76ers

Sixers new GM Elton Brand encouraged by what he's seen from Markelle Fultz

Sixers new GM Elton Brand encouraged by what he's seen from Markelle Fultz

CAMDEN, N.J. — It’s only fitting on the day Elton Brand is announced as the Sixers’ new GM that we get our first glimpse of Markelle Fultz’s rebuilt jumper.

Fultz released videos of him draining a bunch of threes as part of an interview with Isaiah Thomas for The Players' Tribune Thursday morning. The shots were taken by himself in a gym and were strictly of the catch-and-shoot variety, but an encouraging sign nonetheless. 

Brand has a connection to Fultz. Both players were selected No. 1 overall, so Brand has a unique perspective in being able to relate to Fultz. After having one of the oddest rookie seasons in which he played just 14 games and had the most scrutinized jumper maybe in NBA history — or maybe Ben Simmons does? — Fultz appears healthy and ready to contribute.

“We spoke as No. 1 pick to No. 1 pick,” Brand said during his introductory press conference at the team’s practice facility Thursday. “My stance was always it’s not about this practice or this game, it’s the big picture. 

“And I’ve been so encouraged about what I’ve seen. A special young man. I know why he was the No. 1 pick. He’s going to do great. I’ve been very encouraged by what I’ve seen. When I got the job [Wednesday] it was 8:00 p.m., stayed until 10 p.m., who was here? This was after practice. Before practice today, who’s here? He’s been in the gym working tirelessly to develop and become a great player.”

There’s going to be a ton on Fultz’s shoulder(s) this season. The Sixers moved up from the No. 3 to No. 1 pick to acquire the rights to draft him. They made that pick in hopes that he’d be a perfect fit to develop alongside Joel Embiid and Simmons.

It obviously didn’t work out that way during his rookie season. Now he’s healthy after having to watch most of last season while his team had its best record since 2001. Everyone saw that this team needed something during the loss to the Boston Celtics last season. They needed a player that can create shots for himself and others.

The goal for Brand and the Sixers is to win an NBA championship — he made that abundantly clear. Managing partner Josh Harris also made it clear that he believes hiring Brand for this post gives the team the best chance to land star talent in the future. 

But for the immediate future, Brand wants to get the most out of the players that are in-house.

“Immediate goals are to develop this young core,” Brand said. “It was Joel’s first time in the playoffs. It was Ben’s first time in the playoffs. We talk about adding a third superstar — we may have that third superstar in this room right now. And fourth — we have that much talent. They’re young but we have that much talent.”

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There are positive signs, but still glaring issues with Sixers

There are positive signs, but still glaring issues with Sixers

After dropping their second straight game in overtime Friday night in Oklahoma City (see observations), the Sixers at times sounded like a team looking for answers.

More of that is likely struggling to answer questions coming off another brutal loss. They have an idea why they’ve lost five of their last seven after starting their season 5-0. A large part of it is a group with a bunch of new faces that are still figuring each other out. On Friday, fouls were an issue as they allowed the Thunder to attempt 41 free throws.

For a team that has championship aspirations and got off to such a hot start, this isn’t where they expected to be 12 games into the season.

“Obviously we're frustrated,” Tobias Harris said to reporters postgame. “7-5 is not where we want to be. It's early in the season and right now we're going to progress and get better and figure out ways that we can help each other and help our team and go from there. This game is over. Tomorrow, we'll watch film on it, we'll find out which ways that we can better ourselves and be ready for the next game. [We’re] 7-5 right now but ... we'll just go into the next game and be ready to get that win and go from there.”

There are reasons for optimism — with Harris being arguably the biggest.

After missing 23 straight threes and looking lost recently, Harris splashed his first trey of the game and looked like a totally different player. He finished with 21 points on 8 of 16 from the field and 3 of 4 from three. He was much more aggressive and decisive than he’d been in the previous two games.

Josh Richardson, returning to his native Oklahoma, has continued to show signs of improvement. He poured in 28 points, his highest total as a Sixer. More importantly, he’s looked much more comfortable in the offense as he figures out his role.

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons both had their moments. Embiid had a game-high 31 points and Simmons broke out after a quiet first half to play the entire second half.

One of the team’s biggest issues is figuring out the pairing of Embiid and Al Horford. The reality is Horford has never played with a center like Embiid who demands the ball and attention offensively. It’s been an obvious adjustment for Horford, who shot just 5 of 12 Friday and has done most of his damage with Embiid off the floor.

The uncomfortable offensive fit for the entire starting five has been a big reason the Sixers have been involved in so many close games. A familiar theme emerged Friday, as the Sixers held a nine-point advantage with 7:20 to go in the game. Instead of hitting the gas and putting the Thunder away, they gave up a 12-2 run and saw their lead evaporate.

These are talented players that have won in different places. They’re still learning how to win together.

“I was just telling Al about that,” Harris said, “and really it's just I think a matter of right now we are yet to be up like eight points and push that to 15 and really push what we're doing and move forward with that, and really imposing our will and dominating. And that's something that we have to get to and that's something I think we're still learning — how we can do that and how we can make those type of runs. That's something we definitely got to get better at.”

The good news is you see the talent and recognize some of the issues.

And Brett Brown has 70 games to figure it out.

“If you're sick and you don't know why, that's a problem,” Brown said. “We are in a tough spot right now, but it's a long year. I think that it doesn't take much for me to understand where we have to get better. And it's really that simple. If you're scratching your head, sort of confused, then I think we got some problems and that's not what I'm doing. I think the guys understand the areas that matter most that can best impact changing the way things are going and get back on the winning side.”

They know the problems, now they just have to answer the questions.

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Sixers Talk podcast: What went wrong in OKC?

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NBCSP/USA Today Images

Sixers Talk podcast: What went wrong in OKC?

Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss Brett Brown's decision to have Furkan Korkmaz play key minutes in overtime, using more pick-and-rolls with Joel Embiid, and the loss to the Thunder.

• Should Brown have gone to Korkmaz when Tobias Harris fouled out in overtime?

• Do the Sixers need to rework their offense?

• The starting lineup looked good at times, but what went wrong in OKC?

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers