It’s something you hear practically every NBA player say after the season.
“I’m going to work on my game this summer and get better.”
Sounds simple enough, but the process of professionals recognizing their flaws is much deeper than it seems.
“We all go through experiences in our lives that words don’t have the impact that they should have. You wish they did,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said last week during his end-of-season press conference. “Actions, most times, speak louder than words.
“And as I said after we lost the series, I told the guys — and it was memories that we had from my old life — you’re going to learn more about yourselves in the next few weeks or while we’re playing in the playoffs maybe than you’ve ever learned in your career about your game and the psyche, the human side of it all.”
What the Sixers learned as a whole is that as presently constructed, the team doesn’t have enough to climb that championship mountain.
So how do they get there? Without the benefit of projecting the roster for next season, it starts with every player returning after recognizing their biggest flaw and attacking it this offseason. That mindset has to start with the stars.
“What inevitably sort of rules most successful people that I’ve been around is there’s an immense competitor in all of them,” Brown said. “Like there is a prideful competitor in the great players that I have coached.”
If the Sixers’ young studs, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, hope to reach that level of greatness, it’s a must that they identify how to fix their weaknesses. For Simmons, the one major blemish in his game jumps out at you.
“It’s difficult for Ben to play in the environment the Celtics guarded him and find ways to impact the game as much as he can without the thing that we’re talking about,” Brown said. “And so whether it’s a jump shot, whether it’s a free throw, the inspiration to work is real in his head given the situation that we just left. So to carry over with his sort of personal desire to improve along with the memory of what just happened, how teams were guarding him, it’s an easy sell for the summer. And I think Ben’s going to knock it out of the park.”
The primary summer work for Embiid would appear to be less complex but just as equally vital to the center taking his game up another level.
“His whole future is his body, and that’s not going to surprise anybody,” Brown said. “How does he master his diet? How does he master his strength and conditioning? How does he master rehab, prehab, all the things that you know equal health?"
Not that the All-Star’s actual skill set can’t use some refinement.
“I think that with Joel, now that we have a starting point, his health is going to let him take his post game, I think, to a different level,” Brown added. “When you zoom in on development in the summer, his ability to navigate post play, turn and face, back down, pass out, that world he’s got to own. He really has to own that and I believe that he will.”
The Sixers know if their two leaders take the offseason work suggested by the franchise seriously, it will only trickle down to the rest of the roster.
“They’re fantastic because we talk freely about you have to let me coach you. You have to let me coach you because if we can coach our two best players, we got this thing,” Brown said. “Dario (Saric) can take a hit, Cov (Robert Covington) can take a hit, T.J. (McConnell) can take a hit. They are all coachable.”