7.6 Takeaways | Stories and Subplots from Week One

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

It's the start of a new season, so here's a crack at rolling out something new.

By no means revolutionary in concept, but hopefully a piece of content with staying power, we present to you the first installment in our 7.6 Takeaways series. We're going to do our best to put one of these out each week, with the goal being to underscore, amplify, and introduce key subplots in a way that's pleasing to your 76ers pallette. 

So here we go...

1. Everyone's talking about how good the first week of practice has been - why?

Because the practices have been good, of course! Suppose the better way to have framed that question would have been, "For what reasons have the practices been so good?"

Based on what we've heard from Brett Brown and his players, a combination of factors appear to be at work. But to sum them up in a general sense, there's an alignment of talent and mindset.

Brett Brown told us following the third day of training camp that his squad's solid start has a lot to do with the timeline of the roster being in a good place.

"I asked a question the first day of practice that really surprised me. 'Who here has exceded a decade [in the NBA]?' As I remember it, I think it was just Al [Horford], which really sort of surprised me."

Brown then made this point: while the 76ers might have a seasoned team, they're not an old team, by any stretch. 

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"I think that these guys are in sort of some peak areas. Tobias [Harris] is in a honeyspot, Joel [Embiid] is in a honeyspot, Ben [Simmons] by all terms is young. And Al, you wouldn't call him old. I just like the space the collective group is in. It's in a good range."

And the early result has been some encouraging, cohesive practice sessions. 

2. A no-nonsense approach from Joel Embiid.

Was really trying hard to come up with some deep observation about Joel Embiid and his first week, but the reality is this: the big man has been very business like. His new 'do is working, and so too are his moves on the floor. 

"We're focused on winning a championship," Embiid said the other day. "That's all we should care about."

And that's precisely the tone Embiid has been setting. He acknowledged the first few preseason practices have been good opportunities for him and the Sixers to get back in sync. 

This time next week, with a few exhibition games under Embiid's belt, it will be fun to see where the two-time All-Star is at. 

3. Al Horford, a strange yet supremely welcomed sight. 

For anyone who follows the NBA - you could be a fan, media member, player, coach, executive, whoever - the idea of Al Horford wearing colors other than Green and White this season is still a little bit wild. 

True, Horford was only with the Boston Celtics for three seasons, but during that time, he was such a fixture, and immensely instrumental in the C's success (some of which, as we know too well, came at the expense of the Sixers). 

So yeah, Brett Brown can't deny the difference Horford's presence has made. 

"Just incredible," Brown said. "I almost didn't want to talk about it too much, but if you put me in a room and we're going one-on-one behind closed doors, I'm blown away that he's here."

Brown added that Elton Brand deserves "a lot a bit" of credit for getting his former teammate with the Atlanta Hawks to sign here. 

"To just have somebody like Al, all by himself, with his resume and so on come into our program, and then you double down that we're able to get him and the Celtics didn't, it's a win-win," said Brand. "I love seeing him in this gym."

4. So what are Embiid and Horford working on?

It's going to be really fascinating to see how Joel Embiid and Al Horford go about developing chemistry together. The two share mutual status as All-Stars and All-Defensive Team selections, and obviously have had plenty of battles the past couple years. 

Forming what figures to be a formidable tandem, however, will naturally require some adjustments, especially since Horford spent a good deal of his time in Boston playing the "five."

In these early days, spacing has been a primary point of emphasis. 

"It's really for me to get used to the offensive system, where Coach wants me to be, and understanding how to play off of Joel," Horford said on the opening day of training camp. "He can do so many things. For me, it's really just making sure I find the open spots - whether that's slashing to the basket, spacing. That's the one thing I felt we did a good job of on this first day."

"He's a great pro," said Embiid of Horford. "We talked a lot, trying to figure out how to play together. It's cool, I can learn a lot from him."

5. An interesting nugget about Josh Richardson, Part I

On Media Day, our content department had a station where we got a couple minutes to sit down with each player and ask "get-to-know" type questions. 

There's no other context for this story that Josh Richardson told - which I thought was great -  other than it came up while we were talking about music. 

So here it is:

"What the average person might not know about me is the best concert I've been to was Coldplay. It was two summers ago in Miami at Hard Rock Stadium. I won't say I cried, but my eyes might have leaked a little bit. It was probably the best two hours of my life."

"It started raining during 'Charlie Brown,' and Chris Martin stopped and ran out into the crowd. Next thing I knew, I was in the aisles hugging random people, jumping around, throwing balloons and beach balls everywhere. It was interesting."

We're not ashamed to admit we caught the Lincoln Financial Field show during that same tour (albeit a year earlier). It was indeed a good time.  

6. An interesting nugget about Josh Richardson, Part II

One more item about J-Rich. He was spotted sporting these on the second day of camp:

"When I was a kid, I had a pair of The Questions, so I was a big Iverson fan," Richardson said. "He changed the culture of basketball. Those Iversons are classics. I was excited to pull them out."

Any nod to the Answer - in this case The Answer 5s - is a nod worth noting. 

7. Thybulle doing his thing. 

Elton Brand made very clear on draft night that Matisse Thybulle was the 76ers' guy, the move to trade up and get the 2019 NCAA Defensive Player of the Year serving as proof. 

Few rookies would say that their first days of the preseason are seamless, Thybulle notwithstanding. But this year's no. 20 pick is confident he belongs, and that gives with this comment from Brett Brown:

"He can cover a mistake as well as any young kid I've coached."

Ok then. Keep in mind Brett Brown has been at this coaching thing for over three decades. 

Gamble for a steal and miss? Thybulle can recover to block a shot. Overhelp at one floor spot? He can still get to another. 

Brown thinks Thybulle is going to be a fit. 

"When you find those perimeter wings that have that have that type of ability to roam and cheat and still cover their mistakes, it's pretty impressive."

7.1 Zhaire Smith is a man of judicious words. When speaking with reporters, the second-year 76er is often matter-of-fact, and gets right to the point. 

But when it comes to a couple guys with seasoned NBA eyes, Smith has stood out

"He's really shooting the ball well," said Al Hofrord. "That's something that's impressed me. I don't know if he was labeled as a shooter, but from what I've seen, he's shooting the ball really well, and that's encouraging."

Brett Brown described the 2018 no. 16 pick as an athletic "pogo stick."

"He's making some shots, he's playing hard. I think he's had a real bounce and has been excellent, defensively especially."

Smith said his shot felt good this week, and feels all the work he put in this offseason to quicken his release is paying off. 

7.2 From Brett Brown down to the guys on the court, defense, defense, defense has been top of mind this week

7.3 Trey Burke popped immediately when training camp began. He's been a pesky defensive presence, and was shouted out by teammates for his aggression. 

7.4 When James Ennis III was asked about what he hopes the bench unit's identity will be this season, he had a one-word reply. 

7.5 For all intents and purposes, Friday marked the final practice session of the 76ers' four-day training camp. Brett Brown sounded pleased with the progress of his group, saying, "We achieved what we wanted to."

7.6 The Sixers will hold their annual Blue x White Scrimmage Saturday at 1:00 PM at 76ers Fieldhouse, the home of the franchise's G League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats. You can stream the event live on sixers.com, the team's official app, and Facebook.

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