Brown sees good starting point for Sixers

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Brown sees good starting point for Sixers

The Sixers left Spain on Sunday with a two-point victory over Bilbao Basket and headed to Manchester, England for a second preseason game.

Critics will say a two-point win over a team that is not the equivalent of NBA talent is hardly impressive. However, Brett Brown saw the victory as a good starting point for his young group.

“We aren’t beating our chest because we have all this talent. We don’t,” Brown said via the Sixers’ web site. “We have good players who are trying to get better. We have some good veteran players, but we understand the monumental task we have of competing in the NBA. We need that kind of team chemistry to extract whatever we can from this year’s group.”

The task gets tougher for the Sixers on Tuesday when they take on Oklahoma City, one of six NBA teams participating in this year’s NBA Global Games.

One area of concern Brown sees heading into a matchup against the Western Conference power is on the backboard.

“Rebounding,” Brown said when asked what he would like the Sixers to improve on from Sunday. “Some of that is born out of us being so small and our big guys aren’t really that physical. Our guards are going to have to board. It is going to have to be a gang effort, a gang mentality.

“It is the physical design of our team, but that’s life and we just really have to understand how this team was built and what we need to do to fix it.”

The Sixers were outrebounded by Bilbao, 45-39. The team’s leading rebounder was guard James Anderson, who hauled in seven boards, including six at the defensive end.

Brown was impressed with Anderson’s consistent play on both ends of the floor (see story).

“James Anderson was really good,” Brown said. “I had James in San Antonio, so I knew what we were getting. But he is coming along, getting older. His time is now to claim his stake in the NBA. I liked his six defensive rebounds. He was 6 of 8 from the floor. I thought he played a solid all-around game.”

Evan Turner led the Sixers with 25 points. Turner knows it is a rebuilding year for the franchise, but he liked what his teammates brought to the table against their Spanish foe.

“Bring the same energy,” Turner said. “We made some mistakes in Spain but we competed. It is OK to make mistakes but it is not OK not to play hard all the time. So hopefully we do that and keep executing and carrying over stuff we learned today in practice.”

Turner is hoping the crowd in England will be as enthusiastic as the fans in Bilbao. Sunday’s crowd made sure the atmosphere was energetic and Brown knew it would be that way. Before the game, the coach shared with his players just how much Spain enjoys basketball and how the game has become a viable product worldwide.

“Commissioner (David) Stern and the NBA are very smart about how they built this brand over the years,” Brown said. “Having coached overseas for 17 years and travelled all over the world because of those experiences, I have had a chance to see the NBA logo and what it means to fans. It is a very powerful logo, so this process has been going on for many, many years.”

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers have been challenged by playing without Joel Embiid in one of two games in a back-to-back series all season. Now they will have to do it in at least the next two straight games. 

“We’re going to be without him tomorrow (against the Clippers) and in Milwaukee and we’ll go from there,” Brett Brown said after practice Monday. 

Embiid, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, suffered a left knee contusion in Friday’s win over the Trail Blazers. He did not travel with the team to Atlanta on Saturday for the back-to-back series. 

Brown called the decision “precautionary.” Embiid did not practice on Monday but took some light shots after. He was pre-scheduled to sit out on Wednesday against the Bucks in accordance with his limitations for consecutive games. Embiid is reportedly expected to return Friday against the Rockets.

The standout rookie leaves a glaring hole on the court when he misses games. The Sixers are 2-10 when he does not play. For all the ways Embiid dominates at the basket (22.4 points over the last 10 games), there is an obvious difference on the defensive end without him. 

“It’s still about our defense, it’s still about running, it’s still about sharing the ball,” Brown said. “I think you go with Jahlil (Okafor) and Nerlens (Noel) and challenge them in relation to rim protection and what Joel provides us. The group around them also has got to perform at a higher level when you don’t have Joel. I think that second group that we have been playing, led by Nerlens really can take on a far greater defensive identity than it has recently, and Nerlens will be the captain of that.”

This is a time when the Sixers’ logjam at the five-spot actually helps them. Brown still has three true centers to turn to, in addition to power forwards Ersan Ilyasova and Dario Saric, whom he could slide into the position if they go small. Brown sees a silver lining for his bigs in the uphill battle of playing without Embiid. 

“It definitely hurts the team, how can we spin it any other way?” Brown said. “But like anything, you’re going to now look at Nerlens and Jahlil. This is fantastic for those two. It could prove, based on some things, Richaun (Holmes) sees daylight a little bit. 

“There aren’t many teams, I would suspect, that have the ability to roll out three young guys when somebody like Joel goes down and look forward to watching them develop more, look forward to giving them the opportunity to play NBA minutes.”

Okafor has been receiving the start when Embiid is out. (He has been out of the rotation when Embiid does play.) Okafor, though, is dealing with right knee soreness he experienced on Saturday. The Sixers kept an eye on him Monday and held him out of 5-on-5 drills in practice. Okafor said the team was being cautious, and he wanted to rest his knee given the number of games coming up. He is listed as probable against the Clippers.

“It was bothering me a little bit in the warmup lines, I started to feel it. When I got going it started feeling really good, then when I sat out for an extended period it got kind of (got) sore on me again,” Okafor explained. “Today they were trying to make sure I could get back to being a hundred percent because they knew that my knee was bothering me. They haven’t really told me what the plan was for tomorrow. Today was really focused on getting me back to being healthy.”

The Clippers are shorthanded as well. Blake Griffin has been sidelined since Dec. 18 because of a right knee procedure and Chris Paul had surgery to repair a ligament tear in his left thumb. Griffin could make his return against the Sixers.

Embiid's honor
Embiid's Player of the Week honor is rare for a rookie. He's only the third Sixers rookie ever to win it, joining Allen Iverson and Michael Carter-Williams.

The last Sixer before Embiid to be named Eastern Conference Player of the Week was Thaddeus Young in January 2014. 

The Sixers won all three games Embiid played last week. He averaged 22.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.

Joel Embiid (left knee) to miss Sixers' next two games

Joel Embiid (left knee) to miss Sixers' next two games

Update: 4 p.m.

Joel Embiid did not practice on Monday and is listed as doubtful for the Sixers' game Tuesday against the Clippers.

Embiid hyperextended his left knee in the Sixers' 93-92 win over the Blazers Friday. He said after the game that the knee was fine, but the Sixers are clearly exercising caution with their young star center.

"I knew it was OK. I just landed the wrong way," Embiid said Friday. "I'm great. The knee's fine. They did an MRI and stuff, everything looked good."

The Sixers are calling it a left knee contusion. Embiid will also rest on Wednesday against the Bucks. He is expected to return Friday against the Rockets, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Sixers are 13-17 when Embiid plays and 2-10 without him. Brett Brown is looking forward to seeing how the defense responds without its centerpiece Tuesday and Wednesday (see story).

Jahlil Okafor (right knee soreness) was limited at Monday's practice but is probable to play the Clippers.

Okafor had 12 points, four rebounds and three blocks in 30 minutes in Saturday's 110-93 loss at Atlanta.

CSN Philly's Jessica Camerato contributed to this report.