76ers

Brett Brown on trade deadline plans, Corey Brewer and more

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Brett Brown on trade deadline plans, Corey Brewer and more

With precious little time before the trade deadline Thursday, Brett Brown provided one of the most informative pregame pressers of the season.

Less than two hours before opening tip against the Raptors, the Sixers’ head coach had plenty to say about his involvement in trade discussions, the Corey Brewer situation and his team as a whole.

Here are a few highlights from the session.

Working with Elton Brand before the deadline

Before Elton Brand took over as the team’s GM, the Sixers had a sort of front office collective with Brown acting the interim president of basketball operations.

It appears Brown’s input — though scaled down from the offseason so he can actually coach — is still valued and very much heard.

“I don’t remember many days where I don’t speak to Elton once or twice,” Brown said. “There’s not many scenarios that I believe are going to surprise us. My voice, my words my recommendation are always welcomed by Elton. It’s a partnership.”

“I think [Brand] has the whole package. I really think that he has a chance to be great.”

With the deadline on Thursday, Brand and the Sixers’ brass traveled with the team during its West Coast swing. Brown said they were “bunkered down” and preparing for any scenario that could occur.

While they’re doing their due diligence, there is no guarantee the team makes a move.

“Right now there are things going on as far as communication go with a lot of teams,” Brown said. “Anything that shakes out, I don’t know. I would not be telling the truth if you say something is incredibly imminent. Unless I don’t know something. And by and large Elton does his job and when things come up that I do need to know, he advises me. As it sits, there is no conversation that we’ve had about anything imminent.”

What the team is targeting

We’ve written a lot on this site about positions the Sixers should target — whether it be perimeter players or big men. Even Brown has mentioned in the past his desire to add a perimeter defender. 

On Tuesday, Brown’s mindset sort of changed. He’s not looking at a particular position, but rather a player with certain traits.

“When you fast forward out you say, ‘What wins in the playoffs?’ It’s [toughness], it’s can you switch and it’s can you make a three. That’s how I see it. That’s modern day NBA basketball. So do we need this? Do we need that? I don’t know. I mean I do know, but I think the species, the flavor, it’s always ‘best player available.’ I don’t know what the trades are going to produce. To think you could just go into the supermarket and choose what you want doesn’t happen. That doesn’t happen so you deal with it. But when you talk about qualities, that’s what most comes to my mind.”

The Corey Brewer situation

Corey Brewer became a cult hero for Sixers fans during his two 10-day contracts. The man that went from playing superheroes with his kids to guarding James Harden is now available for any team to pick up.

The reason is flexibility. With the trade deadline so close, Brand and company wanted to keep their options open. It’s possible that no other team signs Brewer for the same reason.

Though Brown didn’t give the veteran wing a ton of run in his last two games, he still hoped that Brewer would find his way back to the Sixers.

“To not have him … you wish you did. But because of the period of time with trade deadlines coming up to lock down spots or money or whatever is not smart on the front office’s part. It doesn’t dismiss the fact that we may see him soon. He may be back in our locker room not too far away. But at this particular moment I understand why that decision was made and more importantly so does he.”

“I’d love to see him again. He’s just something that is easy and trusted and respected. He can handle not playing. You can put him in a game and say go stick some wing offensive player. He was fantastic.”

Injury update

Well, here’s another non-update update on Markelle Fultz: Brown said he’s hoping to be “surprised” and that Fultz will be able to contribute in the playoffs. Since Fultz hasn’t even resumed basketball activities yet, it does seem ambitious to think he could contribute come April.

There was disappointing news for two-way player Shake Milton. The rookie broke one of his fingers on Tuesday in the Blue Coats’ loss earlier in the day and will be “out for awhile.” The time couldn’t be worse for Milton, who has shown promise and earned minutes while veteran Wilson Chandler is out.

Brown was asked about Justin Patton, who saw his first action of the season during the game in Delaware. You got the sense that Brown has low expectations for Patton for this season since it’s already more than halfway over, but was complimentary of the young big man’s skill set.

On if the team stands pat at the deadline

Brown has been through “the process.” If he has to go into the playoffs with rookies like Landry Shamet and Jonah Bolden —  he heaped praised on both young guys —  he’ll be ready.

“I think we all understand that we’re here to try to make a deep run in the playoffs. To do that, you all understand, you need depth. By and large, depth in May sure helps when it’s experienced depth. If that doesn’t play out with trades that could happen and we are left with the team that we have, you know what I’ll say and I mean it: ‘Off we go.’ I’ll coach what we have and we’re going to try to make it work.”

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2020 NBA playoffs: Looking at where Sixers sit in Eastern Conference picture

2020 NBA playoffs: Looking at where Sixers sit in Eastern Conference picture

Though they’re calling “seeding games,” the Sixers’ primary concern in the contests leading up to the playoffs is not seeding.

“How do you go into the playoffs … how can you go into that date feeling like we’re the best we can be?” Brett Brown said on July 12. “Worrying too much about moving up because you could play this team or avoid that team, I stay away from that.” 

