We usually begin these weekly observations with a review of how the Sixers fared on the court over the past seven days. After the acquisition of five players and the departure of four, that doesn’t feel especially relevant.
But, in case you forgot, the Sixers lost to the Raptors on Tuesday and beat the Nuggets on Friday.
'The window is now'
One of the more interesting parts of Elton Brand’s press conference Friday was his rationale for the bold Tobias Harris trade. Of course Brand cited Harris’ ability and seemingly excellent fit on the Sixers, but he also discussed the overarching philosophy of the deal.
He attributed his move, in part, to the development of his two youngest stars.
“Joel Embiid, seeing his growth. Ben Simmons, seeing his growth,” Brand said. “They’re rapidly improved over the past season. The window is now. Our opportunity is now. So once I saw that window, we discussed taking a shot at it now, because who knows how long this window is going to be open.”
Before early Wednesday morning, the Sixers wanted to fight for a championship this season — any team in the NBA with three star players would. But Brand’s trade for Harris clarified the path forward, at least until this summer. Now Brett Brown has, as he put it, “a college season” to coach his new team and prepare them for playoff basketball.
A lot of good problems
Brown faces an abundance of challenges — how does he incorporate Harris into the offense, find optimal rotations for different situations, continue to ensure Joel Embiid is the “crown jewel,” as he said Friday, and maintain a cohesive culture?
These are all good problems to have. And, like Harris said Thursday at the introductory press conference for himself, Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott, the Sixers “have a lot of smart basketball players.”
In their first game together, we also saw their unselfish instincts. We’ve seen the same thing with Jimmy Butler — he regularly passes up open shots and has to be told by Brown and his teammates that the Sixers are best when he’s less deferential offensively.
Good problems are still problems, it must be said. If the Sixers are still overpassing in late-March, and Brown still hasn’t figured out which players work best together, or when Marjanovic should play over Jonah Bolden and vice versa, that will be concerning.
'I'd be lying if I didn't feel sad'
The concept of a team trying to shape its roster for title contention by trading away a 20-year-old former No. 1 overall pick for anything less than a star is, out of context, baffling.
But Markelle Fultz’s tenure in Philadelphia was, if it was anything, very, very strange.
Less than a year ago, an emotional Brown announced Fultz would play vs. the Nuggets after a 68-game absence (see video).
“I get goosebumps telling you that,” he said. “I’m so proud of him.”
And on Friday night, before the Sixers’ game against the Nuggets, Brown reflected on Fultz being traded to the Magic in exchange for Jonathon Simmons and two draft picks.
I’d be lying if I didn’t feel sad. It was two emotions I had. Sad personally, selfishly I suppose. And that I never really felt like I got a chance to coach him. I never really feel like this city got a chance to see him. I felt sad for that. And I was pleased for him that he had a new start, a fresh start, another opportunity.
Given the win-now mentality of the Harris trade, and given the uncertainty about Fultz’s future, Brand was smart to deal Fultz to the Magic (see story). But the human side of the Fultz saga can sometimes go overlooked, and perhaps nobody captures its emotions better than Brown.
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