simmons’ hands.

The last few days I played him exclusively as a four man,” Brown said in a video conference with reporters Monday. “He’s so dynamic. … Let’s just talk about running: There’s nobody faster in the NBA. And so to always have Ben have to have the ball and dribble it up against five guys … I think dilutes some of his potent weapons.

The decision for Brown is multi-faceted. The “clunky” fit of Al Horford and the emergence of second-year guard Shake Milton — who Joel Embiid revealed has been running the point with the starters — were factors. 

But the main purpose is to make the most out of Simmons’ skill set. His unwillingness to shoot is well documented, but there is little Simmons can’t do outside of that. We’ve seen Brown deploy Simmons as a screen and roller plenty this season. Though the results have been mixed from an analytics standpoint, Simmons’ physical traits lend themselves to that role.

Brown at one point compared Simmons to Blake Griffin, one of the more dangerous rollers in the league in his prime. It’s not hard to imagine Simmons playing that role in the half court while still being elite in transition with the ball in his hands.

So, why did it take Brown so long into Simmons’ career to make the change? The answer is simple: Necessity. Brown made Simmons the Sixers’ point guard initially because he was best suited for the role at the time.

With a player like Milton emerging and Simmons’ limitations continuing to be exposed, now is the right time to make this move.

We were young and really not that good so it was my decision, ‘You take the ball. We’re going to make you the point guard,’” Brown said. “It’s not like he came in and there was an established point guard that you had to bump out. And so there are zero regrets on doing that.

“But it’s important to understand the segue into where he was and where he is. And so now you fast forward it and it’s not like you’re looking over your shoulder and there’s Damian Lillard or Chris Paul. That isn’t true, that’s not where I’m going, but you realize the value that he has in many other areas.

The other way Simmons can be utilized in the half court is by putting him in a “snug” pick-and-roll in the post with Joel Embiid. While the action hasn’t always produced great results, Brown has continued to use it. The best example Brown has pointed to is the home win against the Clippers before the All-Star break.

It’s an action that both players have needed time to get a feel for, but if they can execute it, the duo’s combination of size and skill could be difficult to defend.

I feel like this role is actually going to be even better than being the starting point guard,” Embiid said, “because he’s so great defensively, and offensively, when he has a chance, he’s probably one of the fastest guys in the league, so just getting the rebound and pushing it in transition and find the shooters. And then in half-court play, we can use him in a lot of ways. He can roll or he and me, we can play out of that pick-and-roll out of the post. So I think we’re going to be great.

While it might be the end of Simmons as a point guard, you won’t hear the soon-to-be 24-year-old sulk about it. Simmons said last week that he’s comfortable in any role and that he “love(s)” playing in the pick-and-roll.

After all, this move isn’t just right for the Sixers and their chances to go on a deep playoff run. It’s also about the evolution of Simmons and the best way to use his dynamic skill set going forward.

Watching him fly up the floor, watching Joel and him play off each other has been a really good look. I think they’ve been fantastic together,” Brown said. “And most importantly, how has he responded to [not being the point guard]? Like a star. Just a mature, whatever it’s going to take to get this team to be the best that it can be with the pieces that we have that can be designed into a smooth thing, something that’s not clunky. That is one of the pieces he has to offer, and I think he’s been great at accepting that and really killing it in practice in the environment that I just said.

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers