Team Leadership Looks Ahead With Excitement
The sting of the season’s end was still fresh, and a mid-spring rain was pouring down around the 76ers Training Complex, but there were three of the franchise’s chief stewards, sturdy and steady as an ark while taking a series of questions from reporters.
Of course managing partner Josh Harris, general manager Elton Brand, and head coach Brett Brown were disappointed that the Sixers’ playoff run came to a halt on a cruel, last-second, buzzer-beating shot in Game 7 of the second round.
The outcome however, only seemed to reaffirm their shared, aligned belief that the team’s promising North Star is pointing in the right direction.
“They’re fueled. They’re ready to grow and their commitment to a championship is even greater right now.” pic.twitter.com/02eRzehpei
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) May 14, 2019
With a stacked, gritty roster, the Sixers were that close - four bounces close - to perhaps surviving their Eastern Conference Semifinals pairing with the Toronto Raptors. And while nothing is guaranteed, who knows what would have happened had the dramatic finale gone to overtime?
There were several other ‘what if’ scenarios Sunday that had they gone a different way, the result might have, too. That wasn’t the case, though, and now the latest important offseason is here.
The Sixers’ brain trust realizes just how critical the next few months are to continuing the club’s upward trajectory. It’s a challenge the contingent is eager to embrace.
“This season we had significant successes,” Harris said Tuesday at a press conference. “We need to build championship DNA across all areas of our organization. We will commit the resources to make that happen. I know the future is bright, and the best is yet to come.”
The reason for Harris’ optimism is understandable. The starting lineup that the Sixers finished the regular season with posted a 17.6 net rating, the best of any five-man unit in the NBA that logged 100 minutes together following the trade deadline.
With more reps under their belt and on a bigger stage, the quintet of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid performed even better, statistically speaking. Their net rating jumped to 24.9 in the postseason. Again, it was the league’s top mark.
Valuable role players were added along the way, and down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs, the Sixers showed they could compete with anybody.
“I loved coaching this team,” said Brown. “They played hard, and amazingly they played together, in our third iteration of the Philadelphia 76ers.
“That is something we’re proud of. You don’t just click your heels and build chemistry.”
But if we’re being fair about it, that’s kind of what the Sixers did. It’s a testament to the work done and sacrifices made behind the scenes by players and coaches alike.
“I loved coaching this team. They played hard, and amazingly, they played together.”
Coach Brown shares the pride he has for his team. pic.twitter.com/lMZCyTQZUI
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) May 14, 2019
No one can deny that amidst the pain, the Sixers walked off Scotiabank Arena’s floor last weekend a team, in the truest sense. Players were united and had each others’ backs, while Brown and his assistants found ways to make the Sixers’ many skilled pieces fit.
“If you can live by a principle, if you can help others, invariably you’re probably going to help yourself,” Brown said Tuesday during his own end-of-season media availability. “Anybody who has come in here, our motive, my objective, is how do I make them to be the best they can be?”
Brown has done a pretty darn good job of delivering on that pledge. And really, on a holistic level, what it all points back to is the culture the 58-year old has had a considerable hand in creating and cultivating over the past six years.
During this time, the Sixers have proven they can absorb talent - whether it’s blue chip prospects in the draft, diamonds in the rough, bonafide All-Stars, or veteran role players. It’s not a coincidence that when players come through here, they tend to speak so highly of the experience.
“People are treated well,” said Brown. “Forget my words, listen to the players.
“For us to be able to retain, recruit, grow, empower, watch this program unfold, are you serious? This is incredibly exciting.”
So while the Sixers were definitely hurting that they came up short in this year’s pursuit for a title, by no means was the organization's collective ambition dimmed. The potential deflating effect of Sunday’s Game 7 loss is instead being viewed as a source of inspiration and motivation that could ultimately propel the team closer to its goal.
“I’m excited,” said Brand. “We have a great group, dynamic core.
“We literally were in it until the last shot - to [possibly] go into overtime or to win to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. I’m disappointed we didn’t get there, but I’m highly, highly optimistic, I’m proud of what we’ve done, and I look forward to this offseason. I know we’re going to grow and get better.”