Brett Brown

Despite Brett Brown connection, Sixers should steer clear of Kawhi Leonard trade

Despite Brett Brown connection, Sixers should steer clear of Kawhi Leonard trade

Brett Brown knows only one way to go about his business in the basketball world: attack.

That is evident from his pace-and-space style of play the Sixers have displayed since he took over as head coach. Now he has vowed to do the same thing as the team’s interim general manager.

“We are completely exploring aggressively all options, and I think we just know we need a little bit more,” Brown said Friday.

It’s evident the Sixers need help to become a championship-level team, but we’re not so sure it should come in the form of a man wearing black and silver hitchhiking his way out of San Antonio.

Kawhi Leonard sent shockwaves around the NBA when he reportedly made it clear he wants a split from the Spurs. Per the reports, Leonard has Los Angeles — specifically the Lakers — as his top destination for a trade.

And while there’s no guarantee the Spurs send the former Finals MVP and two-time All-Star to Hollywood, the Sixers would be better served to stay out of the hunt. That’s because if the quiet superstar has proven anything over the past year, it’s that he can do a lot of damage to an organization without saying a word. 

Leonard missed the first 27 games of 2017-18 with a right quad injury. He returned on a heavy-restriction plan only to play seven contests before suffering a tear in his left shoulder. The swingman played one more game before being shut down indefinitely because of the nagging quad. 

After more rehab and eventually being cleared by the Spurs’ medical staff, Leonard opted to leave the team for a second opinion in New York. He stayed away from San Antonio while getting treatment, which allegedly caused friction within the organization that eventually blew up in a players-only meeting.

That didn’t deter Leonard from his plan. He didn’t suit up again nor did he show support for the squad in its first-round series against the champion Golden State Warriors. (Oh, by the way, Leonard has missed time in three straight seasons because of his right quad and reportedly still isn’t 100 percent).

Now if that’s enough to shake up the locker room of arguably the most stable franchise in all of sports, what impact do you think Leonard’s methods would have on the Sixers’ impressionable roster?

Could it be that Leonard just reached his tolerance level with the legendary head coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs and simply needs a change of scenery? Of course.

But that’s not a risk the Sixers should be willing to take. Not for virtually the only player in recent memory to ever clash with the highly-respected Spurs. Not for a guy that’s willing to potentially walk away from a $219 million supermax extension for a $188 million maximum just to escape to his hometown of L.A.

Certainly not when it could mean parting with key pieces of your core (Dario Saric, Robert Covington and/or Markelle Fultz) in addition to the No. 10 overall pick in the draft. All for what could be a one-year rental player, as Leonard is able to opt out of his current deal after next season.

Surely the Sixers would want a guarantee Leonard plans to stay before pulling the trigger on a trade, but that’s not a handshake agreement they should be willing to trust. Even if old buddy Brown is the one shaking hands with “The Claw.”

“He’s a great guy,” Brown said. “I’ve spent years with him, as you know, in San Antonio. I’m reminded of the recruiting process we went through to identify him and the sort of pain we went through to give up George Hill to move up and target him. He’s good people, he’s obviously an elite talent and I enjoyed my time with Kawhi in San Antonio.”

Things could be even more painful for Brown this time around if he’s not careful.

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Report: Sixers 'very much looking to move up' near top of NBA draft

Report: Sixers 'very much looking to move up' near top of NBA draft

Is a future Sixers front office exec already getting into the habit of leaking information to the public?

We would hope not. However, former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager and Sixers candidate, David Griffin, unleashed a bit of news on Friday.

Per Griffin in an appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio, the Sixers are “very much looking to move up to get somebody they think will go in the top five.” Griffin did not name any specific prospect that the Sixers would be targeting with a potential trade.

The Sixers hold six picks in the 2018 NBA draft, including Nos. 10 and 26 in the first round. In addition to those selections, the team has plenty of other ammunition in the way of young players and cap space to make moves this summer.

