Game Preview | Between Head Coach, Point Guards, a Matter of Trust
From his position on the sideline, whether seated or standing, or strolling from one end of the bench to the other, Brett Brown can only do so much.
Certainly, he gives signals, points out floor spots and spacing, makes play calls, and delivers orders, all of which are vital to the successful orchestration of a game.
Where the limitations for Brown and his coaching counterparts come into play, of course, is the actual execution of what happens inside the 94 x 50 feet parameters of an NBA court. Brown can see the game and feel the game, but in terms of his vision being carried out, the players themselves hold most of the power.
Such is especially the case at one position in particular.
Earlier this week, the importance of the rapport between the head coach and his point guards was brought into sharper focus, when the 76ers were faced with a decision about how to proceed in the absence of T.J. McConnell (personal reasons).
Brown was looking for the team to bring in someone he could rely on, and trust. Larry Drew II fit the bill, and was subsequently signed to a 10-day contract.
Whether it’s Drew II, McConnell, or - perhaps most notably - Ben Simmons, the 6-foot-10 ball-handling dynamo to whom the Sixers have handed the keys to the offense, Brown aims to establish a constant, and ultimately constructive, connectedness with his point guards.
“That relationship you have...it’s crucial,” Brown said earlier this week, elaborating on the dynamic he tries to foster with the Sixers’ point guard stable . “You talk to them like you talk to an assistant coach, or that’s what you hope to be able to speak to them like.”
And by the sounds of it, that’s exactly how Brown does it.
The son of a former NBA point guard, and current coach in the league, Drew II knows the deal:
“The point guard is the extension of the head coach,” said the 27-year old, whose father, Larry, is currently a Cleveland Cavaliers assistant.
Having learned to view the sport through the “very old school” lens of his dad, Drew II has come to recognize that communicating with teammates, and the head coach as well, is as much a part of a point guard’s responsibilities as handing out assists, or effectively manipulating pick-and-roll sets.
Even though his involvement with the Sixers has been relatively limited, Drew II’s association with the organization, and Brown, spans several seasons. He first landed with the Sixers around this same time three years ago, via a 10-day deal, then resurfaced with the club this past July, during summer league.
These stints, while not lengthy, were enough to leave a solid impression on Brown, and Drew II seems to think the chemistry between the two had a lot to do with it.
“Knowing that Coach Brown has faith in me to relay everything that he’s trying to get through to the team - in me he has that trust - it gives me that much more confidence to come in and just play my game,” Drew II said. “That’s ultimately what I do, what I’ve been bred to do.”
Just because Brown is the one crafting and overseeing the implementation of the Sixers’ gameplan, however, doesn’t always mean he and his point guards see eye-to-eye.
Like Drew II, McConnell too is the son of a coach (so is Brown, for that matter). In the heat of the moment - in a practice, shootaround, or game - the dialogue might get tense every now and then.
With a lifetime of playing basketball under his belt, McConnell understands these types of interactions all come with the territory, specifically at his position.
“With my dad, the way he coached me, he was on me as tough as anyone could be,” McConnell said. “That was the same with Coach [Sean] Miller at Arizona, and I don’t think Coach Brown skipped a beat.”
Probably not-so-surprisingly, McConnell relishes some tough love.
“I feel like we have a relationship where [Brown] can be that way, and take his stress out on someone who’s had plenty of stress taken out on them in years before,” McConnell said.
Brown, for his part, keeps an open mind. He encourages feedback from his guards, looking to promote a two-way conversation.
“I don’t feel I know it all on the sideline,” said the 56-year old Brown.
In helping chart Simmons’ developmental path, and monitoring the progress of the rookie’s evolution, Brown is keenly aware that being in sync with the Sixers’ budding star represents a significant subplot.
“I think when you’re as young as Ben, I know what I want maybe more than he does, most times,” Brown said. “But it’s part of his growth, it’s part of my growth.
“That relationship is always important.”
Amidst the latest twist in a trying injury situation, and the recent removal of an All-Star mainstay from the starting line-up, the San Antonio Spurs (32-18) are seeking to steady the ship, and so far, have enjoyed an encouraging week. On the heels of enduring three losses in four games, San Antonio has bounced back to win two in a row, including Tuesday’s 114-102 triumph over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Within the past two weeks, the Spurs learned All-Star swing man Kawhi Leonard will be sidelined for an indefinite period of time, as he and the team continue to try and find a solution for his pesky right quadriceps problem. Three games ago, San Antonio moved second-year point guard Dejounte Murray to the top of the club’s top point guard depth chart, and reassigned four-time champion and three-time All-Star Tony Parker to the bench.
• Video: NBC Sports Philadelphia / NBC Sports app
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