76ers

Much like free agency, Sixers comfortable with Plan B in general manager search

uspresswire-sixers-josh-harris.jpg
USA Today Images

Much like free agency, Sixers comfortable with Plan B in general manager search

When life gives the Sixers lemons, they make lemonade … for the entire room.

That’s pretty much been the Sixers’ motto throughout an interesting summer.

The team entered the offseason with grand plans to go “star hunting” and add one (maybe more) of the NBA’s star players. When that didn’t work out, the Sixers went to option No. 2, which centered on improving the roster through proper fits and depth.

That included re-signing their own veteran leaders (JJ Redick and Amir Johnson), acquiring solid reserves (Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala) and supplementing with promising rookies (Zhaire Smith, Landry Shamet and Jonah Bolden).

Now the Sixers are attempting to continue that same practice of spreading the wealth within their front office.

After the Bryan Colangelo scandal left the franchise without a prominent face in the front office, the Sixers went searching for big-name targets on the open market. They were reportedly spurned by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and potentially others.

What does that mean for the rest of the organization’s executives? Business as usual.

The Sixers announced on Monday that Ned Cohen (assistant general manager), Marc Eversley (senior vice president of player personnel), Elton Brand (vice president of basketball operations) and Alex Rucker (senior vice president of analytics and strategy) all received promotions as the team continues its front-office-by-committee approach (see story).

“What I've learned is that GM job has got many facets, and that it's a learned skill,” Sixers managing partner Josh Harris told ESPN. “It's certainly got a public-facing nature to it, but management and very strong relationships are important — and very few people who are not sitting GMs have all of those components. We have strengths in all those areas around our front office right now.”

That echoes a belief head coach and interim general manager Brett Brown shared earlier this summer after Colangelo’s departure. The Sixers truly believe their collective in the front office can do just as good a job as a big-time exec.

“I think one of the tremendous legacies that Bryan should be recognized for is he really, and I mean really, did a great job of putting key people in key positions,” Brown said on June 7 when Colangelo’s resignation was announced. “When I look at our front office the firepower that we really have with Alex Rucker and Ned Cohen and (vice president of athlete care Dr.) Danny Medina leading our medical department and Marc Eversley and Elton Brand and it’s like you can go on. We have the firepower that we need to move this thing forward and not miss a beat.”

Harris made it clear that the Sixers will continue searching for a good match to guide the team into the future. However, if nothing serious materializes, they are perfectly fine pushing on with the familiar faces already roaming the building.

“… We're going to be patient and try to find the right person,” Harris said. “The next year is going to be incredibly important for us, and we have a real desire to find the right person now — but if not, we are incredibly comfortable with the existing staff and we'll move forward from there."

Lemonade for everyone.

More on the Sixers

Brett Brown calls out Sixers' turnover problem: 'Until we fix this, this is a house built on sand'

Brett Brown calls out Sixers' turnover problem: 'Until we fix this, this is a house built on sand'

Brett Brown has been asked about turnovers many times during his six-plus years as head coach of the Sixers. They are a concern, he has acknowledged often. 

“Our turnovers continue to haunt us and we can’t let it go,” he said in December of 2016.

“It is on me, and it keeps us up late at night,” he admitted a little over a year later.

On March 13, 2018, Brown said of the Sixers’ turnover woes, “As a team, we have to get better. Some of it I have to own.”

So, in one sense, what Brown had to say Sunday night about the Sixers’ turnovers shouldn’t be shocking. He hasn’t shirked away from this problem. And, for the most part, it’s been an issue that’s gnawed at the Sixers throughout his tenure. The team has finished either 29th or 30th in turnovers in the NBA every season under Brown besides last year, when they were 25th. After recording 20 turnovers Sunday in a 114-106 win over the Hornets, the 6-3 Sixers are last in the league with 18.8 turnovers per game. But Brown’s comments Sunday were perhaps as impassioned as we’ve heard him on the subject.

This is what I tell the team: Until we can fix this, this is a house built on sand. It is fool’s gold. And we have to find a discipline and a better way to control that. Because the turnovers in the first half, some of them were live ball, a lot of them were just getting things batted out of our hands. We can’t fool ourselves — this is a problem. This is a problem. And we need to own it. I’m the head coach, I’ve gotta find a way to fix it. There needs to be a level of accountability with the players. And that’s that. It’s not anything that we take lightly — we don’t dismiss it. The times are over when you’re looking at some of the young guys and you can justify it. You can’t do that anymore. It’s time that we get better at that. And the players know it. They understand it. But we better fix it.

Like in years past, there are a variety of reasons the Sixers have committed this volume of turnovers. Joel Embiid inflated the number by coughing it up eight times in the Mile High City. There are two new starters in Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris, and some new players coming off the bench. As Brown said, though, youth is no longer a good excuse. 

“That’s definitely our biggest flaw right now,” Richardson said. “I think sometimes we get careless. And I think sometimes we get too unselfish, too. On possessions where you get a decent look and pass it up and then we end up turning it over. It’s like, could we really have gotten a better look at it? But I think that’s a good problem to have. I think we’ve just gotta watch the film and figure out what we’re doing wrong outside of that.”

It’s possible to turn the ball over a lot and still go far as a team. Last year, Monty Williams — at the time an assistant with the Sixers, now the head coach of the Suns — noted that “being in the top five or even the top 10 in turnovers does not guarantee you success.” 

The Sixers have mitigated some of their turnovers by being the best offensive rebounding team in the league. They’re also forcing 16.8 turnovers per game, over four more than they did in 2018-19. The turnovers hurt, but perhaps not as badly as they would for a team also losing possessions in those other categories. 

“That’s been our biggest thing this year,” Tobias Harris said. “A lot of them have just come from — like myself today, I had two travels in the beginning. We’re going to find each other and our spots and how we want to play, things we can do to execute better. If we can just limit to half of those, protect the ball a little bit better, I think that will help us out a whole lot.”

Cutting their turnovers in half would lead the Sixers to be the best in the league at taking care of the ball, so that’s likely not a realistic goal. But Harris’ overall point is fair. It’s not this simple, but if the Sixers could, in each game, eliminate an unforced turnover, an excessively unselfish turnover, and a “new guys getting used to each other” turnover, that would go a long way. 

The NBA started officially recording turnovers in the 1977-78 season. No team has both led the league in turnovers and won an NBA title since then. 

“I think a lot of them were guys mean[ing] well and trying to make certain reads,” Horford said. “We’re just not necessarily clicking how we need to be. Maybe some plays are there … we’re just getting to know each other. Also, we have to be more conscious about taking care of the ball. I believe that as the season goes on, we’ll be fine.”

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

Sixers' Josh Richardson opens up about mental health: 'It's tough to dig yourself out of that hole'

Sixers' Josh Richardson opens up about mental health: 'It's tough to dig yourself out of that hole'

After being traded from the Miami Heat to the Sixers this summer, Josh Richardson admitted he was in a "hole" with his mental health.

“It’s one of those things you constantly have to think about," Richardson said. "You have to consciously stay on your mental health, because if you don’t, you can look up and you’re depressed or you’re just not in the right state of mind. I’ve seen guys succumb to that. It’s tough to dig yourself out of that hole. I was there, to be honest. I was there this summer for a while. I got a therapist and I’ve been trying to work that out."

In an open interview, which you can watch above, Richardson discussed the challenges of being diligent about mental health in the highly competitive environment of the NBA, and explained why he tries to “embrace the negative.”

NBC Sports Regional Networks has launched a multi-platform campaign on mental health and men's health, HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports, for the month of November. You can find more information about the initiative here

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