CAMDEN, N.J. — With a scrimmage to play tomorrow, the fourth and final day of training camp for the Sixers wasn’t a physical one. Friday’s practice was mostly about “polishing up what we’ve put in,” Brett Brown said. There will be plenty of chances down the line for his team to fully impose their “smash mouth offense and bully ball defense" mentality.
Here are a few notes ahead of Saturday’s Blue X White Scrimmage at 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware:
Building an environment
In the final few minutes of practice, five-man teams on three separate courts ran through baseline and sideline out of bounds plays and drills for specific situations. Brown also had his team do some 5-on-0 work to develop greater comfort with the Sixers’ “A to B” offense.
He instructed his starters at one point to play off “B deny,” which is how the offense begins when the point guard, “A,” keeps the ball instead of passing to the trailing big man, “B.”
A little 5-on-0 action here as the Sixers get familiar with the basics of their “A to B” offense. Josh Richardson with the jumper on one end, Ben Simmons the dunk on the other: pic.twitter.com/SIPoyIRhQG— Noah Levick (@NoahLevick) October 4, 2019
We’re already familiar with the “organic” style of offense Brown wants his team to have. But what factors into how he approaches baseline and sideline out of bounds plays, after-timeout sets and other special situations?
With the creativity of coaches nowadays where you can come out and they could be sitting in a zone, they could switch one through four, keep five at home, sag the inbounder, pressure the inbounder, there’s just so many things that you’re seeing. And to feel like you’re going to come out with all the answers is really not smart.
“And so for me, I like to just put them in an environment — and that’s the word, an environment. Then they’ve got to choose different options out of it. That’s the mentality when you’re talking about “need” plays, ATOs, catch shot down three, catch shot down two, need two with time, all that stuff.
Bulldogs off the bench
James Ennis had an answer ready to go when asked how he’d characterize the personality of the Sixers’ bench.
“Bulldogs,” he said. “Mike Scott leading us, myself, Furkan [Korkmaz], Kyle [O’Quinn] and whoever is on the second team will be bulldogs ready to get stops.”
Ennis and Scott will be key members of that second unit, but the full composition of the bench is still up in the air. The backup point guard competition will be one to watch at Saturday’s scrimmage and likely throughout the preseason, and there are a ton of names in the mix on the wing.
Brown said Wednesday he expects the rotation will comprise 10 or 11 players in the beginning of the regular season, so Zhaire Smith, Matisse Thybulle, Korkmaz and Shake Milton all might see opportunities to earn minutes.
While Smith and Thybulle are both renowned for their defense, they’re not identical players. If the rotation is indeed a large one at first, the idea of playing them together and showcasing their different defensive strengths in tandem is intriguing.
They both are very, very good defensive players,” Brown said. “Matisse’s ability off the ball, where he can cover ground and shoot gaps and get in lanes and pick stuff out of the sky with his length stands out. I think Zhaire’s gravity, his center of gravity when he’s just dogging somebody and lower sort of balance levels — he reminds me a little bit of Avery Bradley at times. … They both are tremendous athletes and for sure elite defensive players for their ages. That carryover into an NBA game will be part of their learning curve. But that is sure how they see the world — they play defense.
A different perspective on Simmons' shot
Brown began his availability with the media Friday with a joke.
“As long as nobody asks me about Ben Simmons’ jump shot or Joel’s health or things like that, I’m happy,” he said.
That subject had come up often the day before, with Brown pushing back against the notion that it should be “the thing” everyone fixates on with Simmons (see story).
Though Brown didn’t address it Friday, Joel Embiid, unprompted, had something to say about Simmons’ jumper when asked about his extended after-practice three-point shooting session.
Sixers assistant coach Ime Udoka feeding Joel Embiid on some after-practice 3s: pic.twitter.com/vVk0vDjezk— Noah Levick (@NoahLevick) October 4, 2019
“Like I’ve always said before, I don’t like shooting threes,” Embiid said. “But this year since we’re going to have Ben willing to take those threes, maybe it’s going to put my game more inside. I’m hoping that he will shoot them, so I do my job, what I do inside.”
Random observation: Embiid was pretty subdued Friday, but he did throw in a jab at new player development specialist Roy Hibbert, a two-time All-Star with the Indiana Pacers.
“Well, I’ve been busting his a--,” Embiid said, “but it’s been good. Another guy with size. He helps a lot. Another guy who’s strong. He’s in the training room every day after we work out because I’m always hitting him. But he’s a great guy.”