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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