WILMINGTON, Del. — Before Saturday’s Blue x White Scrimmage at 76ers Fieldhouse, Sixers general manager Elton Brand met with the media. Below are a few takeaways on what stood out from Brand’s availability.
A new kind of partnership
The Sixers made significant changes to their medical and performance teams this summer, not renewing the contracts of vice president of athlete care Dr. Daniel Medina or director of performance, research and development Dr. David T. Martin. The team promoted Scott Epsley to medical director and hired Lorena Torres as performance director.
Brand also acknowledged Saturday there was a notable change the team didn’t announce.
We brought in Lorena Torres from the Spurs — she had a great run there with the data science being her base and her background. And then Scott Epsley, who’s been here four years, his ability to relate to the players. … And with me. I admit it, I’ll be more a part of it with the players in a partnership for their care. I felt like for their daily care, changes needed to be made, but I’m confident in the changes we have made.
Joel Embiid talked at media day about the high level of trust he has in Brand, something he said didn’t exist under the regime of former president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo (see story).
Brand assuming a prominent role in the medical/performance sphere is unorthodox — especially when you consider the team has taken the duty of providing medical updates to the media off the plate of head coach Brett Brown — but it’s understandable. If it means Embiid and other Sixers are more inclined to buy in to the plan to keep them healthy, it’s a sensible shift.
Speaking of Embiid, Brand classified the Sixers' approach with the All-Star big man as “daily, strategic, thoughtful consultation.”
He did not rule out Embiid playing more than the 64 games he did last year, or him suiting up for both games of back-to-backs.
Though the team’s approach with Embiid will presumably be fluid, Brand was confident regardless that Embiid will be committed to it.
“I think the setback last year losing Game 7 in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, it really hurt and he understood that, ‘Look, I need to be the best in May and June.’ I think that helped us a lot, and he understands it.”
Brand is surely aware of all the buzz around Ben Simmons’ jumper, and he’s confident enough in the work Simmons put into his shot over the summer to further feed that hype.
He’s worked hard at it. And we support Ben, we believe in Ben. We want him to shoot and he’s going to shoot. And he’s going to shoot the right shots — that’s what’s important to me. Just developing, it’s a team effort. So if he’s open from a corner three, I expect him to let it fly, and from what I’ve seen, I expect it to go in. Not to put pressure on him, but he’s worked, and he’s built for that. He’s worked his butt off all summer long.
Simmons took plenty of three-point shots pre-scrimmage.
Ben Simmons, from well behind the arc: pic.twitter.com/xf1U5zPr8D— Noah Levick (@NoahLevick) October 5, 2019
He only took one jumper during the scrimmage, a fadeaway from about 12 feet away which he airballed.
Don't except more blockbuster deals
Brand’s first year as an NBA general manger was an active one, highlighted by deals for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. Things didn’t slow much in his first offseason either, with the departures of Butler and JJ Redick and the additions of Al Horford and Josh Richardson.
He wouldn’t rule anything out, but don’t expect that same level of near-constant roster turnover in Brand’s second year on the job.
“We have a championship-caliber team, for sure,” he said. “A lot of things have to fall into place for any championship, but I think we have the pieces. I’m certainly going to monitor and look at any way I can improve the team throughout the season.”
The idea of being able to build chemistry and continuity is a positive in Brand’s mind, which is another reason why him making a huge move would indeed be a surprise.
“I’m happy we get it from Day 1 and it’s not at the deadline or moving parts around and making it fit,” he said. “Being able to start in the summer, a lot of guys came in early — it meant a lot.”
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