Friday gave another glimpse of how special Sixers' starters can be

Friday gave another glimpse of how special Sixers' starters can be

Six games.

That’s how many games the Sixers’ new starting five has played together. 

That’s it.

First-year GM Elton Brand didn’t waste his time getting his feet wet, acquiring two star-caliber players in Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. With that, Brett Brown has a difficult task in getting all the team’s stars to align with just 13 games remaining.

Yet, as Friday night’s win over the Kings at the Wells Fargo Center demonstrated (see observations), this has the makings of something special.

The starting five of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Butler and Harris has played a total of 97 minutes. Among current NBA starting fives that have played at least 90 minutes — a small sample size, to be sure — the Sixers’ unit has the highest net rating at 22.8.

The Sixers saw a more aggressive Butler Friday (see story), but overall, this was by far the most balanced effort they got from their new starters. When there’s this much offensive firepower on the floor, it’s just matter of getting everyone involved.

“I like it when we play with some level of pace and the ball moves and things are a little bit unpredictable,” Brown said. “To just walk it up and call a play, I don’t feel that that’s how you really win. I think we had 28 assists, you know 10 turnovers, that’s not too bad … 

“When you look down and you see Jimmy with 14 shots, Tobias 16, Joel with 19, JJ with 12, Ben with 12, that’s pretty good distribution.”

Out of the five starters, Harris is the only one that was “off” on Friday. He was 7 of 16 and just 1 of 5 from three. But the newest member of the Sixers’ starting lineup has arguably been its most consistent since his arrival.

Harris has scored in double figures in every game he’s been a Sixer and has played less than 32 minutes only once — a blowout win over the Lakers.

But even on a night when his shot wasn’t falling, he found other ways to score. He was 2 for 10 from the field in the first half, but was more aggressive getting to the basket in the second, making 5 of 6 shots and going 4 of 4 from the line after halftime.

A perfect complement to Embiid and Simmons, the 26-year-old has fit in seamlessly.

“I would just say coach’s system and the talent level that’s around me has made the game easier for me to get the looks that I know I can make,” Harris said. “Even [Friday], I thought in the first half I had a bunch of good looks that normally fall, didn’t fall. I would just say the talent level has been the biggest thing that’s helped me and helped my game. I play in the flow of the game. I play off other guys and that’s a lot easier to do with the group that we have.”

Harris helped fuel the Sixers’ reserves as Friday night also gave us a sneak peek at what might be Brown’s playoff rotation.

Brand also overhauled the team’s bench, making it more postseason-ready with veterans like Mike Scott and Boban Marjanovic. He also added James Ennis III, who has shined recently, from the Rockets for a second-round pick swap.

While Friday was a positive sign, the Sixers can’t afford to pat themselves on the back with a tilt looming Sunday against the Bucks, the only 50-win team in the NBA. While they have little chance to catch Milwaukee, it certainly provides a litmus test for this new-look team.

“I can’t wait because I think what it is, is it’s a reality check,” Brown said. “It really is an opportunity for us to see where we’re at. That’s why I like those types of games. You want to play Toronto or Boston or Milwaukee, Indiana, you can really get a gauge on where you really are at.”

The Sixers’ starting five looks incredible on paper. On Sunday, we’ll see how it looks on the floor against the NBA’s elite.

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Sixers Talk Podcast: Brett Brown report; should players embrace being villains?

NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sixers Talk Podcast: Brett Brown report; should players embrace being villains?

On this episode of Sixers Talk, Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick react to the New York Daily News report saying Brett Brown has lost the locker room. How much of the report is believable?

The guys preview Game 3. Should the players embrace being villains?

Also, is it too early to regret trading Landry Shamet?

1:00 - NYDN story on Sixers dysfunction.
13:00 - Looking ahead to Game 3.
16:00 - Should Sixers embrace being villains?
21:00 - Paul's review of "Venom."
23:00 - Any regret trading Shamet?

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Sixers address report Brett Brown has 'lost' team

Sixers address report Brett Brown has 'lost' team

CAMDEN, N.J. — After dropping Game 1, a convincing Game 2 win over Brooklyn seemed to restore order for the Sixers.

Then a scathing article was published Tuesday night, saying that Brett Brown has lost his locker room.

If you want to read the whole story, you can do so. If you’d rather not, here’s a quick recap.

The story alleges that Brown lost his locker room after the Jimmy Butler trade. It talks about an incident involving Joel Embiid and former Sixer and Spur Bruce Bowen after Brown had brought Bowen in to address the team.

It also claims that GM Elton Brand approached ownership about possibly trading Ben Simmons ahead of the deadline. The biggest accusation is that Simmons missed a game in Orlando because he was partying the night before. He was listed as out with a stomach virus in the team’s loss to the Magic.

“I am aware of it. I have not read it and I won’t,” Brown said at the team’s practice facility Wednesday. “I have nothing to say about it.”

Some of the aspects have already been refuted. The alleged incident with Bowen supposedly happened in Portland, but Bowen did not address the team in Portland. It happened in San Antonio, and from the description of the Inquirer's Keith Pompey, it was much ado about nothing. The story also initially said Simmons was in Miami with his girlfriend, Kendall Jenner, but the publication already listed a correction on that, saying Simmons was actually in Orlando with no mention of Jenner.

It was also odd that it mentioned Simmons’ biggest issue with his shot is his refusal to bend his knees. If you’ve watched Simmons through his young career, you know that’s not the most glaring flaw. Simmons’ left elbow flares out on every shot, causing an odd rotation to the ball, leading to the conspiracy theory that he may be right-handed.

Simmons didn’t deny the report, but didn’t want to spend time addressing it.

“Are you talking about the regular season?” Simmons asked the reporter. “OK, no, we’re talking about playoffs, man. Unless you want to talk about something else, somewhere else, but it’s playoffs right now.”

As he walked away from his availability, he did add one more thing.

“It was me, Brett and Monty [Williams] partying.”

Sounds like a good time.

Another thing that seems odd is the timing. This story dropped two days after the team destroyed the Nets in Game 2. Who did the players credit for the team’s turnaround that led to a record-setting 51-point third quarter?

Their coach for chewing them out in the locker room at halftime.

“He expressed it. He called me out a few times where I messed up on plays and yelled at me,” Simmons said. “I love to see that side of him because it motivates me and gives me that energy. It’s great to see that side from Coach.”

Brown downplayed the impact and passed the credit on to his players.

“I think it’s one of the great myths of coaching to think that that’s what coaches do,” Brown said. “You’ve got about so many bullets a year. People that have been around NBA basketball understand that simply. It’s true. You pick and you choose your moments. It wasn’t anything, in my view, that dramatic …

“I think the thing I like most about this group is that they do let me coach them. There’s a togetherness and a locker room respect for one another that I appreciate.”

Several players — most notably the aforementioned Butler — talked about how much they enjoyed seeing that side of Brown. Evidently, it’s not a side he shows often.

But that’s a big part of why it had such an impact. The players knew their coach was not happy. Because he picks and chooses when to use his “bullets,” they have a legitimate effect. 

“Well, you want it to be authentic, too,” JJ Redick said. “That was the big difference for us, seeing that it was legitimate frustration and anger. Anybody can come in and scream and act like they’re mad, but Brett is an authentic guy. It was great to see him in that mode.”

Yeah, seems like we have a real mutiny on our hands.

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