Seltzer's Notebook | Brown Gives Status Report; Cheeks Honored

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

Solid Status Check

Over the course of his tenure in Philadelphia, Brett Brown has routinely stuck to using the same checkpoints to gauge the 76ers’ progress.

For more specific, micro matters, he relies on 10-game clumps. In regard to the broader, macro issues, Brown tends to step back and view the team’s world in thirds (he breaks up the year as follows: from opening night to Christmas Day, Christmas Day to the All-Star break, and the All-Star break to the regular season finale).

With December 25th right around the corner, and the first third of the campaign drawing to a close, Brown found himself before Friday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder being asked about the state of the Sixers. Generally speaking, he seems to approve of what he’s seen, his group 14-14, and sitting just outside the Eastern Conference’s top 8.

“To be honest, I thought it was going to take a little longer,” Brown said, referring to the leap the Sixers have taken this year. “I feel good about where we’re heading.”

The comment, however, shouldn’t overshadow the work Brown knows must be done. As much as he likes the Sixers’ pace (no. 4 NBA, 103.1 poss. / game) and passing (no. 3, 25.3 ast / 100 poss.; no. 2, 65.7 ast%), he wants to see the club cut down on its turnovers, and the frequency with which it fouls.

On the whole, Brown said he’s “ok” with the Sixers’ 13th-ranked defense (104.2 points allowed / 100 poss.), and 16th-ranked offense (104.2 points scored / 100 poss.). Long-term, the mission is greater.

“We have a goal to be top 10 in defense, and top 20 in offense,” he said Friday.

Between his 12 seasons as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, and the four-plus years he’s spent with the Sixers, Brown realizes full well the 82-game NBA slate creates an up-and-down rhythm.

Losses to the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, and Phoenix Suns are ones he’d love to have back. But, in the same breath, Brown points to quality victories over the likes of the Houston Rockets (the Sixers are one of just three teams to beat league-best Houston) and Minnesota Timberwolves as evidence of the the Sixers’ potential.

The roles that budding studs Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have assumed during an auspicious first two months represent two other reasons for Brown to feel good.

“We all want it all yesterday; it’s the nature of all of us, especially in this city,” said the 56-year old. “The evolution of our guys, where we are right now, what I feel in the locker room, what I feel at the practice facility, I’m proud of our guys, and I’m confident in our team, and the way we’re trying to steer the program.”

Cheeks Respected, Recognized

Growing up in Portland, Maine, Brett Brown remembers the drives down I-95, the visits to the old Boston Garden sweatbox, even the concessions vendor who made target practice of rifling bags of peanuts at the heads of snack-craving spectators.

A point guard himself, Brown also remembers bringing his Polaroid camera to games, and snapping pictures of pros he admired. The Sixers’ Mo Cheeks was one of them, and Friday morning, a sculpture of Cheeks’ likeness was unveiled and added to Legends Walk at the team’s training complex in Camden.

Brown called Cheeks, still 13th on the NBA’s all-time assists list, an “unbelievable player,” and “one of the greats” in Sixers’ history.

“I get what his resume reads like,” said Brown. “The respect I have for him is immense.”

Cheeks, a four-time All-Star who helped spark the Sixers’ 1983 championship run, is now an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Friday’s opponent. A tribute video was shown in his honor during a timeout.

Brown has relished the chance to steward a franchise with such a deep, noteworthy pedigree. He appreciates the occasional interactions he and his players have with the likes of Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, and Allen Iverson. Their jersey numbers hang from the rafters at The Center, just like Cheeks’ old No. 10.

“This city is incredible with rich history of basketball,” Brown said. “All over the place, you’re just proud to be the coach of this organization.”