76ers

Brett Brown willing to accept short-term cost of experimentation

Brett Brown willing to accept short-term cost of experimentation

A matchup against the Boston Celtics might not seem like the ideal time for experimentation.

But, as the Sixers adjust to their revamped roster, head coach Brett Brown is determined to learn exactly what he has and how he can best equip his team for a deep playoff run. 

It cost him Tuesday night in a 112-109 loss to the Celtics (see observations). 

For Brown, it’s not as simple as throwing out perhaps the best starting five in the Eastern Conference and letting them play. The nuances of rotations, play calls and defensive concepts don’t disappear now that he has Tobias Harris on his team. 

Brown decided Tuesday to insert Jonathon Simmons into the rotation, gave Furkan Korkmaz 10 minutes, and sat James Ennis. He said before the game there’s a “quiet tournament” between those three for minutes.

The decision to play Korkmaz is certainly open to criticism. Korkmaz is essentially a three-point specialist shooting 33 percent from long range, and playing him makes little sense against a Celtics team excellent at exploiting defensive mismatches. In 10 minutes, Korkmaz was a team-worst minus-eight.

Boban Marjanovic played 10 minutes backing up Joel Embiid despite unfavorable defensive matchups against Al Horford and Daniel Theis for the plodding Marjanovic. Though Marjanovic posted four points and six rebounds, there were a couple of instances when the Celtics drew him away from the basket and capitalized on the lack of a rim protector. 

Brown was frank in saying he didn’t have a ton of confidence in either of those decisions. He’s figuring it out on the fly.  

The final third, as I’ve admitted … the tournament, looking at different people, is always on my mind, trying to figure that out when it matters most in April. Just like the usage of Boban [Marjanovic]. At times tonight you think, ‘well, might you get Jonah [Bolden] in the game?’ As I admitted in the pre-press conference, there’s a tolerance level where I have where I want to learn. I want to learn as much as I can about the group that we have and all these things with Jonathon [Simmons] and Boban and Jonah, etc., etc. is all on the table for me to do that.

It’s not as if Brown was terribly outcoached by Brad Stevens or the Sixers looked clueless on the court. If Tobias Harris had a better shooting night (he had 10 points on 4 for 14 shooting) or Joel Embiid scored more than eight points through the first three quarters, there’s still a good chance the Sixers would have beaten the Celtics. 

Embiid ultimately managed 23 points and 14 rebounds, but he took the blame for his slow start against Al Horford.

“He's not doing anything,” Embiid said of Horford. “He's just on me. I was sleepwalking for three quarters and that's on me. That's on me. That has nothing to do with anybody.” 

Though the matchups for Embiid vs. Horford and for Ben Simmons vs. the long, athletic Celtics are difficult, Brown dismissed the notion that he has any trepidation about playing Boston, even though the Sixers have lost 10 of their last 12 games vs. the Celtics.

“No. Not even close,” Brown said. “We have a whole new team. We’ve been with each other for a minute. I don’t even think like that at all. I’m excited to play these guys.”

Three games is obviously not nearly long enough to lose patience with how Brown is handling his new team.

But, with 25 games left in the regular season, how long will Brown wait to learn the right lineup pairings, the right members of his rotation, the right way to coach his team?

“As long as it takes,” he said. 

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

Ryan Broekhoff did not travel with Sixers to Orlando due to personal reasons

Ryan Broekhoff did not travel with Sixers to Orlando due to personal reasons

The Sixers' newest addition, Ryan Broekhoff, did not travel with the team to Orlando on Thursday afternoon due to personal reasons, a team official confirmed.

The Sixers signed Broekhoff to a substitute contract at the end of June, which they were able to do because they had a vacant two-way contract spot. A 40.3 percent career three-point shooter, the Sixers brought Broekhoff in as another potential option to space the floor.

Following the signing, head coach Brett Brown said he was "shocked’" Broekhoff decided to sign with the Sixers, as he was open about the limited opportunity.

“To mislead him about, ‘Hey, there’s a lot of opportunity here,’ that’s not true,” Brown said following the signing. “I told him that. You’ve got, what, six people? We all could look at each other and say, ‘What about Matisse (Thybulle)? And Glenn Robinson, and Furkan (Korkmaz) and Alec Burks?’ You could go on and on and on. ... This isn’t an opportunity where it’s clear there’s a runway and a pathway at all, and that was the flavor of my talk.”

