The 'jaw-dropping' education Brett Brown is receiving on racial injustice

The 'jaw-dropping' education Brett Brown is receiving on racial injustice

Brett Brown was eager on Wednesday to speak about the subject of racial injustice.

It’s a topic that has dominated recent conversations with his team, he said. 

“My last two Zoom calls with my team have had about 1 percent of basketball and 99 percent of all of the racial injustice circumstances we’re all living and breathing now,” Brown said in a video call with reporters. “That’s on my mind.”

According to Brown, the killing of 46-year-old Black man George Floyd on May 25 by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin jolted the NBA’s head coaches into action. 

“On May (25), George Floyd was murdered, and all of a sudden everybody starts to pay attention in a hyper-aware way — certainly in the United States, and we all see what’s happened around the world,” Brown said. “The Coaches Association got on the phone, 30 head NBA coaches.

"We tried to figure out quickly, what can we do to help? From those 30, it branched off into 11 people that formed a committee. I’m proud to be a part of that committee. I think we all have to give (Atlanta Hawks head coach) Lloyd Pierce, my old assistant coach, a lot of credit for driving this.”  

Brown recalled an extensive list of figures both he and the committee have met with to address racism and police brutality, including:

-DeRay McKesson, an activist who advocates for 8 Can’t Wait, a series of “policies that can reduce the harm caused by police in the short term.”
-Wally Adeyemo, the President of the Obama Foundation 
-Michael Smith, Executive Director of My Brother’s Keeper, an Obama Foundation alliance that aims to build “safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color.”
-Pastor Mark Tyler, of Mother Bethel AME Church and a member of POWER 
-Former Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson 
-Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw 
-Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey
-Bryan Stevenson, the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative 

That is, of course, a lot of information and expertise to absorb over the course of approximately five weeks. And though Brown has been thinking about the Sixers’ second training camp and how to best position his team for success at Disney World when the NBA plans to resume in about a month, he’s determined to make racial justice a priority. He wants to learn more, to further fill his gaps in knowledge.

This thing that we’re talking about, for me, as a 59-year-old white man, has been just jaw-dropping in relation to being educated,” he said. “When we would go into Memphis and you’d go out of the (National Civil Rights Museum), I’d go out of that thing and turn to my team every single time and apologize. I was just ashamed. And so this thing here we’re living right now — all of us — is real. It is incredibly real with my team.

At the moment, Brown is unsure how exactly he and the Sixers should go about seeking positive change. For now, he’s valuing what his players have to say, and he believes they can make strategic progress in Orlando. Several Sixers protested in the aftermath of Floyd’s killing, including Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle and GM Elton Brand. 

“What the league has decided to do in Orlando and some of the things that are now going on with Black Lives Matter, I look forward to getting into Orlando and looking at my guys,” Brown said, “and trying to figure out, what’s our path? What can we do as a team? How about Philly? When you really dig in, what’s going on in Philly where we can maybe make a difference? 

“As I said, I do not walk in my players’ shoes, but I do know a good heart. I do know right and wrong. And I hope in the role I have to lead as best I can. How that impacts and what it means as far as what the league does … I don’t know. But I do look forward very much to getting with my players and discussing this very real topic far more in-depth, and having the ability to see them.”

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Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons reportedly had clean MRI on left knee

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons reportedly had clean MRI on left knee

When Ben Simmons flexed his left leg after lobbing a pass for Al Horford and immediately headed off the floor Wednesday during the Sixers’ win over the Wizards, it was logical to be concerned. But, according to a report, Simmons’ knee injury is not as severe as one might have feared watching him walk toward the locker room. 

An MRI on Simmons’ knee was clean and he’s expected to be day-to-day, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. It's worth noting this is not an official update from the Sixers, who Brett Brown said postgame he expected to issue an announcement soon about Simmons' status. 

The 24-year-old recovered from a nerve impingement in his lower back over the NBA’s hiatus, and he felt strong and explosive heading into the league’s restart. He’s now serving as the Sixers’ starting point forward, an adjustment Brown thinks he’s approached well.

“I do feel like Ben has been amazing,” Brown said before Wednesday’s game, “in regards to just being mature on ‘Put me wherever you think I can best help the team.’ At times maybe he hasn’t gotten a touch the way he needs to get a touch, sometimes — which was easier when he was always the primary ball carrier. And so I applaud him tremendously on being a great teammate, trying to accept a new type of ecosystem that we’re trying to use him in.”

Simmons looked for his shot often in Wednesday’s game, though with little success. He missed an open corner three-pointer in the first quarter, his first legitimate regular-season try from long distance since Dec. 7, and made 2 of 10 field goals overall in 23 minutes. 

