Brett Brown

Sixers Fire Head Coach Brett Brown

The Sixers have parted ways with head coach Brett Brown, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The move, which has been confirmed in a press release by the club, had been anticipated in the wake of Philadelphia’s quick, disappointing postseason exit.

According to Wojnarowski, Brown’s ouster is expected to be the first of multiple changes within the organization. The 76ers’ senior leadership will likely explore an upheaval of the front office structure, sources tell ESPN. Amidst those looming changes, general manager Elton Brand is expected to continue overseeing basketball operations, Woj notes.

Brown, 59, was hired as the Sixers’ head coach in 2013 by former head of basketball operations Sam Hinkie. His teams over the next four seasons posted a dismal 75-253 record (.229), but the franchise was focused on gathering assets during those years rather than on-court results. With Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons establishing themselves as stars, Philadelphia compiled a 146-91 mark (.616) during Brown’s last three seasons.

Brown kept his job even as Hinkie was replaced in the front office by Bryan Colangelo, who was in turn replaced by Brand. However, the team’s underwhelming results in the postseason in recent years and Brown’s inability to fully unlock the potential of the Embiid/Simmons pairing led to the end of his tenure in Philadelphia.

“I have a tremendous level of respect for Brett both personally and professionally and appreciate all he’s done for the 76ers organization and the City of Philadelphia,” Brand said today in a statement. “He did many positive things during his time here, developing young talent and helping position our team for three straight postseason appearances. Unfortunately, we fell well short of our goals this year and I believe it is best to go in a new direction.”

Brown reportedly had his ups and downs in 2018/19 with former Sixers swingman Jimmy Butler. During the ’19/20 season, Al Horford expressed frustration about not having a defined role communicated to him, and some people in the locker room have questioned Brown’s handling of rookie Matisse Thybulle, as we relayed earlier today. Josh Richardson also expressed on Sunday that “more accountability” is necessary within the organization going forward.

There was a sense within the Sixers that, after seven seasons, they had gone as far as they could with Brown, according to Wojnarowski, who reports that the head coach expected to be let go unless the team made a deep playoff run.

For what it’s worth, Brown said after Sunday’s loss that he felt as if he never got to show his full potential as a coach, due in large part to frequent injuries over the years. Both Embiid and Simmons have battled health issues in recent years.

There’s still a “strong desire” to keep those two All-Stars together, according to Woj, who says the Sixers intend to let a new coaching staff attempt to maximize Embiid’s and Simmons’ potential before considering the idea of a trade.

Brown still had two years remaining on his contract with the 76ers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sixers Considered Unlikely To Retain Brett Brown

Following a quick playoff exit, the Sixers are widely expected to part ways with head coach Brett Brown, according to multiple reports.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that Brown, who has two years remaining on his contract, has no “internal momentum” to return for another season; Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports wrote that the anticipation within coaching circles is that the Sixers will part with Brown in the coming days; and Shams Charania of The Athletic cited multiple sources with knowledge of the situation in reporting that the 76ers are expected to make a coaching change.

Sources tell Haynes that Brown “never grabbed full command” of the locker room during his time as the Sixers’ head coach. As Haynes details, Al Horford expressed frustration earlier this season about not having a defined role communicated to him, and some people in the locker room have questioned Brown’s handling of rookie Matisse Thybulle, who has seen his minutes fluctuate drastically at times. Josh Richardson also expressed on Sunday that “more accountability” is necessary going forward, per Sacha Pisani of Sporting News.

“I don’t think there was much accountability this season and I think that was part of our problem,” Richardson said. “… (When) guys are not doing their job on or off the court, there’s got to be some kind of consequence — not consequence, but we’ve got to be able to talk to each other and listen. And not (just) listen to say something back, but actually hear (each other). It’s a hard lesson to learn for some people, but in order for us to make this playoff run that I think we all want, I know we all want, it’s got to start.”

