Higher expectations may put Sixers coach Brett Brown’s job in jeopardy if the team suffers an early playoff exit, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Brown has amassed a 168-308 record in his six years on Philadelphia’s bench, but much of that came as the franchise was trying to rebuild through the draft. With a pair of stars in place in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and two more acquired in trade in Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, the pressure to win right away has become intense.
Brown refused to comment on the situation after Friday’s loss, which was the Sixers’ third in their last four games. However, the mini-slump is understandable, given the 76ers’ tough schedule and the absence of their top two centers, Embiid, who has tendinitis in his left knee, and Boban Marjanovic, who’s dealing with a right knee bone bruise and a mild sprain.
Still, Brown has to be feeling the heat, especially in light of a recent quote from co-managing partner Josh Harris, who indicated a first-round loss wouldn’t be acceptable. “We’re going to work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Harris told ESPN. “We have enough talent on our roster that if we play the way we’re capable of playing, we can beat any team in the East.”
There’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- After missing eight games, Embiid is expected to return for this afternoon’s showdown with the Pacers, according to an ESPN report. Embiid, who hasn’t played since the All-Star break, approached the team about taking a few games off to make sure he’s rested and healthy for the playoffs.
- Rodions Kurucs may have solved the Nets‘ search for a stretch four, suggests Brian Lewis of The New York Post. The rookie has started the past three games, helping Brooklyn to wins in all of them. He posted 16 points and six rebounds in Saturday’s victory at Atlanta. “I don’t know what neighborhood he grew up in in Latvia, but that’s a tough neighborhood. That’s a tough dude,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “He might not look the part, looks like a good-looking choirboy; but him and [John] Collins were going at it the whole game, and he doesn’t back down from anybody. That’s Rodi from Day 1: No fear.”
- Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina was re-evaluated by the team’s medical staff yesterday, but it still isn’t clear when he might return from a groin injury, relays Peter Botte of The New York Post. Ntilikina, who has missed 18 straight games, said he hopes to receive clearance “to do more” this week.