If Simmons misses any games, Brown will have a few options for reshuffling his starting lineup. There’s a case to be made for just about every member of the current rotation, which Brown cut down to nine players on Wednesday. Al Horford could slide into the frontcourt if Brown wants to work on the Horford-Joel Embiid pairing, which has a plus-15.6 net rating in 40 minutes together at Disney World after being the Sixers’ worst regular duo pre-hiatus.

Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz and Glenn Robinson III have all started games this year, though Robinson is dealing with an injury himself, having missed the team's first three seeding games with a left hip pointer. Perhaps Brown could go with Alec Burks if he’s looking for an extra ball handler and more time to evaluate his potential backup point guard in the playoffs.

The main takeaway here, however, is not the potential ripple effects on the Sixers' seeding game rotation. Rather, it's that a player the team will surely need to have available in order to make a deep playoff run reportedly has avoided a serious injury.

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Sixers squeak by Wizards after Ben Simmons exits early with left knee injury

Sixers squeak by Wizards after Ben Simmons exits early with left knee injury

Updated: 10:12 p.m. 

The importance of the Sixers’ 107-98 win over the Wizards on Wednesday pales in comparison to Ben Simmons’ status. 

The two-time All-Star suffered a left knee injury in the third quarter and did not return. Joel Embiid (30 points, 11 rebounds) led the way for the Sixers, who improved to 41-27 and next face the Magic on Friday night. His dunk with 19.3 seconds to go finally sealed the victory over the 24-44 Wizards. 

Here are observations on the game: 

Simmons’ early exit 

Simmons (eight points on 2 for 10 shooting, six rebounds, four assists) headed to the locker room in the middle of the third period. He flexed his left leg after throwing a pass for Al Horford and immediately headed off the floor. 

That injury clearly casts a shadow on the game for the Sixers given Simmons’ obvious, immense value as a versatile offensive piece and excellent defender. 

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Simmons has no swelling or pain in his left knee and that “early indications … are encouraging.”

"I’m sure the club will make some announcement about Ben’s departure from the floor soon," Brett Brown said after the game. "But as far as knowing more than that, I really don’t. I’m obviously very curious to hear what that news is.”

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported Wednesday night that an MRI on Simmons' knee came back clean and he's expected to be day-to-day. 

Inconsistent (but better) defense 

As far as Brown is concerned, the explanation for most of the Sixers’ defensive issues in their first two seeding games is simple. 

“When we choose to play defense on a more repetitive, regular basis — not (just) the third period and don’t pay attention to the first half, as an example — when we get that disposition, that physicality, I think things are going to connect,” he said before the game.

The collective effort and focus was solid in the first quarter against the Wizards but lapsed at times afterwards. Shake Milton was beaten off the dribble on several occasions in the first half. Tobias Harris ceded an offensive rebound to Troy Brown Jr. early in the third quarter, and Brown laid it in to tie the game at 58 apiece during a 23-11 Wizards run to begin the third period. Overall, the Sixers are playing below their potential defensively and will pay in the playoffs if they don’t elevate their level. 

Simmons, of course, is a main reason why the team’s defensive ceiling seemed so high entering this season. 

Trimming the rotation 

Brown decided to cut his rotation from 10 players to nine against the Wizards, leaving Raul Neto out. Mike Scott (right knee soreness) and Glenn Robinson III (left hip pointer) remained sidelined. 

The Sixers’ head coach acknowledged there are still rotation-related questions he’s assessing ahead of the playoffs. 

“I think the desire to play 10 initially, I don’t regret,” he said pregame. “I’ve admitted I’m trying to learn stuff and keep the team’s spirit at a place that I think ends up important. I do think that it has been difficult to find real minutes for 10 players — it’s just so much that can go around. … Ultimately, you get to the playoffs, it’s certainly going to be nine.” 

Alec Burks was the sole backup point guard and also played on the wing in a lineup alongside Simmons, Harris, Horford and Josh Richardson. He had nine points, two assists and no turnovers in 19:34, with his playing time extended because of Simmons’ injury.

He knows what’s coming 

All of the double teams Embiid is encountering come as no surprise to the big man.

“I’ve just gotta keep on getting better because I know that every single game I’m going to get doubled,” he said Monday night, “so I’ve gotta just figure that out … and create shots for my teammates. If I’m open and I’ve got a duck-in, just go out and do it. But other than that, just try to make sure defenders attract a lot of attention, just for my teammates.”

Washington’s double teams were predictably frequent and aggressive, and Embiid again handled them reasonably well. With the exception of one first-quarter play where he turned toward the baseline on a fadeaway jumper attempt straight into Isaac Bonga, he took what the defense presented to him. 

And, when the Wizards couldn’t send an extra body, he recognized his advantage and went straight to work. 

Milton (14 points, four assists) and Richardson (15 points, three assists) helped Embiid out by hitting a couple of jumpers down the stretch. 

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