Seltzer's Notebook | The Ben and Jo Show Off and Running; Brown Relishes Reunions

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

The Ben and Jo Show Netting Strong Returns

If you attended Wednesday's game at The Center, you might have noticed some timely, new in-arena signage.

With NBA All-Star voting underway, The Ben and Jo Show is off and running, and based on official fan tabulations released by the NBA Thursday, the masses are responding well. Simmons, trying to become the first rookie All-Star since Blake Griffin in 2011, ranked fourth among Eastern Conference guards with 210,085 votes. Embiid, meanwhile, has emerged as one of the most popular early vote-getters, with 433,161 votes, third among frontcourt players from the East. The total is eighth-most league-wide.

This year's All-Star exhibition will be held Sunday, February 18th at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles. Each conference will send 12 participants to the game.

Embiid Fights Through Pain

Joel Embiid’s sprained right hand might not have been feeling its best, but it was feeling good enough.

With the 76ers looking to build on a encouraging final week of December, he didn’t want to let his teammates or coaches down. So Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs, he decided to tough it out, and suit up.

Once on the court, the 7-footer needed little time to get rolling. When Embiid subbed out nearly six and a half minutes into regulation, he had already notched 4 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocked shots.

The stint was a precursor to a high-impact performance.

“In the game, no matter how painful it is, you forget about the pain,” Embiid said Wednesday. “That’s what I try to do, and we got the win.”

The Sixers certainly did, by the final count of 112-106.

Embiid delivered his 16th double-double in 28 appearances, posting 21 points, 11 boards, and 4 dimes in 35 minutes. His approach was to keep things simple.

“I was just trying to play basketball, play within the team concept,” he said. “I did that, we did that. I was just trying to let the game come to within the flow of the game.”

Embiid and the Sixers ultimately persevered for the team’s first victory over San Antonio since February 11th, 2011; third in a row; and fourth in its last five outings overall.

“It’s good, it’s important,” said Embiid. “We’re young, we’re still growing, and we’re getting better. We’re starting to find our groove again. It’s a great sight to see, and I can’t wait to keep on going.

Brown Relishes Reunions

Wednesday’s pairing between the Sixers and San Antonio Spurs marked the ninth time Brett Brown faced his old squad, and old boss.

Brown, in his fifth year with the Sixers, admitted before the game that he enjoys the match-ups, “in a very sadistic way.” It has everything to do with the challenge of going up against Popovich, and the deep respect Brown holds for the man who broke him into the NBA.

“I was fortunate to be with him for 12 years of him,” said Brown, a Spurs assistant in 1998-1999, andn then again from 2002 through 2013. “That program is a machine. He is an NBA coach...1,176 reasons of just the consummate NBA coach.”

Brown’s numerical reference was a nod to the latest milestone achieved by Popovich, a five-time champion head coach. On Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, Popovich moved into sole possession of fifth-place on the NBA’s all-time wins list, with a 100-91 triumph over the New York Knicks.  

While the Spurs are in the midst of transitioning from one generation of talent to the next, they still remain a strong force in the Western Conference.

Popovich has been the constant, for 22 seasons now.

“It just doesn’t miss a beat, him or the program,” Brown said. “As I’ve left it and look now in my rearview mirror, I am blown away at what he does, and they do.”

Former Colleagues Remain Close

Minutes after Brett Brown made the above pre-game remarks about Gregg Popovich, the latter expressed mutual respect for the former during his own news conference.

Since Brown departed San Antonio for Philadelphia, the gist of Popovich’s comments have been similar, and full of admiration, when the subject of Brown is broached.

“Number one overall is the fortitude, and the patience, and positive attitude that he’s exhibited in such a consistent manner in tough circumstances for several years,” Popovich said Wednesday. “I don’t know of a coach I’ve ever run into that could handle that adversity, and stay so positive, and continue to teach, and understand what the players and fans are going through just as much as he is.”

When asked to reflect Wednesday on his professional path, Brown said that in the beginning, as he was jumping at whatever gigs he could get (most of which were overseas), he never set sights specifically on the NBA.

“I was thrilled to coach whoever would listen, and I mean that,” said Brown. “It just sort of evolved.”

In 1998, Popovich and San Antonio personnel chief R.C. Buford gave Brown a chance, on a pro bono basis, to work with the Spurs. Brown returned to Australia after that year’s title run, but eventually rejoined San Antonio full-time in 2002.

Throughout his coaching career, Brown has gone with the flow. The formula has been fruitful.

“I think the best advice I ever got was early, to remind you that the best job you have, is the one you have now. You just try to do your best, and fortunately for me, I was around a bunch of hall of fame coaches, stole a lot, coached for 25 years as a head coach, and now end up privilege talking to you all now.”