Seltzer's Notebook | Brown Keeping Team in Upbeat Spirits

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

Brown Ensuring Spirits Stay Upbeat

As the visitors’ locker room opened to the media Saturday at Air Canada Centre, Brett Brown was seen making his way around to just about every stall, providing fist bumps, handshakes, and words of encouragement to players.

The 76ers had just sustained a 102-86 loss to the Toronto Raptors. The defeat was the latest to come in a difficult month during which injuries have been steady, and the schedule constantly demanding.

Not necessarily the type to give formal post-game talks or speeches, Brown did want to make sure his club understood one thing, even amidst an adverse stretch: “The sky isn’t falling.”

The fifth-year head coach is convinced that as long as the Sixers remain dedicated to banging out good days (to borrow oft-used Brown phraseology) the worm will eventually turn in their favor. He can spot a horizon line with JJ Redick fully healthy (right hamstring tightness), Joel Embiid regaining fluid playing form, and veteran forward Trevor Booker being further integrated into new surroundings.

“You got to get a good spirit about the group, some confidence,” Brown said Saturday night.

That means, for example, instilling enough confidence in Jerryd Bayless so that the seasoned combo guard feels bulletproof with his shooting, like he’s going to hit every 3-pointer he takes. Same goes for second-year swingman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Brown said.

“We’ll get this back on track,” said Brown, in respect to the Sixers’ fortunes. “The message isn’t fabricated, it doesn’t feel disingenuous. It’s completely stuff I believe in.”

On the human side of things, at very least, figuring to help lift the vibes surrounding the Sixers is a thoughtful holiday arrangement made by the franchise.

While the Sixers were in transit Saturday from Toronto to New York City, their respective wives, significant others, and children were given the opportunity to be bussed up to the Big Apple, so players, coaches, executives, and other working staff could spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with their families, before the Sixers take on the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

“It’s a class gesture that the organization has made,” said Brown, a father of three. “We want to take this time, and remember that it’s Christmas. Although we’re disappointed, and know we have a lot of work to do, I remind our guys: look at the calendar. It’s an incredibly special time of the year to enjoy with families.”

He continued, “We’ll move this thing on, and I think the organization deserves a lot of credit for the  gesture that they’ve made to our extended families.”

Embiid Makes Sound Judgements With Health

While doing his best to manage back tightness, Joel Embiid has adopted a practical and prudent approach. More than anything else, the big man appears to be listening to his body.

Take pre-game warm-ups, for instance. If, after going through his routine, Embiid’s not feeling right, he won’t force the issue.

“First of all, I think especially with my back, I have to feel no pain, and make sure it’s not tight at all,” Embiid said Saturday, when asked to explain how, going into games, he determines whether he’s ready enough to play.

In Toronto, Embiid was extra determined to be back in uniform. He had missed the Sixers’ previous three tilts.

“I hate sitting out,” he said, “so I just wanted to give it a go.”  

Starting for the 24th time in as many appearances this season, Embiid logged 23 minutes Saturday, posting 14 points (5-13 fg, 1-4 3fg, 3-4 ft), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 blocked shots. He factored into each of the Sixers’ first 10 points, opening the contest with eight in a row himself, before throwing a lob to Ben Simmons for an alley-oop jam.

Learning More About How Opponents Defend Top Rookie

On most nights, it seems that Ben Simmons - through the combination of his rare physical gifts and highly advanced abilities - is part of at least one ooh-and-aah worthy moment that reveals something new about his dynamic, potentially transformative skill set.

And while the Sixers continue to learn on a game-by-game basis about all that Simmons can do, they’re also getting a better sense of how opponents are trying to defend him.

Against the sixth-rated defensive unit in the NBA Saturday in Toronto,, the going wasn’t the easiest for the reigning Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month. For the most part, his drives to the basket were met with resistance, and the Raptors contested a good number of his shots.

“Their length and athleticism I think did a good job of creating a vacuum,” Brett Brown said. “I think they really gave a pocket, a wall of defensive players.”

Simmons finished with 10 points on 5 for 13 shooting. He felt he needed to be more aggressive. Brown, meanwhile, viewed the night as part of the ongoing study of how teams guard the Aussie.

“They did a pretty good job of getting into him, really trying to turn him, not sagging and playing off him,” said the fifth-year head coach. “At times, he was able to turn corners and get where he wanted to. Other times, it took a little more time and backside defenders were able to come over and make plays.”

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