Until the Sixers officially make a decision on Brown, it’s probably too early to identify frontrunners for the job. But Charania hears from sources that Sixers assistant Ime Udoka, Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue, former Kings coach Dave Joerger, and Villanova coach Jay Wright are among the names to watch.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • There’s an expectation that the 76ers remain committed to the Joel Embiid/Ben Simmons duo and plan to let the next head coach figure out how to maximize the two stars, according to Shams Charania. Within his preview of Philadelphia’s offseason, Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) explains why he thinks it makes sense for the team to keep both Embiid and Simmons.
  • While Brown figures to be dismissed, he’s not the reason the Sixers have come up short in recent postseasons, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, who assigns more of the blame to the team’s front office. Charania suggests that no front office shake-up is imminent though, writing that GM Elton Brand has maintained a healthy relationship with team ownership.
  • Tim Bontemps of ESPN passes along some of Brown’s post-game comments from Sunday, while Brian Windhorst of ESPN does the same for Embiid. As Bontemps details, Brown told reporters that he feels as if he never got a chance to show his full potential as a coach due to the injuries that plagued the Sixers over the years.
  • According to Chris Haynes, the 76ers were prepared to offer Jimmy Butler a maximum-salary contract in the summer of 2019 if he agreed not to take any recruiting visits. However, Butler – who was “lukewarm” on the idea of re-signing with Philadelphia – didn’t agree to that condition. Haynes adds that Brown didn’t love how “outspoken” Butler was with his coaching tactics.

Coaching Change Coming In Philadelphia?

Brett Brown may be coaching his final game with the Sixers this afternoon, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. With Philadelphia trailing Boston, 3-0, in their first-round series, it appears doubtful Brown would survive such an early playoff exit.

The embattled coach opted not to hold practice Saturday, replacing it with film study and optional shooting. There was also no media session, but Brown addressed his future after his team saw Game 3 slip away.

“I understand the circumstance,” he said. “My job is to focus on what I really can do. My players deserve that. I’ve been in the city seven years and tonight’s loss is what’s most on my mind. My effort truly is to try to find a way to win, and keep this series alive. Do my job for my players.”

Brown still has two seasons and $10MM left on his contract, but that may not stop the Sixers from pulling the trigger. They have taken several personnel gambles over the past two seasons to try to build a championship contender, including trades for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris and the signing of Al Horford — a coaching change may be the next step.

Brown has a 221-344 record in Philadelphia, but much of that is distorted because he oversaw the “Process” years when the team didn’t mind losing to acquire draft assets. He was hired in 2013 after spending nine seasons as an assistant with the Spurs, and Pompey notes that he was originally brought in to oversee player development with the expectation that someone else would take over when the team started to contend.

Brown led the Sixers to 52 and 51 wins the past two years, and saw last season end with a heart-breaking seventh game loss to the eventual champion Raptors in the conference semifinals. Multiple sources tell Pompey that Brown played a role in breaking up that team because he no longer wanted to deal with the outspoken Butler.

This year, Philadelphia’s playoff chances appeared doomed once Ben Simmons was lost for the year with knee surgery. That and the guaranteed money still owed to Brown could make management think twice about the move, but it may not be enough to save his job.

Sixers Notes: Playoff Rotation, Richardson, Embiid

Alec Burks, who was traded to the Sixers at the trade deadline, could find himself out of the team’s playoff rotation if Brett Brown decides to go with a nine-man rotation, Derek Bodner of The Athletic argues in his latest mailbag. Bodner trusts Glenn Robinson III‘s shot more than Burks’ and cites Robinson’s comfort level playing off the ball as reasons for the choice.

Shake Milton, Josh Richardson, and Tobias Harris would likely start alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Al Horford and Matisse Thybulle are strong candidates for major minutes and Bodner see Mike Scott getting considerable run, though Brown could mix things up depending on the opponent, with Furkan Korkmaz also an option.

