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Sixers coach Brett Brown starts training camp with NBA Finals goal

A lot of NBA coaches are hesitant to be specific about team goals when training camp tips off. So when the 28 teams who aren’t participating in the NBA China Games have media day on Monday, you’ll hear talk of “getting better every day.”

But Sixers coach Brett Brown isn’t afraid to put it out there. After his team’s first official practice of the season (the Sixers and Dallas Mavericks – traveling to China for games on Oct. 5 and Oct. 8 – got a three-day head start on camp), Brown made it clear what the Sixers’ goal is for the 2018-19 season, as Keith Pompey writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

A year ago, 76ers coach Brett Brown made news by saying at the start of training camp that his squad’s goal was to make the playoffs.

That sounded like an unrealistic request considering the Sixers averaged just 18.7 wins over the previous four seasons. Yet Brown made good on his prediction. The squad won 52 games and reached the second round of the postseason.

So what’s this season’s goal?

“We want to play in the NBA Finals,” Brown said Saturday following the team’s first training camp practice. “As I said to you, we feel we could have played in the NBA Finals [last season]. I understand the magnitude of that statement, but I stand by it. And I own it.”

At one point last year, there did seem to be a path to The Finals for the Sixers, who looked like the East’s best team in the first round of the playoffs. As Philly dispatched the Miami Heat in five games, the other top seeds in the East struggled to advance.

But the Boston Celtics put an end to the Sixers’ remarkable 20-1 stretch (going back to a 16-game winning streak to close the regular season) and are now adding Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to the team that eliminated Philly in five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Toronto Raptors, meanwhile have replaced DeMar DeRozan with Kawhi Leonard on the only team (East or West) that ranked in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency last season.

Of course, the Sixers should be getting a much-improved Markelle Fultz, while seeing progress from both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid has the potential to be the biggest two-way force in the league and a matchup problem for every team in the Sixers’ path.

It’s not unreasonable to imagine the Sixers in The Finals, just three years after a 10-72 season. It would be quite a story for the franchise and for the coach that wasn’t afraid to make it the goal on the first day of training camp.