Sixers say they have 'backup plans' if they can't use N.J. facility

Sixers say they have 'backup plans' if they can't use N.J. facility

In one of the most unpresented times in American sports history, everyone is looking for answers. The NBA was the first league to suspend its season and there’s still little known about its plans to resume.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Sixers GM Elton Brand couldn’t offer a ton of answers on the league’s resumption plan. He said he’s been in contact with commissioner Adam Silver and is part of the NBA’s committee for return to play.

Brand stressed the importance of a ramp-up period before any games resume. While he talked a lot about how his players are staying physically and mentally sharp, most don’t have access to a hoop and will need time to just play basketball again.

“It's tough,” Brand said. “We've sent balls. You may have seen Matisse [Thybulle’s] TikTok where he's dribbling in his apartment, but a few players didn't have access to hoops, like most teams around the league. So, it's definitely been tough and a challenge for all the players but they're just working on taking care of their body and their mental health and doing what they can in these unique times.”

The Sixers’ practice facility is in Camden, New Jersey, a state that’s been hit hard by COVID-19. In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf has said that Philadelphia will be one of the last regions to reopen in the state.

With states like Georgia loosening their stay-at-home restrictions, there is a fear that certain teams in states where the limitations are laxer could have an advantage. 

Brand has been exploring several avenues to make sure his players aren’t behind — including one in the first state, which began loosening some of its restrictions last week.

“We’ll definitely make sure our players are not at a disadvantage when the season starts,” Brand said. “We’re looking to access New Jersey and Pennsylvania as they’re loosening the stay-at-home mandates. But also, we have a great facility right in Wilmington, Delaware, that our G-League team, the Blue Coats, play in and practice in. It’s really state of the art. We have backup plans ready and available for our guys when they need it and when it’s deemed safe.”

Speaking of uncertainty, the Sixers may have have been the most mercurial team in the league this season. If the NBA resumes play, here’s an unfortunate reminder that they weren’t in a great spot. They sit at sixth in the Eastern Conference. They’ve had their share of injuries but have also underperformed.

The Al Horford signing hasn’t looked good. While Tobias Harris has been solid, he hasn’t performed like a near-max player. Then there’s the fate of head coach Brett Brown, who boldly claimed he wanted the East’s No. 1 seed before the season began. 

If the season doesn’t resume, Brand will be left with a lot of questions to answer. He’s not ready to go there just yet.

“It's very hard just to speculate on what changes would be made if we don't have a season,” Brand said. “I can tell you we're preparing as if the season is coming back. I speak to Brett Brown every day still — FaceTime — and he has his staff that he's preparing for the season — regular season and playoffs. There's just so many unknowns. But he's prepping, I'm prepping, and I hope we do get a chance to play in some way once it's deemed safe.”

If the NBA goes straight into the postseason with the traditional format, the Sixers would take on the rival Celtics. The Sixers won the season series, 3-1, over Boston.

The playoffs will be a different animal, but Brand believes the team he built is ready for the challenge.

“I want to see this team in the playoffs,” Brand said. “I’ve said it many times — we were built for it. So, I’d want to see that, but I know it’s going to be based on the safety and health of not just us, our families and fans, but our communities. But we are preparing as if we’re going to go to the playoffs and play the Celtics.”

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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 Ramsey, 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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A team will rise from the NBA chaos — why not the Sixers?

A team will rise from the NBA chaos — why not the Sixers?

Plucking a quote from one of the most despicable characters in 21st century television isn't my customary method of persuasive writing, but …

"Chaos is a ladder," Petyr Baelish said.

The guy has a point. Amid the rubble of the stalled NBA season an opportunity has arisen. 

At 39-26, the Sixers have limped to an inauspicious spot as the sixth-best team in the East. Whether the eight games they have left before the playoffs changes their seeding or not, this unanticipated sprint to the NBA title following an abrupt four-month layoff could benefit the Sixers.

Back in March when the season was first put on ice, Sixers fans weren't sure when a nerve impingement in Ben Simmons' lower back would allow him to play again. Some very convincing Instagram videos and more than four months since his last game has seemingly allowed him to heal and squelched concerns about a lingering injury.

Joel Embiid was nursing a banged-up shoulder which has had the same time to mend. When Alaa Abdelnaby joined us on the latest Sixers Talk podcast, he said he heard Embiid is working out six days a week. So, forget about the quarantine 15 for “The Process” and the obligatory conditioning conjecture that goes with it.

The Sixers top two players are healthy and conceivably the rest of the roster is as well — save the bedeviled Zhaire Smith — all benefitting from the extra healing time the layoff provided. A lack of health is one reason for the team's lack of chemistry this season. It’s a point Tobias Harris acknowledged as a source for the team's struggles and inconsistencies on a recent television appearance.

For my money, although it may not seem like much, grabbing Ryan Broekhoff and throwing him into the mix was a sound move as well. He helps to increase the healthy competition for minutes among a bench where playing time will be hard to come by if you don't have a defined role.

The Sixers are expected to be in Orlando and enter the NBA bubble on July 9, with the playoffs wrapping on or before Oct. 13. The marathon that was the NBA campaign is over. Following the coronavirus shutdown, 22 teams are now poised to try to race to the finish of a season which could be the most challenging ever, all things considered. 

Charles Barkley endorsed the Sixers’ talent by saying he thinks they have the best two players on the floor, in Simmons and Embiid, against any Eastern Conference foe except Milwaukee. Talent will take them far in this resurrected season, but a test of their minds and wills is likely where the most intense battles will be fought in the months to come.

If this team is really built for the playoffs, as GM Elton Brand proclaimed before an assembled room of players and media before the season, the gauntlet of the NBA bubble will reveal the truth like a soothsayer's decree. Chaos could surely be a ladder for the team who galvanizes quickly in this nouveau world of no fans and neutral sites.

Why can’t the Sixers be that team?

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