Here’s more from Philadelphia:

  • Richardson could wind up being a trade chip if the salary cap decreases and ownership doesn’t want to pay a massive luxury tax bill, Bodner writes in the same piece. The scribe adds that from an on-court standpoint, the 26-year-old shooting guard can be a valuable long-term piece for the franchise.
  • The challenges of putting together a playoff rotation this season are different than last year for the Sixers, Rich Hofmann of The Athletic explains. The team had a statically superior starting five last season and just had to configure the bench, which was a tough ask. This season, there’s no clear dominant five. And while there are more options on the bench, Brown won’t be able to make decisions based on a large sample size due to the suspended season.
  • Chris Mannix is optimistic about the Sixers’ chances once play resumes, as he writes for Sports Illustrated. With every team out of tune, Mannix believes low-post play could become more important than shooting, and Philadelphia has the most dominant big man in the Eastern Conference.

 

Brett Brown Expects Simmons, Embiid To Be Ready

Sixers coach Brett Brown expects Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to be healthy enough to play whenever the NBA season resumes, write Rich Hofmann and Derek Bodner of The Athletic. Brown offered a medical update on both stars and covered a few other topics during a conference call Friday with Philadelphia media.

Simmons hasn’t played since suffering a lower back impingement in February. His injury has allowed him to work out at the team facility during the hiatus, and general manger Elton Brand said last week that he’s optimistic Simmons can return by the time play starts again. Brown called the injury “as disturbing a memory as it relates to a player that I can think of.”

“He’s lying on his back, he’s vomiting primarily because of pain, and trying to get him back on the plane and build him back up to some level of health where he can play basketball with us again, that timeline was always an interesting one,” Brown said.

Embiid was dealing with a shoulder sprain and had just returned to the lineup on the night the hiatus began. Although he no longer has any pressing injury concerns, Brown said Embiid’s health and fitness levels will be important, saying he has a “desire to be at a playing weight that equals his best since he’s been in the league.”

Brown addressed a few other topics during the conference call:

What will it mean for the Sixers if the season can’t be completed?

“I feel this strongly … this thing is so, for me, incomplete. We need to be able to come back to the table, take the team that we have, the work that we’ve been putting in, and let that be Judgment Day. Let that environment be, you know, ‘you did’ or ‘you didn’t’ type stuff. And that’s how I approach it. I feel very confident, and respectfully cocky, that we’ve done good work (during this stoppage). I’m proud of my coaching staff.”

How would playing in an empty arena change the atmosphere?

“Obviously, playing in front of no fans, especially our fans, isn’t ideal. How will it play out? I don’t know. None of us have ever done this. But the alternative of simply not playing is obviously far less desired. Do I think it’ll water down the competitive side? I don’t. Of course, it’s going to have some level of an impact. I do feel just the mere fact that we’ll be playing again might be able to sort of minimize whatever awkwardness playing in front of zero fans (would have).”

How he’s using “The Last Dance” documentary as a teaching tool:

“We’re all, ‘You need shooters, you need defensive people, you need somebody to pick ’em, Jo, Ben, whatever. Like, it’s hard for me to go past that human quality: ‘Are you a sick competitor? Does it really bother you when you lose?’ Obviously, that part of that documentary as we’re watching it, how can that not be at the forefront?”

Atlantic Notes: Robinson, Knicks, Sixers, Celtics

Despite playing in just his second NBA season, Knicks big man Mitchell Robinson is already on his fifth agent since going pro, as Marc Berman of The New York Post details. Robinson signed with Rich Paul and Klutch Sports earlier this year, and Paul is confident that he can provide the sort of stable representation that will alleviate some concerns for the young center.

“When you get the right representation, there’s an ease that comes to your mind that allows you to focus on other things,” Paul told Berman. “It’s hard to sleep with both eyes closed in this business. It’s a lot more mental than people think.”

With a non-guaranteed salary for 2020/21 and a team option for ’21/22, Robinson is still a ways away from reaching free agency. However, Paul sounds as if he’s looking forward to eventually negotiating a second contract for the big man with new Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose, who previously represented Klutch’s current star client, LeBron James.

