76ers

Top takeaways from Sixers' press conference with Josh Harris, Elton Brand

Top takeaways from Sixers' press conference with Josh Harris, Elton Brand

CAMDEN, N.J. — It's been a whirlwind 48 hours for the Sixers.

After getting bounced in Game 7 in the second round on a Kawhi Leonard buzzer-beater Sunday night, the team returned to their practice facility in Camden for exit interviews.

On Tuesday, managing partner Josh Harris and GM Elton Brand addressed Brett Brown's future, the health of Joel Embiid and much more.

Here are four takeaways from today's availability:

Brett Brown's future

Reports surfaced before Game 7 that Brown may have been coaching for his job. Late Monday, the team confirmed that Brown would return for his seventh season.

"I think a lot's been made about this in the press and truthfully you can't believe what you're reading or what you're hearing," Harris said. "Brett's job was never in jeopardy. We were very focused on the playoffs and yeah, we declined to get into a lot of questions that people were asking us, but I have great relationship with Brett. He's been our coach for six years. I've talked with him constantly through the playoffs, including last night in terms of planning for the future. We have been and continue to be excited that Brett is leading us."

The timing of it all was certainly odd. 

It's fair to wonder why the team didn't address the rumors sooner, putting to bed any notion that Brown's job may have been in jeopardy. Harris mentioned that the team was focused on the playoffs as a reason for not addressing the situation.

When pressed if Brown had known his job was safe, Harris didn't give a definitive answer at first, just saying that he "had a lot of conversations with Brett that put us into a good place." In the middle of answering another question, Harris had a more straight answer.

"Just going back to [that question], Brett knew through the Toronto series that his job was not in jeopardy. Let's be really direct about it."

When asked about why his players felt the need to come out and defend their coach on Monday, Harris doubled down on the notion that the report was false.

"Brett knew he was not coaching for his job through the Toronto series and otherwise. You can ask him," Harris said. "I think obviously there was a lot of noise in the press, probably kicked up by our competitors, who knows? I think we made an appropriate decision not to respond to all the rumors and innuendo, all the incorrect facts that were out there.

"We always respect the opinions of our players. It's good to hear that they were on board for it. It was an emotional moment and so I'm glad they came out in support of our coach. It's great."

When asked for an evaluation of Brown, Harris gave him an "A."

Joel's health

Joel Embiid's health is paramount to everything the Sixers do going forward. He is their best player and his impact was made even clearer in the Toronto series — especially when he wasn't on the floor.

Whether it was the tendinitis in his left knee or illnesses that plagued him, the Sixers didn't get the best of Embiid in the postseason. Load management will be a priority for Embiid next season.

"He's one of the top players in the world so it's a unique situation where he didn't play early on in his career so when he had a chance to play and he was healthy he was like 'I'm out there,'" Brand said. "Now, he sees what other players have done, he spoke to other players, he saw how he felt in the playoffs, which is the most important time, and he doesn't want to go there [like that] again. So absolutely we're going to monitor minutes, we're going to monitor workload and he's on board for all of that."

Much has been made about Embiid's diet and the plan going forward. Brand claimed he had not heard the infamous story about his Chick-Fil-A orders, but said there is a nutrition plan in place.

"I didn't see the four chicken sandwich story," Brand said. "Four chicken sandwiches…yeah, I guess that's a lot. I haven't heard that story, but I know he's focused on his body. He's very intelligent. He eats salmon, he eats vegetables — when he's locked in, he's locked in. He knows he can do it and he knows what he has to do. An actual target weight, we'll decide that together and see where he wants to be, where needs to be, not just what's best for next season, but postseason and long term."

Ben's shot

No matter what Ben Simmons does, until he develops a jump shot, he's going to be under scrutiny. Brand was peppered with questions about Simmons' shot and his plans to improve.

Simmons has worked with his brother on his jumper and Brand has no issue with it.

"I would never ask him not to work with his brother," Brand said. "What he wants to do personally on his time that's on his time. He's not doing that on our time. He works with our coaches during our time. I have a great relationship with his agent Rich Paul and he also has people that he wants him to work with. We're looking for the best in class for him to work with so we're putting that together."

Pending free agents

Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris were both acquired in trades and both are pending free agents. 

Brand said he was pleased with what both players brought. As far as finances, Harris reiterated that ownership is not afraid to go over the luxury tax for the right players.

"That was the goal — to bring in talent, elite talent, All-Star-caliber talent," Brand said. "We tried to accumulate that with the assets that we sent out. Management, Josh and Dave [Blitzer], are committed to giving me the resources to spend if necessary to get to a championship level and win championships."

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Shake Milton on NBA return: 'I don’t really think we should be playing'

Shake Milton on NBA return: 'I don’t really think we should be playing'

It wasn’t surprising to hear Joel Embiid say he “hated the idea” of the bubble or Mike Scott voice his displeasure for the NBA’s jersey idea.

It was mildly surprising to hear second-year guard Shake Milton take the strongest stance when it came to the NBA’s decision to resume the season.

I don’t really think we should be playing,” Milton said in a video conference call with reporters Tuesday, “but I think the NBA is doing all that they can to make the environment as safe as possible. My teammates want to play so we’re going to go down there and try to win.

