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.”

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent — hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in — he’ll try to put me in — to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel is the only one among the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.