“He’ll shoot me straight when it comes to Mitchell and I’ll shoot him straight,” Paul said of Rose. “The Knicks know what’s best for him. They see him as a future guy. Leon knows the game. He’ll handle that properly.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • After declaring for the 2020 draft, potential lottery pick Cole Anthony – who grew up in New York – told Zach Braziller of The New York Post that he’d welcome the chance to play for the Knicks. “It would be pretty cool,” Anthony said. “I was a fan for a good amount of time. I do like the Knicks. I think they definitely can use a guard, a good scoring point guard.” As Braziller notes, the former Tar Heel added that he’d be fine dropping several spots in the draft if it means landing with a team that’s an ideal fit for him.
  • Appearing on The Sixers Beat podcast with Derek Bodner and Rich Hofmann of The Athletic, former Sixers sharpshooter J.J. Redick said he doesn’t believe head coach Brett Brown should be made the scapegoat for any issues in Philadelphia (audio clip). “I would love to play for Brett again,” Redick said. “I don’t think Brett is the problem, if there’s a problem. Sometimes things maybe just don’t work.”
  • A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston revisits the Celtics‘ 2019 draft decisions, exploring whether the team should have gone in a different direction with any of its four selections.

Eastern Notes: Bulls, Simon, Brown, Draft

The Bulls are entering an offseason of change, as the franchise is looking to revamp its basketball operations department. The Athletic’s John Hollinger hears that Miami’s VP of basketball operations Adam Simon is a leading candidate for the team’s top front office job (confirming an earlier report) and adds that the chatter about Indiana’s Chad Buchanan was rather loud before the Pacers‘ GM took himself out of the running. Denver’s Arturas Karnisovas and Toronto’s Bobby Webster have also been linked to the Bulls’ opening.

Hollinger wonders if Chicago will also search for a new head coach during the NBA’s hiatus. Jim Boylen‘s future with the club is uncertain and the Bulls won’t be the only team looking for a new head coach this offseason.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Many insiders believe that Sixers coach Brett Brown is on the hot seat, though it’s unlikely that the team makes a move while the league is on hiatus, Hollinger adds in the same piece. Firing Brown and having the Sixers proceed to the playoffs with a new coach wouldn’t be an ideal scenario.
  • The Cavaliers don’t have enough intel on their top young talent to rule out selecting a player at any position in the 2020 draft, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes. Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. both appear to be long-term building blocks, yet neither is certain to be an All-Star, so the Cavs should select the best available player regardless of position with their top pick.
  • Keith Langlois of NBA.com examines Khyri Thomas‘ progress since the Pistons‘ drafted him with the No. 38 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Injuries have stunted Thomas’ growth and while the franchise doesn’t have major talent on the wing, he’ll need to show more if he’s going to stay with Detroit beyond his current contract, which is non-guaranteed for next season.

Atlantic Notes: Butler-Brown, Theis, Knicks, Celtics

Current Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler, formerly a clutch swingman on the star-studded, title-contending 2018/19 Sixers, acknowledged that his relationship with coach Brett Brown was not particularly great, as he told his former Philadelphia teammate J.J. Redick on The J.J. Redick Podcast With Tommy Alter.

On the podcast, Butler described an uncomfortably tense and silent film-watching session with Redick, Butler, and Sixers All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. “And I told you this as we walked out, ‘J.J., why would we ever go in there again?,'” Butler said on the podcast. “‘Nothing’s getting accomplished. Nobody’s saying nothing to anybody.'”