When asked why specifically he thought the league shouldn’t resume play, he provided a poignant response.

I think [the spread of the virus], and then also I feel like there’s a lot of other stuff going on,” Milton said. “There are issues going on right now in the world that are way bigger than a sport, way bigger than the game of basketball. I feel like we’re on the cusp of finally having people tune in and really try to listen and try to understand more about the things that are happening in our country. I feel like the moment is too big right now and I don’t want the game of basketball to overshadow it.

Perhaps lost in the shuffle of so many things being shared on social media was Milton posting something that seemed a bit out of character for the soft-spoken 23-year-old. 

Milton is a native of Owasso, Oklahoma, a northern suburb of Tulsa. The 23-year-old has shared various posts about the city and the Tulsa race massacre that occured in 1921 as well as posts about Breonna Taylor, the Louisville EMT who was fatally shot by police while sleeping in her apartment.

While he’s glad to see the league wants to keep the message in the public scope, he’s curious to know how they’ll do it.

I think [the NBA trying to highlight racial injustice is] good — I think we should definitely do it,” Milton said. “I want to know how we’re going to go about doing it, that’s really my concern. I heard ideas about the names on the back of the jerseys and putting stuff on the court, but I kind of want to see what the NBA is actually going to do. That’s cool and all, but that’s kind of like the same as having a T-shirt where you see somebody’s face and it says RIP on the back. That’s only going to take you so far. So I’m interested to see what else the NBA has planned and what else they’re going to do.

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Sixers' Joel Embiid doesn't believe in the NBA's restart plan

Sixers' Joel Embiid doesn't believe in the NBA's restart plan

Joel Embiid intends to travel with the Sixers to Orlando for the NBA’s resumption, but he is not confident in the league’s plan and does not endorse it.

On a video conference call Tuesday, the All-Star center explained why he does not support the NBA heading to Florida during the coronavirus pandemic in an attempt to conclude the 2019-20 season with a champion.

I hated the idea,” Embiid said. “I feel like with everything that has been going on, it’s unfortunate what’s been going on in the world. Obviously people look at it in a different way. There might be some other reasons behind everything going on. To me, that part never mattered. To me, all I want is to stay healthy and stay safe, keep the people around me safe. I want to make sure I’m able to live for a long time and not have any sort of consequences in the future from this if I were to be in a situation where I was getting the virus. 

“Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of the idea. But then again, I’m going to do my job. I’m not going to let the city down. I’m going to represent my city — that’s what I’ve always done — my family, my teammates. The mindset doesn’t change. It doesn’t matter the fact that I don’t like that idea and I still don’t believe in it. I don’t think it’s going to be safe enough.

“Because I know I’m going to do the right things, I know I don’t ever do anything, I only play video games, I’m always home — I don’t do anything. But then again, I don’t trust those other guys to do the same. But, like I said, I’ve gotta do my job.

The Sixers will travel to Walt Disney World on Thursday and are scheduled to resume play on Aug. 1 against the Indiana Pacers. There’s been a spike in coronavirus cases in Florida, which reportedly has raised concerns around the league. Positive coronavirus tests during the NBA’s Phase 2 protocol have prompted several teams to shut down their facilities, including the Bucks, Heat and Clippers. 

There have been over 2.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States and over 130,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the country, according to NBC News

Embiid said he considered opting out but felt obligated to play. 

I thought about it,” he said, “but then again, I wouldn’t let my teammates down. I play in a city that’s tough and I consider myself as being tough … I’m not going to give up that easily. If you told me that the current trend is that people are getting sick and a lot of people are dying, obviously you don’t know what's going to happen and you don’t want to be in a situation where you put your life at risk ... and all that stuff, just for what? The money and all that stuff. At the end of the day, basketball is not all that matters. I've got family, I've got myself to look out for. That's all I care about.

"At the end, when it’s all said and done, basketball shouldn’t define me. I should be looked at as just Joel Embiid the person. Like I said, it’s unfortunate but I want to represent my city. I've been here too long. This is my opportunity. I believe we have a great chance of winning the championship. Still not 100 percent sure, but that's what I'm thinking. I want to represent the city. I don’t want to let my teammates down, I don't want to let anybody down. I’ve been working too hard for this and I've just got to keep pushing and hope for the best. 

Embiid sees no reason why he personally will have any trouble adhering to the NBA’s health protocols, which detail everything from testing procedures to physical distancing mandates to approved recreational activities. But he’s somewhat skeptical that more outgoing NBA players will follow all precautions to minimize the risk of coronavirus exposure. 

“I look at myself and I’ve been doing this for quite a bit now — six, seven years,” he said. “Like I said, all I do is play video games and stay in my room on the road, or even when I’m home. Just stay home, play video games, do what I've got to do. Just being with my family. 

“And obviously we’re all different. Some guys like to go out and some guys like to do stuff, (there are) some guys that like adventure. So that’s the way I’m thinking. I know myself. I know I’m not going to put everybody else at risk, but the question is, is everybody else going to do the same? And just being around this business, I surely don’t think so.”

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