76ers

Elton Brand hasn't made Sixers any better, which makes you wonder about his job security

Elton Brand hasn't made Sixers any better, which makes you wonder about his job security

New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero was fired over the weekend, as the Devils spiral towards the worst record in the NHL's Metropolitan Division. Shero, a vaunted GM with a Stanley Cup to his name and roster-building experience, was expected to oversee the Devils' next few years of building towards something larger. Instead, he's out of a job mid-season.

Josh Harris, who is a managing partner of both the Devils and the Sixers, didn't mince words on Sunday when explaining the decision to move on from Shero.

"We're very committed to winning," Harris said in a press conference over the weekend, per ESPN. "We weren't winning enough."

If the Devils, who weren't expected to compete for anything significant this year, weren't winning enough for Harris, it's hard to imagine the Sixers are currently scratching his itch for wins. And it makes you wonder: is Elton Brand's job in danger?

After Monday night's loss to the Pacers, the Sixers are squarely the No. 6 team in the Eastern Conference. They've lost six of eight, are on pace for just 50 wins, and have by far the worst road record of the six actually worthwhile teams in the East.

Like the Phillies of last season, the question becomes how to parcel the blame between the front office, the coaching staff, and the players. Ben Simmons still can't shoot, Brett Brown has shown an inability to turn a team rife with talent into a consistent winner, and Elton Brand built the clunky, inelegant monstrosity you see in half-court sets each night.

It feels, right now, like Brand deserves the finger-pointing.

Night in and night out, the Sixers look like a jammed-up team without an offensive identity in a league obsessed with scoring, and that problem falls on the man who constructed this roster in the first place. It's not a surprise that the Sixers need shooters and players who can create their own offense — those problems existed last season — and yet, after a very expensive offseason, the same needs remain.

Brand has been GM for roughly 16 months. He traded for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, offloading picks and lesser pieces in the process, then moved Butler and brought in Al Horford and Josh Richardson. Whether Brand's moves have actually made the Sixers any better, though, isn't apparent.

They've been better against important teams — regular wins over the Celtics and the Bucks can paper over most problems — but they haven't been good enough in between the marquee matchups, including losing 14 of 21 road games this season, to put themselves in a good spot come playoff time. We know the Sixers can beat the Bucks and Celtics on a given night. Can they do it four times, without home court advantage?

With 10 games before the NBA's Feb. 6 trade deadline, Brand has one more chance to make a move (or two), which he likes to do, and possibly save the Sixers' season. 

If the Sixers aren't in the East's Top 4, they will lose in the second round again, and someone will finally have to answer. A player like Davis Bertans could help, and a player like Bogdan Bogdanovic certainly would. But if they don't arrive, or if they aren't enough, it's because Brand waited too long to fill his team's most glaring holes.

It feels unlikely that Harris would let Brand loose after a year and a half, but it also feels unlikely that he's OK with watching the capital he invested in the Sixers' win-now build go to waste.

More on the Sixers

'It's a gift and a curse' — Steve Nash shares his thoughts on Ben Simmons

'It's a gift and a curse' — Steve Nash shares his thoughts on Ben Simmons

On the surface, Steve Nash and Ben Simmons don’t have a ton in common. 

Nash, inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018, shot 42.8 percent from three-point range and 90.4 percent from the foul line in his NBA career. Simmons’ shooting is not a strength.

However, the two chatted Saturday night at Madison Square Garden after Simmons’ 21-point, eight-assist performance in the Sixers’ win over the Knicks (see observations).

Simmons told reporters he talked with Nash, a co-owner of the MLS’ Vancouver Whitecaps FC, about soccer.

“He was such a great leader, a competitive spirit,” Simmons said. “Just watching highlights and some of his games, the way he played, he was just relentless. He played through anything." 

Nash sees a lot to admire in Simmons’ game, too. He said he thinks Simmons is worthy of being an All-Star for the second straight season.

Ben’s a generational talent. Crazy athlete, can play multiple positions on offense and defense. Obviously his glaring weakness is the shooting, but he’s so gifted that he can make up for it in other ways, and it’s about finding a way for him to be at his best for this group. And that’s a challenge for this club, is how do all the pieces fit together? Ben’s ability at both ends of the floor is unique and he’s a special, special player. 

“I wouldn’t put it past him to become a reliable shooter at some stage in his career, but he still does so many things at both ends of the floor that if you could find a way as an organization to promote that, you have an incredible, incredible piece. That is a huge challenge — how do all the pieces fit? … I think it’s something that Brett [Brown] and everyone are working through every day. It’s a gift and a curse.

Though his game isn’t much like Nash’s, Simmons said he can still take a lot from the 2004-05 NBA MVP. 

“He’s a legend, so definitely,” Simmons said. “I definitely want to talk to him and pick up things.”

Nash was asked whether Simmons can keep going as an infrequent jump shooter. 

“He can, in the right environment,” Nash said. “If he can figure out how to make some shots in some parts of the court, it can change everything. … He can do so many things. He can change positions four or five times in a game. That in itself is huge. So, how do you absorb that? That’s the challenge. Like I said, it’s a gift and a curse, and they’ll have to figure that out.”

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

Tobias Harris trolls Ben Simmons before and after Sixers' win

Tobias Harris trolls Ben Simmons before and after Sixers' win

There are probably quite a few people that would like to be Ben Simmons.

Tobias Harris took that a step further before the Sixers game Saturday night against the Knicks, rocking Simmons' expensive looking neckwear.

The Sixers sweated out a win and snapped their six-game road losing streak at Madison Square Garden Saturday (see observations). Harris had a rough night, going 5 of 13 overall, but he did hit a huge three with 28.2 seconds left off a Simmons’ inbounds pass to give the Sixers a two-point lead.

“I was just trying to get it in,” Simmons told reporters postgame. “I don’t think we had any timeouts left, so I’m glad he came to the ball and put up a great shot. He made it look good.”

The chemistry between the two seems to be paying off on the court.

“He’s locked in,” Simmons said. “He’s been aggressive taking shots. We want him to keep shooting the ball and taking those open looks. He’s a great player."

Postgame, Harris went back into Simmons mode.

The team also had a little fun with Harris’ “Fresh Prince” impersonation.

Simmons had a big night, posting 20 points for the fourth straight game — the first time in his career he's done so. The duo of Harris and Simmons also combined for the biggest defensive play of the game, trapping Julius Randle and causing a turnover with 7.6 seconds left.

Even though Harris accidentally gave Simmons a smack in the face in his haste while celebrating.

The Sixers have won three games in a row and it looks like they’re having fun again.

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