Butler also discussed having spoken up about the offense in a subsequent film-watching session in Portland that became a hot topic in the national media. Butler suggested the conversation was blown out of proportion by outside observers, a point his former Sixers teammate agreed with. “I don’t know why it got reported the way it did,” Redick said.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Daniel Theis, the Celtics‘ starting center replacement for the departed Al Horford, was having a comparable season to his predecessor before play was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to The Stats Corner of NBC Sports Boston. Theis’ production per 36 minutes has actually been better than Horford’s during 2018/19. Their scoring numbers are similar, while Theis is pulling down more rebounds and blocks and shooting at a higher field goal percentage. The 27-year-old German signed a two-year, $10MM contract with Boston during the summer of 2019. The 33-year-old Horford, meanwhile, inked a four-year, $97MM contract ($109MM if he hits all incentives) with the Sixers this summer.
  • As the Knicks continue to overhaul their front office, Cavaliers salary cap expert Brock Aller has emerged as a potential addition to new team president Leon Rose‘s staff, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. After spending a decade as the personal assistant to team owner Dan Gilbert, Aller graduated to a position as senior director of basketball operations in 2017.
  • The Celtics team, staff, and attendant beat reporters experienced a tense journey on the road as the coronavirus spread beyond tenable levels, according to Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe in his first-person account of what transpired.

Atlantic Notes: Burks, Wright, Knicks, Simmons

Sixers head coach Brett Brown explained his plan for Alec Burks, who made his first real impact for Philadelphia on Thursday night against the Nets.

“I’m looking at him is sort of instant offense type off the bench he can be given the ball can be put in pick-and-rolls,” Brown said (via Heavy.com). “I like him more probably in the middle of the floor with the pick and roll than the sideline with the pick-and-roll I think that he can be a primary ball carrier for a while.”

Burks, who came to the Sixers along with Glenn Robinson III at the trade deadline, has spent 44 minutes on the court so far in his Sixers’ career.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Villanova head coach Jay Wright simply isn’t interested in the Knicks‘ coaching job, as Joe Juliano of the Philadelphia Inquirer relays (Twitter link).I haven’t talked to the Knicks, I’m not going to the Knicks. It’s crazy,” Wright said.
  • Ben Simmons is probable for the Sixers‘ matchup with Milwaukee on Saturday night, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Simmons missed Thursday’s contest against Brooklyn with back tightness.
  • Zach Braziller of the New York Post details how interim coach Mike Miller is handling the situation with the Knicks. “If we help these guys and we continue to grow and get better, then we’ve done our job,” Miller said. “All I’m concerned about is bringing value to it and helping these guys. As simple as it sounds, I did that for six years as a D-League [and] G-League coach and I felt good at the end of every season. That’s the direction that I take.”

And-Ones: Giannis, Motiejunas, Nogueira, Bosh

Following a wild 2019 offseason, the NBA has been in a period of relative stability for the last several months. However, there are a number of tipping points on tap for the 2020 postseason and offseason that could re-inject some chaos into the basketball landscape, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com.

According to Bontemps, people around the league will be keeping an especially close eye on teams like the Rockets and Sixers, who will be looking to make deep playoff runs after falling short of their goals in recent years. If those two teams are eliminated early in the postseason, it’s possible major changes could be made, with Mike D’Antoni and Brett Brown potentially on the way out and roster shakeups around the corner.

League insiders will also be curious to see whether the Warriors look to use their 2020 lottery pick as the centerpiece in a trade for another impact player, Bontemps writes. Most notably, all eyes will be on Milwaukee as Giannis Antetokounmpo decides whether to sign a super-max extension with the Bucks. For what it’s worth, Bontemps says every executive he spoke to expects Antetokounmpo to remain in Milwaukee.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA forward Donatas Motiejunas said he has drawn interest from some NBA and EuroLeague teams, per Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas (Twitter link). However, Motiejunas remains under contract with the Shanghai Sharks during the Chinese Basketball Association’s coronovirus-related hiatus and isn’t looking to get out of that deal.
  • Lucas Nogueira, a former first-round pick who spent four seasons in the NBA with the Raptors, has signed with Muharraq Club in Bahrain, according to the team (Instagram link; hat tip to Sportando). The 16th overall pick in the 2013 draft, Nogueira appeared in 141 games for Toronto between 2014-18.
  • Chris Bosh took to Instagram to express his disappointment after not being included in 2020’s list of finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame.