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As they take some lumps, Sixers invest in their future

POSTED: Oct 22, 2014 9:42 PM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann

NBA.com

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2014-15 Sixers Team Preview

Sekou Smith examines the gameplan in Philly, where the youth movement is showing signs of a bright future.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

Brett Brown knew what he was getting into when he signed up to coach the Philadelphia 76ers.

By the time his second season is done, Brown will have about 80 more losses than he does wins on his coaching record, a tough hole to dig out of. The Sixers have bottomed out in order to build assets for future contention, and they may have taken an additional step backward by trading Thaddeus Young this summer.

Brown was OK with that. He was also OK with general manager Sam Hinkie coming away with two guys that won't play this season (though the possibility of Joel Embiid making his debut in 2014-15 hasn't been ruled out) in the 2014 Draft.

"If I wasn't as excited as I am with the knowledge that I am going to coach Joel Embiid and I'm going to coach Dario Saric, then maybe [I'd be disappointed in not getting Lottery picks than can play right away]," Brown told NBA.com. "But I am just jumping out of my skin to get those guys with me."

Sixers Season Preview: Nerlens Noel

Getting a fresh start after recovering from injury, Dennis Scott and Steve Smith look at what Nerlens Noel can bring to Philadelphia this season.

In Embiid (20), Saric (20), Michael Carter-Williams (23) and Nerlens Noel (20), the Sixers have four very young guys with very high ceilings, giving them a better five-year outlook than most of the league. That's the point of what Hinkie has done since taking over as general manager.

Brown fully on board and while he waits for the plan to pay off in terms of wins and losses, he's taking advantage of Philly's unique situation today.

"It's one of the exciting parts of the job and was ever-present when I accepted it," Brown said. "The process where you could strip something down and organically build it back up is a really unusual opportunity."

I don't even care about the first preseason game. ... I want to really just go very deliberately and very slow, so that we just do it right.

– Brett Brown

There is no need to have a certain amount of plays in by opening night. There's no need to make major adjustments to the pick-and-roll defense in the middle of a game. There is no need to skip steps at all. Chapter 2 in the Book of Brett Brown Basketball can be read once Chapter 1 has been memorized.

"I don't even care about the first preseason game," Brown said. "And I don't know how much I really care about a lot, unless it's directed toward the future. I want to really just go very deliberately and very slow, so that we just do it right."

The Sixers wanted a teacher, and they got one in Brown. Philadelphia has been as thorough as possible in educating and maintaining its players with a focus on fitness, nutrition, hydration and recovery. As well, the team plans to soon break ground on a new practice facility.

The Sixers' payroll may be well below the NBA's salary floor, but they're investing in other ways. Their hope is that when wins and losses do matter, they will see the benefit of what they've put their effort behind during these two bottom-dwelling seasons.

Sixers Season Preview: Expectations

Dennis Scott and Steve Smith give their expectations for the 76ers this season.

At that point, we'll find out if Brown can turn a good team into a great team. Right now, he's got plenty of job security. Sixers managing owner Josh Harris called Brown "awesome" in a training camp news conference, lauding the coach's skill set and demeanor and adding that Brown "has a hard job" given the current state of the team.

"I do [have a hard job]," Brown acknowledged a few minutes later, "but I think the risk-reward factor for me, at this stage of my career, trumps any of those things. Fine by me. Nobody would take this position to try to pad your resume or be fearful of what your win-loss record is going to say when they look back on your career. I'm past that. I just see such an incredible opportunity that I'm all in. It is hard on many levels. But the excitement of what can be far outweighs the difficulty of the position."

ICYMI ...

A day after accepting the Rookie of the Year award, Carter-Williams underwent surgery on his right shoulder ... The Sixers used two Lottery picks to draft two guys -- Joel Embiid and Dario Saric -- who won't play this season ... Continued to put off competing for a top-14 spot in the East by trading Thaddeus Young in the deal that sent Kevin Love to Cleveland and netted the Sixers another first round pick (Miami's next summer) ... Second-round pick Jordan McRae averaged 21 points in Summer League, but is another guy Brown will have to wait to coach. McRae will play in Australia this season.

THREE POINTS

1. Brown originally pictured Noel as a center, because "he's a great roller" on pick-and-rolls like Tyson Chandler. But when Hinkie drafted Embiid, Brown had to rethink things. So, this season, Noel will primarily play the four, next to Embiid stand-in Henry Sims, though he will also see some time at the five in small-ball lineups.

2. Brown said before camp that he was "caught off guard" by the "unintended consequences" (bad shots, turnovers, poor spacing that leads to poor transition defense) of playing at the league's fastest pace last season. But he clarified that he has no intention of slowing down this year. "I just want to coach it better," he said.

3. There's no question what Brown wants to focus on in Year 2: "It's going to be heavily, heavily, heavily tilted toward us establishing a defensive identity." The addition of Noel's rim protection should be an automatic upgrade on that end of the floor.

Sixers Season Preview: Scott O'Neil Interview

Lang Whitaker, Sekou Smith, and Rick Fox sit down with the 76ers CEO Scott O'Neill to talk about the approach to winning in Philadelphia.

MAN ON THE SPOT

Michael Carter-Williams far exceeded expectations by becoming just the third rookie in NBA history (joining Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson) to average at least 15 points, six rebounds and six assists. But his numbers were somewhat pace-aided and the Sixers still ranked 30th in offensive efficiency. He has all the tools to be a great player and will (eventually) benefit from having more talented teammates. But the next step is going from a point guard that puts up good numbers to a point guard that runs a good offense.

STARTING FIVE

Michael Carter-Williams | 16.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 6.3 apg
Reigning Rookie of the Year has all the tools but a consistent jump shot.

Tony Wroten | 13.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.0 apg
Better suited as a scorer than a point guard, which he was last season.

Hollis Thompson | 6.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 0.9 apg
Started 41 games and shot 40 percent from 3-point range last season.

Nerlens Noel | Rookie
It's been 19 months since he had ACL surgery. After a full year off, he's ready to go.

Henry Sims | 7.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.1 apg
Started the last 25 games of the season, averaging 12.1 points and 7.0 rebounds.

KEY RESERVES

Luc Mbah a Moute | 3.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.6 apg
Brings D and Cameroonian mentorship for Embiid.

K.J. McDaniels | Rookie
32nd pick in the draft brings athleticism and D.

Alexey Shved | 4.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 1.1 apg
Regressed in his second season. Shot 32 percent.