What Brett Brown hopes Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Sixers take away from 'The Last Dance'

What Brett Brown hopes Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Sixers take away from 'The Last Dance'

Over the last month, many basketball fans have been reminded through ESPN’s 10-part documentary “The Last Dance” that Michael Jordan was an obsessive competitor motivated by imagined slights, a merciless teammate who jumped on any opportunity to assert his authority. 

Sixers head coach Brett Brown has been watching, and he said in a video call Friday that he and his players “talk lots” about the documentary on Jordan and the 1997-98 Bulls. Brown has a couple of personal connections from that Bulls team. He was the Spurs director of player development when Steve Kerr was in San Antonio, and he knows Luc Longley through his experience with the Australian national team

Because I've been doing this for so long, some of the players on that team are my friends — Luc Longley, Steve Kerr," Brown said. "And so then you step back and you watch this documentary that's kind of saved the day from like a void perspective for all of us. And so you feel fairly aware of the backdrop. I have learned a lot, some of it jaw-dropping stuff.

"You're looking at it and you didn't remember that or you should've have known that. I'm always interested to make parallels to my privileged life in San Antonio, where you won a bunch of championships, and now I'm watching another team win a bunch of championships. … And ultimately, I'm just blown away and reminded of just the maniacal competitiveness that Michael had.

The documentary has not presented a complete picture of Jordan’s life or his NBA career. It’s touched on a few of Jordan's flaws, but it’s mostly told a hero’s tale, fixating on the obstacles Jordan overcame in the the pursuit of his goals and also simply luxuriating in his greatness.

In Episode 7, an emotional Jordan was given the space to provide a thesis statement of sorts.

“When people see this,” he said, “they’re going to say, ‘Well, he wasn’t really a nice guy. He may have been a tyrant.’ Well, that’s you, because you never won anything. I wanted to win, but I wanted [my teammates] to win and be a part of that as well. Look, I don’t have to do this. I’m only doing it because it is who I am. That’s how I played the game. That was my mentality. If you don’t want to play that way, don’t play that way.” 

Though Jordan’s remarks are allowed to speak for themselves, there are obviously nuances of leadership and team building that go beyond wanting to win and bluntly expressing negative feelings about teammates who don’t meet your very high standards. 

“Just the the reality of the complexity of a team,” Brown said. “The pieces that really go in to a team. The sacrifices that really have to go on within a team. … The intricacies of team, the competitiveness that it really takes, the notion that your best player has to — and leadership comes in all forms — your best player has to grab stuff by the throat and lead, and it can be done a little bit by committee. 

“But the weight of a lot of that, and I put my hand up as the head coach, too, I like our guys seeing all of this stuff. You're reminded that people like MJ and LeBron [James] and [Kevin] Durant, they didn't win championships until they were 28. And if I'm wrong, I'm wrong by maybe a year with all three of those people. So it does take time.” 

The Sixers’ two best players, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, are 26 years old and 23 years old, respectively. If the NBA season resumes during the coronavirus pandemic, Brown’s immediate hope for both players is that everything is copacetic in terms of health and conditioning. And he still thinks breaking through for an NBA title this year is a realistic goal. 

“That is the messaging in the conversations that I have with my staff and our players, that when it's go time, we’ve got to go,” he said. “We are hunting to still contend for a championship.”

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NBA Rumors: Buddy Hield's comments should have Sixers fans intrigued

NBA Rumors: Buddy Hield's comments should have Sixers fans intrigued

The Sixers haven't even started the playoffs, but a potential offseason storyline is already bubbling up.

Kings guard Buddy Hield has been long tied to the Sixers as a potential trade target, from insider chatter to fan speculation, to his accidental (?) fueling of those rumors when he liked an Instagram post earlier this year with a hypothetical trade moving him to Philly.

So when the Kings' season ended Thursday, and Hield was asked if he's comfortable with his role off the bench in Sacramento heading into next season, his answer raised some eyebrows.

Including, I'd imagine, some in Philadelphia.

Here's what Hield had to say:

[Hield] provided a series of short answers during a Zoom session with reporters and offered a cryptic response when asked if he could be content with his role going into next season.

"Y'all know me," Hield said. "Y'all know how I talk. Y'all know how I feel. Y'all can read me well, so I'll let y'all answer that yourselves."

Pretty spicy. That doesn't sound like someone who wants to stay where he is!

Hield signed a four-year extension with Sacramento last October, but the Kings regressed in their first year under head coach Luke Walton, and The Athletic reported in February that Hield, unhappy with his role, might be eyeing a move elsewhere.

It doesn't sound like Hield's concerns about his role have changed much since then. If he's unhappy, he could theoretically ask for a trade - or Sacramento could pre-emptively try to get something for the still-young shooter.

I examined the potential fit back in April, including the hypothetical Hield-for-Horford deal from that fateful Instagram post:

In terms of contract length and salary hit, the Hield and Horford deals are strikingly similar, and Hield's game would be an instant improvement for the Sixers' offensive spacing: he's a two-guard who shoots a career 41.1 percent from deep, and can create his own shot. Plus, he's substantially younger than Horford.

Will the move happen? If the Kings deem their relationship with Hield unfixable, it's possible. Horford hasn't fit well in Philly, but he's still a savvy veteran with a good track record. And Hield would certainly check the boxes for the Sixers' front office.

Hield shot 39% from deep this year on 9.5 (!) three-point attempts per game, is a career 41% three-point shooter over 315 games, and would be a perfect match for the Sixers. 

We'll see.

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2020 NBA playoffs: Schedule for Sixers-Celtics series is set

2020 NBA playoffs: Schedule for Sixers-Celtics series is set

The Sixers’ second playoff series against the Celtics in three seasons is on the horizon, and we now know exactly when it will begin.

The series will kick off Monday at 6:30 p.m., the Sixers’ first postseason game since Kawhi Leonard’s indelible buzzer-beater in Game 7 of the second round on May 12, 2019. 

Below is the full schedule, with all times Eastern Standard Time:

Game 1: Monday, Aug. 17 — Sixers at Celtics, 6:30 p.m. 
Game 2: Wednesday, Aug. 19 — Sixers at Celtics, 6:30 p.m. 
Game 3: Friday, Aug. 21 — Sixers vs. Celtics, 6:30 p.m. 
Game 4: Sunday, Aug. 23 — Sixers vs. Celtics, 1 p.m. 
Game 5: Tuesday, Aug. 25 — Sixers at Celtics, TBD
Game 6: Thursday, Aug. 27 — Sixers vs. Celtics, TBD 
Game 7: Saturday, Aug. 29 — Sixers at Celtics, TBD

Of course, Games 5 through 7 will only be played if necessary, and there’s no such thing as a true home game when the teams are playing at Disney World during a pandemic. The Sixers do have PA announcer Matt Cord virtually handling starting lineup introductions, plus the Wendy’s Frosty Freeze-out and other trademarks of a usual home game. They were 29-2 at Wells Fargo Center this season before the NBA’s hiatus, the best home mark in the league. 

Led by All-Stars Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum, Boston should be favored in this series against a Sixers team missing Ben Simmons. The 24-year-old had surgery Monday to remove a loose body from his left knee, leaving the Sixers reliant on Joel Embiid and complementary pieces like Josh Richardson and Al Horford. Tobias Harris, who has averaged 22.3 points and 8.0 rebounds in the Sixers’ seeding games, will also likely need to elevate his game. 

Embiid is listed as questionable because of left ankle soreness for the team’s final seeding game Friday night at 9 p.m. against the Rockets. He had a short night Wednesday vs. the Raptors after being hit on the right wrist and had negative X-rays on his hand.

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