If you want to learn Sixers' language, just study the '76ionary'

If you want to learn Sixers' language, just study the '76ionary'

Al Horford, a 33-year-old with five All-Star appearances and 786 games of NBA experience, has already said twice that he “feels like a rookie” adjusting to the Sixers’ terminology and concepts. Horford isn’t the only Sixer with a lot to learn — Brett Brown’s unique language is all new to Josh Richardson, Kyle O’Quinn, rookie Matisse Thybulle and a handful of other Sixers.

Brown explained after the Sixers’ practice Monday how the team aims for its terminology to become part of players’ vernacular.

We actually have a book. We call it — and it's not my idea, although I loved it — we called it the 76ionary. Clever? We think so. Our assistant video guy came up with that —  I thought it was clever. 

“You come in, and you've heard me say this, 'What's the Malone line? We're going to Nash this and Varejao that and Payton this,' and again, just go on and on and on, and it's quite extensive. And so we have a formalized book. We help new people — Al Horford or Matisse, doesn't matter the age, just to get that established as quickly as we can, the language.

If you’re around Brown and his coaching staff enough, you eventually pick up on some of his distinct terms. Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report detailed many last year. For instance, “Nash-ing” is when a player circles with his dribble around the baseline, and a call to “Payton the post” is an instruction to send a double team down low.

Much of the Sixers’ terminology is common across the league and not especially exotic.

“For the most part, the NBA is pretty solid in what they want to do,” O’Quinn said. “It’s all about gelling with the guys. I think the quicker you do that, I think the quicker the team goes in the right direction."

But Brown and the Sixers will throw around plenty of terms that likely aren’t present in other NBA facilities. 

A “sprintaway screen" is a wide pindown, which Ben Simmons sets for JJ Redick on the play below.

“Get” is when the Sixers’ “A to B” offense begins with the point guard, “A,” giving the ball to the trailing big man, “B,” and then getting it back — pretty intuitive. 

A "gut cut" is a purposeful sprint down the heart of the floor, a T.J. McConnell speciality during his time with the team.

The “Flip and follow” is when a player tosses the ball to a teammate and then continues in the direction of his pass, as Mike Muscala does here.

The “D-Wade diagonal” is the spot around the opposite elbow where the Sixers aim to have a player stationed on a baseline drive, named after future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade.

“Explosion” is the team’s spontaneous, unpredictable cutting off a player in the post.

A “corral blitz” is a more conservative version of a full-on blitz of the pick-and-roll. The goal is to level off the ball handler — essentially the Sixers' coverage below if Simmons had also followed Redick's hedge-and-recover approach.

It’s a lot of names and information to take in — the terms listed above are just a small sampling — and Richardson was reticent to speak on the subject.

“I can’t give you the details, because it’s the 76ionary,” he said. “It’s just our terminology that we use, and he’s been teaching us new things, watching film every day. It’s just referring to all the new words that the new guys are learning.”

How many pages are in the 76ionary? 

“I can’t tell you that,” Richardson said.

Simmons, though, was willing to divulge.

“It’s 438,” he said.

Richardson acted as if he was stunned.

“He told you that! OK, there it is — 438,” he said. “I thought it was a secret.” 

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Why Josh Richardson should be the Sixers' backup point guard

Why Josh Richardson should be the Sixers' backup point guard

The Sixers brought in veterans Trey Burke and Raul Neto to compete for the backup point guard role. Brett Brown has made sure to note that second-year guard Shake Milton is also in the mix.

How’s the saying go? Plans are worthless, but planning is everything?

Yeah, that applies here.

Elton Brand did well to fortify the backup point guard position this summer, but Josh Richardson should ultimately back up Ben Simmons this season.

They certainly haven't performed poorly, but Burke, Neto and Milton haven't stood out through three preseason games. Brown has been hesitant to go there, saying that he wants the competition for the role to play out, but on Sunday night in Orlando, he unfurled a rotation featuring Richardson as the primary ball handler with the second unit.

And Richardson produced, recording five assists to just one turnover and was a team-high plus-23 in 26 minutes. It’s a role he’s familiar with, having done it a decent amount last season in Miami and his senior season at Tennessee.

“My main focus this season is trying to keep my mindset aggressive on both ends of the floor and do whatever I need to give us the best chance to win,” Richardson said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters, “and yes, I'm fine with leading that second unit and keeping guys organized, keeping that aggression high.”

During the 2018-19 season, he posted his highest usage rate (20.9), PER (14.0), assist percentage (17.9) and his lowest turnover percentage (9.1). He’s an ascending player who’s become more comfortable initiating offense at the NBA level.