The 29-year-old said he did have an identical offer on the table from another NBA team, as well as additional interest from others, but that his goal is to find a “steady” spot in the NBA.

"I see this as a way to sit up close and personal and get some extra time to learn (Brown’s) philosophies and how things may work, not just with the Sixers but also with the national team," he said.

Brown is also the current head coach of the Australian national team, a position he also held from 2009-2012.

The Sixers' first practice as a team in Orlando is scheduled for Saturday afternoon. The team's first seeding game is set for Aug. 1 against the Pacers. Before that, they have three scrimmages scheduled for July 24, July 26 and July 28.

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

2020 NBA restart: How Sixers think they'll adapt to 'weird,' fan-less games

2020 NBA restart: How Sixers think they'll adapt to 'weird,' fan-less games

There is no good comparison for playing competitive basketball games away from the outside world during a pandemic.

That didn’t stop a handful of Sixers over the last week from putting the NBA's planned resumption in familiar terms, though.

“It’s going to be like the AAU tournament of the century, kind of,” Josh Richardson said.

“I think it’s the richest summer camp in the history of basketball,” Alec Burks said. 

Of course, AAU tournaments and summer camps aren’t played with NBA championships at stake, and players there don’t usually have to adhere to stringent health and safety rules. If everything progresses smoothly at Disney World, the Sixers will transition from an in-room quarantine in which their neighbors’ identities were a mystery to high-stakes competition in a three-week span.

The Sixers’ first practice is scheduled for Saturday, and they have scrimmages set for July 24, July 26 and July 28. Their first game after the league’s hiatus is scheduled for Aug. 1. 

While there’s a chance to adjust, it’s not a ton of time to acclimate to the isolated, fan-less atmosphere. 

“I think the first games will just be weird,” Matisse Thybulle said. “I think a lot of the energy that we’re used to getting from the fans will have to come from the bench. We have amazing guys on our team across the board so I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. … I think with this, it’s going to be a cool challenge and it can also help us.”

Several teammates agreed with Thybulle’s view that the bench would need to inject energy. Richardson even thought the competition might be something like a lethargic regular-season game — a December matchup against the Wizards, as an example — where the playoffs are far away and it’s difficult for players to find motivation. 

I feel like that’s the same in a regular game ... because teams can come out flat and there’s always got to be a guy or a few guys to get guys’ heads in the game or to rev everybody up a little bit,” he said. “I think we’ll definitely have to bring our own energy. It’s going to be like scrimmages, I guess, the whole time. … But I’ll be one of those guys trying to bring energy. I know (Kyle O’Quinn)’s going to be a big energy guy for us. So hopefully some guys will step up, get a little uncomfortable and be able to help us in a different way.

The Wells Fargo Center crowd won’t be behind the Sixers, which they'll surely miss after going an NBA-best 29-2 at home. The roar of the fans when the Sixers are on a run and taking control won’t be there anymore. But the grumbling, tension and boos when the team is playing below its best and on the verge of letting a game slip away won’t be either, and it’s possible that will be the greater loss. The Sixers often seemed to respond to that collective demand for better effort by sharpening their focus. 

How will that in-person pressure from thousands of people no longer being present affect the players? If it feels like one’s playing a scrimmage or a pick-up game, it wouldn’t be surprising to see certain players operate with a little more looseness, a little less apparent knowledge that the game they’re playing in matters. That could mean a higher willingness to fire jumpers for players sometimes reluctant to take them, or a bit more flash and bravado from someone who gets hot and is having a good time without as strong an awareness of the score and situation as he might otherwise have. 

So, while the notion of energy exclusively coming from the bench sounds like it could be great for the Sixers for their “road” games, given how much the team struggled away from Philadelphia this season (10-24), the bench also may need to provide somewhat of a moderating influence, along with strategic input. We should be able to clearly hear everything, from coaches and players shouting out adjustments in pick-and-roll coverages to instructions that a player should keep a tighter handle on the ball. 

The bench obviously won’t be a single, homogeneous entity. Norvel Pelle won’t be shouting out the same things to his teammates as Thybulle. 

“Everybody’s bringing their own energy in a different manner,” Pelle said. “I know I’m a little out there with the (air) guitar and all the extra stuff. It just brings smiles to people.”

In these odd circumstances, the Sixers might appreciate a little levity. 

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