Brett Brown

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.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, B. Brown, Sixers, Kyrie

Celtics guard Kemba Walker, who was teammates with Marvin Williams for five seasons in Charlotte, said he spent several weeks trying to convince the veteran forward to join him in Boston when he was eventually bought out by the Hornets, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. After Williams joined the rival Bucks instead, Walker called up his longtime teammate to congratulate him on his new deal.

He said that he wished he could have gotten to Boston with me, but I’m just happy for him,” the Celtics’ All-Star point guard said, per Himmelsbach. “That’s my guy, man. That’s one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever been around. That’s my vet. I was upset that we didn’t get the chance to get him, but I’m happy for him. He deserves it. He’s been in the league for a very long time. He works hard. He deserves to be on a winning team.”

The Celtics figure to keep a close eye on the buyout market in the coming weeks, though they’ll have to waive a player from their 15-man roster if they want to bring anyone in.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Following last week’s trade deadline, Sixers general manager Elton Brand said he believes in Brett Brown‘s ability to lead the team. However, as Malika Andrews of ESPN writes, the 76ers’ GM stopped short of guaranteeing Brown would keep his job for the rest of the 2019/20 season. “I’m not going to play what-ifs,” Brand said. For what it’s worth, the team was mired in a four-game losing streak at the time of Brand’s comments and is 2-0 since then.
  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer explores what sort of roles newly-acquired bench pieces Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III will play for the Sixers, suggesting that Robinson may end up with a more defined role.
  • Kyrie Irving‘s right knee sprain will sideline him through the All-Star break, according to Malika Andrew (Twitter link), who says the Nets have ruled out the star point guard for Wednesday’s game vs. Toronto.

Latest On Joel Embiid, Sixers

Things have felt a little off in Philadelphia this season. Widely considered a top-two team in the Eastern Conference entering the season, the fifth-seeded Sixers have fallen short of those expectations so far and have struggled to smoothly incorporate major offseason signee Al Horford.

Franchise center Joel Embiid hasn’t been immune to the ups and downs of the 76ers’ season, having spoken last week about wanting to “get back to the fun Joel.” On Sunday, when Philadelphia hosted the Bulls, Embiid heard some boos from fans during pre-game intros and later appeared to shush the home crowd and say “Shut the f–k up” after hitting a dagger three in the fourth quarter (video link via Michael Lee of The Athletic).

Embiid, who claimed after the game that his comment was aimed at himself and not Philadelphia fans, said he didn’t care how it looked, adding that he wants to get back to being a “good a–hole.” On Monday, he posted an Instagram photo of that shushing moment, accompanied by the caption, You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Not content to leave it at that, Embiid later exchanged comments with Heat swingman Jimmy Butler, who replied to his former teammate’s Instagram post with the message, “I know a place where villains are welcome,” an apparent reference to Miami. Embiid’s response? “Damn right my brother.” (hat tip to Bleacher Report).

It’s premature to read too much into Embiid’s on-court actions on Sunday and his social media posts after the game. Considering the way the 76ers’ season has played out, the big man was probably just letting out some frustration and then engaging in some light trolling. He published a tweet later on Monday night reasserting his commitment to Philadelphia.

Still, given the ongoing drama, this is a situation worth keeping an eye on. When the Sixers were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs last spring, head coach Brett Brown‘s job security seemed tenuous, and if the team doesn’t advance even further in this year’s postseason, changes of some kind are probably coming.

A head coaching change and/or secondary roster moves are much more likely than anything drastic involving Embiid or Ben Simmons, but teams around the NBA are monitoring the situation. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his podcast this week (hat tip to RealGM) that rival executives have started to openly wonder whether the Sixers would consider moving Embiid. As Windhorst acknowledged, that’s an extremely unlikely scenario, but it’s notable that execs don’t believe it’s an impossibility.

“My point is people are talking about that,” Windhorst said, per RealGM. “I don’t think they would do that without making an adjustment to the head coach. It’s such a radical thing. But the fact that we’re in mid-February and the people who work in the league, who have to prepare in advance, are mulling over Joel Embiid potentially coming to market, whether that’s true or not… I mean, (Sixers owner) Josh Harris can come on this podcast and deny it if he wants, but the fact people are talking about it, is not good. It’s a symptom of where they are.”

Sixers Have Interest In Robert Covington, Other Players

The Sixers are parsing the trade market for reinforcements who can shoot the ball. According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, Philadelphia has expressed interest in several role players, including Malik Beasley, Glenn Robinson III, Davis Bertans, E’Twaun Moore, and Andre Iguodala. O’Connor adds that the team has also inquired on Robert Covington, whom the team dealt away in the Jimmy Butler deal last season.

Most of those names, including Covington, are truly available. The price for Minnesota’s wing is expected to be high and with Philadelphia void of shiny assets, GM Elton Brand will have to get creative if he is going to bring back Sam Hinkie’s former gem.

Zhaire Smith is the young prospect the team is most willing to part with. Rivals teams have more interest in Matisse Thybulle, though Philadelphia is reluctant to deal the No. 20 overall pick. The franchise owns all of its own draft picks starting in the 2021 draft, so the Sixers could attempt to sweeten any deal with a future asset.

Other names on that list could be more obtainable than RoCo. It’ll be tough to pry Bertans from Washington, as the team can envision him as a long-term piece, but Iguodala, Moore, and Robinson are in obvious selling situations. Denver won’t be a seller at the trade deadline, but with a deep rotation and Beasley’s impending restricted free agency, the franchise is smartly assessing the market for the shooting guard.

Here’s more on Philadelphia.

  • O’Connor contends that the Sixers should consider making a bigger move for Chris Paul, swapping either Tobias Harris or Al Horford and additional salary for the 34-year-old point guard. However, the scribe hears that Harris and Horford, each of whom signed long-term deals this offseason, aren’t any more tradeable than CP3.
  • Trading Simmons doesn’t appear likely, in part because it would mean “putting all your superstar eggs in the Embiid basket,” and the big man has had a shaky injury history. O’ Connor wonders if Simmons would be the one the team decides to build around if forced to choose between the two.
  • Big changes will likely come with an early exit in the playoffs, though many around the game believe it would be Brett Brown who takes the fall in that scenario. There were rumblings that former team president Bryan Colangelo was planning to fire Brown and replace him with Villanova coach Jay Wright, but that was before Twittergate. Still, O’Connor hears from multiple sources that Brown didn’t have the best relationship with the locker room last season.