Richardson was acquired in the sign-and-trade with the Heat for Jimmy Butler and he’ll also take JJ Redick’s spot in the starting lineup. He’s not trying to be either player — "I'm not coming in here trying to be Jimmy Redick,” Richardson joked after the Blue x White Scrimmage — but he will fill a lot of their duties.

Richardson was used in dribble handoffs often in Miami and finished 10th in the NBA in points per possession on DHOs. That had been a staple of the Sixers’ offense with Joel Embiid and Redick. The two-man game with that duo was lethal. While Richardson won’t offer the same level of shooting, he’s not a slouch in that department — he’s shot 38.9 percent from three in three preseason games. He also adds a more dynamic element with his athleticism and passing ability.

“It’s different, but Josh brings something different,” Embiid said after the first day of training camp. “Obviously JJ with the crazy shots and off-balance threes and all that stuff, but we’ve got Josh, who’s more athletic than JJ, especially when it comes to back cutting, throwing lobs and him just turning the corner and attacking the defender. I think in that sense, he can do that better than JJ.”

And while he may not be trying to replicate what Butler did during his short time in Philadelphia, Richardson can fill a similar role. When Simmons struggled, Butler took over as the team’s primary ball handler. Butler excelled — and obviously enjoyed — being the ball handler in pick-and-rolls. Again, it's another aspect of the game offensively Richardson shined in with the Heat.

Brown’s rotation has remained similar in his time where he generally never goes to an entire second unit. For the most part, Brown likes to have two starters on the floor at all times. Judging by this preseason, you shouldn’t expect that to change. Given that, it appears Richardson’s minutes will always coincide with Embiid’s.

All of this and we haven't even mentioned Richardson's defensive role and prowess. He'll be tasked with guarding opposing ones with the starting unit this season. Quicker guards like Kemba Walker and Spencer Dinwiddie gave the Sixers fits last season. It’ll be Richardson’s job to remedy that — one he has an excellent chance of fulfilling thanks to his length and athleticism. At 6-foot-5, it's also quite an advantage for Richardson to be the shortest player on the floor for the Sixers.

Add it all up and Richardson seems like an indispensable part of the Sixers’ immensely talented starting five.

“I think Josh is almost kind of the secret — as important as any mortar,” Brown said at his annual luncheon before camp began. “He just holds us together. He really has a chance to hold us together.”

It wasn’t necessarily the plan for Josh Richardson to be the Sixers’ backup point guard, but here we are.

And it’s just another example of the critical role(s) he’ll play this season.

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Nike knock-offs and 'Jesus Shoes' — the strange and fickle sneaker world

Nike knock-offs and 'Jesus Shoes' — the strange and fickle sneaker world

The sneaker world can be a strange and fickle place. One minute you’re plunking down beaucoup bucks for the shoes you’ve been saving for, the next minute you find out your prized kicks are actually knock-offs from the black market.

Image credit: NBC News

Hey, it happens more often than you think. That scenario unfolded just this past week when almost 15,000 pairs of fake Nikes didn’t make it through customs at LA/Long Beach Seaport! A smooth $2 million plus of fake Off-White Jordan 1’s, Jordan 12’s, Jordan 11’s and Air Max ’97’s, all shipped from China in two containers labeled napkins.

You would probably need two containers of napkins to dry your tears if you put up a stack and a half for a pair of shoes that turned out to be just some Bobos with a fake swoosh. Ugh.

On the flip side, even when you are at an authentic retailer or website — deftly prepared with your credit card information at the ready, not even a freshly refreshed website is the right formula to bring home the shoes you’ve been plotting on for weeks, months or even years.

Image credit: Jesus Shoes Lookbook

Take, for instance, the $3,000 “Jesus Shoes” Brooklyn-based MSCHF put out last Tuesday, which sold out in mere minutes. The designers bought less than two dozen pairs of white Air Max 97’s for retail price, then transformed them by adding holy water blessed from the Jordan River (with some dye added to make the color more vibrant) in the sole of the shoe. They inscribed a Bible scripture in the side (Matthew 14:25, which chronicles Jesus walking on water) and added a mock blood drop on the tongue of the shoe to signify the blood of Christ. Not to mention, a crucifix interspliced through the laces, a red sole to mimic the red shoes worn by many popes and some type of frankincense accent. Crazy.

I personally have about a $200 budget on any pair of sneakers, so you won’t see me paying for wheels that go above $220 retail. Good luck to all of you who back up the Brinks truck for those crispy grails and the hypebeasts who live on the resale market and buy out releases in minutes.

May your toe box never crease and your laces stay clean.

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