Through three games at Disney World, Brown wishes the Sixers were playing at a higher level. The team has gone 2-1, but that record includes a fourth quarter in which the Sixers allowed the Pacers to score 46 points, a game-saving shot from Shake Milton vs. the Spurs and a win over the 24-44 Wizards that was tight until the end. Ben Simmons exited Wednesday’s game against Washington early with a left knee injury

It’s been slower coming than I would’ve thought,” Brown said Wednesday. “I liked our practices, I thought … the preseason games you saw at times a dominant defense. We’ve started these three games, I think, very inconsistently. I think we do some good things offensively, defensively, and then you see head-scratching stuff. It hasn’t gone as quickly as I had hoped. But I see where I think it can end. 

“We’re still figuring out some things with how we’re playing the team and Shake (Milton) coming in and so on. But I think, for the most part, we’re trending in the right direction, just not as quickly as I wished.

Here's where the Sixers sit in the Eastern Conference: 

3. Boston Celtics 45-23 GB: 9 
4. Miami Heat 43-25 GB: 11
5. Indiana Pacers 42-26 GB: 12
6. Sixers 41-27 GB: 13 

Boston technically still has a chance to surpass the Raptors for the No. 2 seed and the Sixers aren’t eliminated from contention for the No. 3 seed, but both outcomes are very improbable. Kemba Walker sat out the latter half of a back-to-back Wednesday, a 149-115 Celtics win over the Nets, as the All-Star guard works through a left knee issue. After playing Toronto on Friday night, the Celtics will face Orlando, Memphis and Washington.

The current No. 4 and No. 5 seeds play each other twice in the remaining seeding games, which should be interesting. The Heat’s other opponents are the Bucks, Suns and Thunder, while the Pacers’ are the Suns, Lakers and Rockets. Before the NBA’s hiatus, Miami was 2-0 against Indiana. In case you were curious, T.J. Warren hasn’t dropped off much after his 53-point performance vs. the Sixers. He leads all scorers at Disney World with 39.7 points per game. 

Despite having the sixth-easiest strength of schedule, the Sixers don’t have great odds of rising. Basketball Reference’s Playoff Probabilities Report gives them a 72.8 percent chance at the No. 6 seed, 23.0 percent at No. 5 and just 4.1 percent at No. 4. Those probabilities are intuitive when you consider the Sixers have lost their season series vs. the Heat and Pacers. 

The Celtics are the Sixers’ most likely first-round opponent at the moment by a good margin, which would potentially leave the Sixers a path of Boston-Toronto-Milwaukee. One could make the argument that such a road is best for the Sixers, since the team won its season series over Boston, 3-1, and wouldn’t have to face the top-seeded Bucks until the Eastern Conference Finals, but nothing’s going to be easy for a No. 6 seed. 

We analyzed the Celtics, Heat and Pacers as possible first-round opponents for the Sixers here

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Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons reportedly had clean MRI on left knee

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons reportedly had clean MRI on left knee

When Ben Simmons flexed his left leg after lobbing a pass for Al Horford and immediately headed off the floor Wednesday during the Sixers’ win over the Wizards, it was logical to be concerned. But, according to a report, Simmons’ knee injury is not as severe as one might have feared watching him walk toward the locker room. 

An MRI on Simmons’ knee was clean and he’s expected to be day-to-day, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. It's worth noting this is not an official update from the Sixers, who Brett Brown said postgame he expected to issue an announcement soon about Simmons' status. 

The 24-year-old recovered from a nerve impingement in his lower back over the NBA’s hiatus, and he felt strong and explosive heading into the league’s restart. He’s now serving as the Sixers’ starting point forward, an adjustment Brown thinks he’s approached well.

“I do feel like Ben has been amazing,” Brown said before Wednesday’s game, “in regards to just being mature on ‘Put me wherever you think I can best help the team.’ At times maybe he hasn’t gotten a touch the way he needs to get a touch, sometimes — which was easier when he was always the primary ball carrier. And so I applaud him tremendously on being a great teammate, trying to accept a new type of ecosystem that we’re trying to use him in.”

Simmons looked for his shot often in Wednesday’s game, though with little success. He missed an open corner three-pointer in the first quarter, his first legitimate regular-season try from long distance since Dec. 7, and made 2 of 10 field goals overall in 23 minutes. 

If Simmons misses any games, Brown will have a few options for reshuffling his starting lineup. There’s a case to be made for just about every member of the current rotation, which Brown cut down to nine players on Wednesday. Al Horford could slide into the frontcourt if Brown wants to work on the Horford-Joel Embiid pairing, which has a plus-15.6 net rating in 40 minutes together at Disney World after being the Sixers’ worst regular duo pre-hiatus.

Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz and Glenn Robinson III have all started games this year, though Robinson is dealing with an injury himself, having missed the team's first three seeding games with a left hip pointer. Perhaps Brown could go with Alec Burks if he’s looking for an extra ball handler and more time to evaluate his potential backup point guard in the playoffs.

The main takeaway here, however, is not the potential ripple effects on the Sixers' seeding game rotation. Rather, it's that a player the team will surely need to have available in order to make a deep playoff run reportedly has avoided a serious injury.

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