Brown: 'I thought our defense was the problem'
Michael Carter-Williams leads the NBA in steals with 3.0 per game this season. (USA Today Images)
The Sixers have just a .286 winning percentage -- third-worst in the NBA 28 games into their 82-game schedule. Looking just at that number could be disheartening for a coach, but Brett Brown continues to look at the big picture and his team's daily strides.
“The schedule is broken up into thirds,” Brown said. “The first third is gone. The second third is now until the All-Star break and what teams do after the All-Star break is really interesting evaluation.
“So here is our middle third. How do we handle it? So we have to come back with a far greater emphasis, mentality as a team defense. We get it. We understand that. That is not who any of us are. It needs to be fixed -- we need that mindset.”
We have written about the Sixers' defensive woes ad nauseam. But there are areas of the Sixers' play that deserve recognition.
“We are the No. 1 team in the NBA in pace,” Brown explained.
Pace is the number of possessions that a team gets per game, and the Sixers average 101.8. Only they and Minnesota (100.3) average more than 100 possessions per game.
“We are the No. 1 team in pace, but problems come with it,” Brown continued, stressing the team’s poor transition defense. “We said we wanted to get in shape. We’ve done that, tick tick. We said we wanted to develop, and we are doing that. We are missing some other areas, but there are some positives that I am proud of.”
Brown is proud that Spencer Hawes is having a career year. He admires the play of Thaddeus Young. He knows Evan Turner has put up some great numbers but needs to find greater consistency. James Anderson is developing a reputation as a legit NBA player, and Tony Wroten -- at 20 years old -- has talent that the Sixers have only begun to tap into.
Then there is Michael Carter-Williams, the league’s Rookie of the Year frontrunner thus far.
“I am really just trying to block that out,” Carter-Williams said. “There are a lot of games left. It would be selfish of me to think about Rookie of the Year when our team is struggling. My main focus is getting us on the right track. My teammates need me, and I need my teammates. We need to get together and get back into a rhythm.”
Carter-Williams is averaging 17.6 points, 7.8 assists, 5.5 rebounds and a league-best 3.0 steals.
There are 10 players averaging at least 12 points, five assists and four rebounds. The company is impressive: Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Lance Stephenson, Eric Bledsoe, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday and Kobe Bryant.
“I think the environment that he is in now -- where he has the freedom to take some shots, to make a turnover, to make a play, to play 34 minutes -- is just priceless,” Brown said. “This city and the program will reap the benefit of that environment next year after he has had those kind of minutes under his belt as a 22-year-old, 180-pound rookie.”
MCW is just getting his feet wet as a professional. Where he takes his game from here is up to him, and as good as his start has been, there is plenty of room for growth.
“I think it is just evolution of getting older and understanding the league,” Brown said. “You can always talk about defense. You can always talk about the evolution of his shot. We can always talk about the commanding knowledge of a point guard position.
“And we can always talk about the education of the league. How do I guard Chris Paul? What’s going on with Kyrie (Irving)? What’s going on with (Rajon) Rondo? You can go all there too, but I feel that it is his body and continuing to hit all those areas that I just mentioned that ultimately will produce a pretty special player.”