Seltzer's Notebook | Sights Set Forward Amidst Injuries, O'Brien's Addition
Sixers Focused on Moving Forward
The news of the day Wednesday as it pertained to the Sixers was the announcement that Joel Embiid will miss the remainder of the season, based on findings of a recent MRI on the rookie center’s left knee.
Following Wednesday’s setback to the Miami Heat, Brown expressed confidence that his group is equipped - both mentally, and in terms of ability - to forge ahead in the absence of a prospect who, in 31 games, made a considerable impact.
“We’ve been doing this so long,” said Brown in reference to the Sixers adapting when faced with injuries. “It’s not like that we’ve just sort of experienced not sort of having Joel. I think the finality that you hear where he will not be with us for the duration, you think about how you’re going to manage it. I feel like because of the erratic side of our team this year, especially at that position, you just move on. You coach what you’ve got, you keep em together, you keep moving them forward, you keep their spirits up, you keep it positive, you keep it real.”
Jahlil Okafor and Richaun Holmes figure to be the two players most directly affected by Embiid being ruled out for the season’s final six weeks. The duo accounts for the rest of the Sixers’ five-man rotation.
“We got to move forward with the guys we do have,” Okafor said. “We wish [Embiid] the best on his recovery. There are a lot of things that we still need to work on.”
Okafor generated six points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes against the Heat. Holmes, the Sixers’ second-stringer, produced 15 points and six boards, and was also empathetic of Embiid’s situation.
“My heart goes out to him,” said the Bowling Green product. “He’s worked so hard to put himself in a position, ready to play. It’s tough, but at the same time, we’ve got to step up. We still have games to play and win. Winning always matters. The only reason you step on the court is to win.”
Holmes’ double-figure effort Wednesday was his second straight, and 12th overall this season.
Brown Respects Okafor’s Coachability
If there’s one refrain that Brett Brown has returned to repeatedly over the past two years in respect to Jahlil Okafor, it’s that the big man has been coachable.
Brown is appreciative of the trait, and believes it will ultimately serve the 2015 third overall pick well in terms of his development, especially on the defensive end of the floor, which remains a key area of focus.
On film and in practice settings, the Sixers continue to work with Okafor on his defensive rebounding positioning, pick-and-roll defense, and general footwork.
“Jahlil is such a willing participant in trying to be coached,” said Brown. “He lets us coach him.”
At 21-years old, and 95 career appearances under his belt, the head coach feels that Okafor, despite some ups and downs, has displayed growth.
“I think people just sometimes have a hard time understanding really how young he is,” Brown said. He added that, at times, Okafor has shown signs of offensive “brilliance,” pointing to a few first-quarter scoring sequences versus the Heat.
Excuse me. pic.twitter.com/e5mPJgcWA9
— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) March 2, 2017
“He’s been fantastic,” continued Brown. “He wants to be coached, he’s let us coach him, and I think he is getting better.”
O’Brien Valued Addition to Staff
As the Sixers’ season winds down, so too does the first year of Jim O’Brien’s second stint with the franchise. He served as the club’s head coach for the 2004-2005 campaign, guiding the team to a 43-39 record, second-place finish in the Atlantic Division, and playoff berth.
A Roman Catholic product and Saint Joseph’s alum, O’Brien was hired this summer to serve as Brett Brown’s associate head coach, on the heels of Mike D’Antoni vacating the position in order take over the Houston Rockets.
Wednesday in Miami, the subject of O’Brien came up during Brown’s pre-game media availability. Brown praised O’Brien for bringing a “grounding...get-to-the-point quick” presence to the Sixers’ coaching staff.
“We speak freely, it’s real,” said Brown, describing the dynamic O’Brien has brought to the team. “There’s no walking on glass on my staff. His Philadelphia background, the fact that he’s been a head coach in the league, the fact that he is who he is, he says what he wants to say - and I encourage it. He’s very different than anybody else on my staff, and for that reason he’s been a fantastic addition to our staff, and for me.”
As for why O’Brien might have been a topic of discussion Wednesday in Miami, he’s the son-in-law of Jack Ramsay, the late Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer who, at one point, among his many other duties in pro basketball, served as the Heat’s television broadcast analyst. Ramsay was also the general manager of the Sixers’ 1967 championship team, and coached the club from 1968 through 1972.