Whether the Sixers are successful or not in pulling off a deal remains to be seen, but you can definitely expect them to be active in their pursuit of getting better.

“I think we need more,” head coach and interim GM Brett Brown said on Friday’s edition of The Mike Missanelli Show (see story). “I feel what people should most hear is that in the event that we do not get that, we’re going to be very aggressive, and people understand the cap space that we have. In the event that we are not successful this year achieving that, we can reload and do the same thing next year.

“We are completely exploring aggressively all options, and I think we just know we need a little bit more.”

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Brett Brown taking an ‘aggressive’ approach as interim GM for Sixers

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Brett Brown taking an ‘aggressive’ approach as interim GM for Sixers

Ever since the Sixers’ season ended with a disappointing Game 5 loss in Boston, Brett Brown has been consistent in his public remarks —he thinks the Sixers need “another high level free agent.”

But, until June 7, Brown was just speaking as head coach of the Sixers. Now, with Brown serving as interim GM as well in the aftermath of the Bryan Colangelo burner Twitter accounts scandal, his comments have heightened relevance. On the Mike Missanelli Show Friday afternoon, Brown reiterated his desire to land a star and explained his approach.

“I think we need more,” Brown said. “I feel what people should most hear is that in the event that we do not get that, we’re going to be very aggressive, and people understand the cap space that we have. In the event that we are not successful this year achieving that, we can reload and do the same thing next year.”

“We are completely exploring aggressively all options, and I think we just know we need a little bit more.”

Brown also shared his impressions of Kawhi Leonard, whom the Sixers are reportedly interested in landing through a trade. Leonard reportedly wants to leave the Spurs (see story).

“He’s a great guy,” Brown said. “I’ve spent years with him, as you know, in San Antonio. I’m reminded of the recruiting process we went through to identify him and the sort of pain we went through to give up George Hill to move up and target him. He’s good people, he’s obviously an elite talent and I enjoyed my time with Kawhi in San Antonio.”

However, Brown was coy when asked if the Sixers would indeed make an offer for Leonard.

“There are a lot of teams that are going to be interested," he said.

Brown touched on several other topics during his interview with Missanelli, ranging from Markelle Fultz’s offseason to who will have the final say on draft night.

On Markelle Fultz possibly playing summer league
“Going through it now, as far as being definitive one way or the other, we’re not in a position to do that … Personally, I hope he plays.”

Brown added that he’s heading out to Los Angeles to visit with Fultz and discuss his offseason plans.

On the report that Colangelo overruled others in the front office with his Fultz selection 
“That is untrue. There was a collaborative decision on Markelle, and we’re still happy that decision was made … Time will tell, but I’ve got belief in Markelle Fultz.”

On whether it’s a priority to bring JJ Redick back
“I love coaching JJ Redick. I really hope I can coach him again. I think the city and certainly his teammates understand what he brings to the table. Everyone gets the benefits that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have when they play with somebody like that. I really hope I can coach him again.”

Brown admitted the Sixers don’t know yet what other teams would offer Redick and how much of a pay cut he’d be willing to take. Redick, who averaged a career-best 17.1 points per game last season, made $23 million in 2017-18. He has said he wants to be back, under the right circumstances (see story).

On who will have the final say in the draft
“I think we’re going to find out. Right now, everybody’s in unison. If something pivots out of it, I’ll sit down with [owner] Josh [Harris], I’ll sit down with [vice president of player personnel] Mark Eversley and a few of the managing partners, and if it comes on me, I assume I’ll have the decision that could be the last one. I don’t believe it’s going to get to that. To date, we’ve been on the same page.”

Not the clearest answer, although that’s the most definitive Brown has been to date in saying he’ll likely have the final say. You’d hope Brown and the Sixers will work out all the logistics and have an efficient process for selecting their picks as well as both making and assessing draft night trade offers.

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