General manager Elton Brand could never have imagined the Sixers being 9-19 on the road. Their performances away from Wells Fargo Center have come nowhere close to meeting expectations, and he said as much Friday night in a session with reporters.
“I believe in this group,” he said, “but make no mistake, we're disappointed in how we've played lately. We're disappointed and we all have to work to fix that. I embrace that. I know I have to fix that, we have to fix that. And that's a lot of work ahead of us, because we're not happy where we are right now, but we can do it and we will do it.”
Brand said he was pleased with the acquisitions of Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III before the trade deadline, which he feels will give the team “the boost we’ll need.”
Still, he did not suggest those additions alone would solve the Sixers' road problems.
“I’m a realist,” he said. “We have an uphill battle. As of now, we're going to start the playoffs on the road. And we haven't been good on the road. So we need to figure this out and we need to figure it out fast. But I think we have the group that can do it.”
As his trade deadline approach showed, he doesn't believe it is time to abandon the starting lineup he helped assemble — or at least to ship any of those pieces out of Philadelphia. Head coach Brett Brown did say before the Sixers' 119-107 win Friday over the Grizzlies that “it’s all on the table” when asked about the possibility of Al Horford coming off the bench.
While the Sixers’ regular starters have a plus-8.3 net rating in 19 games, the Horford-Joel Embiid combination has struggled. When that pair has been on the court together, the team has a 98.9 offensive rating — worst of any Sixers two-man group with at least 300 minutes together — and a minus-0.4 net rating.
Brand says he won’t stop Brown from making lineup moves.
“Brett's been empowered to make any decision he feels to win,” he said. "Whatever that is, he's been empowered to do it. Whatever you see fit, whatever player or bench role, he's been empowered. It hasn't been the latest road woes and losing streak ... we talked about this weeks ago. So whatever you feel needs to be done, let's win.”
Brown’s job status
Brand chose not to entertain the question of whether Brown would be his coach for the rest of the season.
“I’m not going to play what-ifs,” he said. “He's our coach and I'm supporting Brett Brown. He's our leader.”
He did reveal that the team’s organizational chart has changed, with Brown’s job status now falling under Brand’s purview, not managing partner Josh Harris'. Brand insisted the shift was not massive.
Once I got a year under my belt, the conversation was, 'Hey, you did a great job your first season where you took us.' The Brett conversation was, 'Look, E.B. This is how it is around the league. You've done a lot for me and the organization. We respect it. Ownership, we're all aligned with that, that that's how it should be.' So it wasn't a big deal. It was light.
According to Brand, the blame is shared for the team sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference instead of contending for the No. 1 seed the way Brown had hoped.
“Oh, it's all of us,” he said. “It's all of us. I constructed this roster. I'm a part of that, too. It's all of us and we need to figure it out, but I believe we get it figured out.”
Though Brand wasn’t willing to make any guarantees about Brown’s job, he expressed faith in him to turn the season around.
“Brett Brown's our coach,” he said. “I believe in him to lead this team. That's what I'm standing by and I truly believe that. He's the leader of this team. I will support how I can support — that's dealing with whatever issues can arise. But it was more if that decision … it wouldn't be an ownership thing, is what I was trying to say. That has changed to me.”
More questions on Simmons’ shot
Back on Christmas, another point in the calendar that naturally inspired reflection on the state of the Sixers, both Brown and Brand had discussed Ben Simmons’ shooting. Brown was of the opinion that, once Simmons starts taking jumpers more frequently, he’ll “kick himself” for taking as long as he did.
Friday night, Brand shared the same view.
“It's going to be a thing,” he said. “It's going to be a thing. He's seeing how defenses are playing him and he's going to have that growth moment, and I think he's going to look back and say, 'Hey, I should have been doing this a long time ago.'"
Simmons has made just 5 of 32 field goals from 10 feet and out this season, including the first two regular-season threes of his professional career. His recent performance at the foul line — 69.7 percent on 7.1 attempts per game over his last 14 contests — has been one bit of encouragement.
The 23-year-old leads the NBA in steals and appears destined for some kind of high defensive honors after the season.
“Ben's a point guard,” Brand said. “He wants to make the best decision out there. I never want to take away from all the elite things he's doing as a second-time All-Star, with his defense — and he is spacing more, he is getting to the positions. He's learning and he's growing, and he's an elite player.
"So I don't want to take away from all the great things he does, but he's going to improve in shooting and when he does, it's going to unlock another asset to our team.”
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