Sixers benefitting from Brown's focus on fitness

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Sixers benefitting from Brown's focus on fitness

The ongoing theme with the Sixers when asked about their Maine-born coach with the thickest of New England accents is that Brett Brown speaks nonstop about “career-best fitness.”

While that phrase might have been annoying at first to Brown’s players, that is no longer the case. The Sixers are clearly reaping the benefits of the head coach’s hard stance on being in shape.

“First we had to do a conditioning test and then we had to drop weight,” said Evan Turner, who is down nine pounds and 2½ percent body fat. “He told us what weight he wanted us to be at. He was kind of nice about it, but he wasn’t if you didn’t hit that weight number. That was key.”

Turner admitted that his clothes now fit better and it is easier to compete in back-to-back games.

For a guy like Tony Wroten, who is in just his second NBA season, Brown’s approach is what the guard grew accustomed to in college at Washington.

“In college, you run around and do a lot of conditioning,” Wroten said. “When I first got here, not only did the coach e-mail me about it but also the strength and conditioning coaches, what summer was going to be like and this is what we are going to do.

“I knew they were serious. At the time, I was like what is this? This is like college, but Coach always says it is going to pay off in the long run and it has. We can run at the end of games. We are still pacing, so working on it in the summer helped a lot.”

Wroten isn’t just drawing on his own experiences out on the court. He has also witnessed the impact of the Sixers’ focus on fitness in his teammates.

“In film the other day, in the fourth quarter you see Mike [Carter-Williams] picking up full court,” said Wroten, who missed Saturday’s game with back spasms. “In the NBA, no one plays full court at all, but for him to be able to do that in the fourth when we only had seven, eight people and he had played a lot of minutes [was key]. It showed the little things.

“Sometimes teams will say to us, ‘Are you guys ever going to stop running?’ And they are serious, but at the end of the day we are going to keep running, keep running and keep running.”

Against the Pacers on Saturday night with Wroten, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young all out of action, Carter-Williams played 38 minutes, the rookie point guard’s career high for a regulation game. MCW’s full-court ball pressure went a long way in getting him seven steals to go with his career-high 29 points.

The Sixers’ ability to keep their foot on the gas is reflected in their pacer (102.4 possessions per game) and their fast-break points (18.3 points per game).

Brown stresses that what the Sixers are doing with fitness is not groundbreaking. He says the NBA’s 29 other teams implement the same mentality but maybe not as strongly.

“It is all about recovery,” Brown said. “Playing 82 games, back-to-back games, how do you back it up? What do you do on a plane if you are flying? It is the people who take care of their bodies and are prideful with their diet, nutrition and hydration and massages and ice down.

“All the programs do it, so it isn’t like we found something tricky. We just want to be responsible with it and proactive with it.”

“He just puts a little more emphasis on it,” Hawes said. “Especially the little stuff like getting in your massages, getting off your feet when you have an opportunity to, nutrition, career-best fitness. It is big for him and I think guys have responded to it.”

Report: Point guard Ish Smith agrees to 3-year deal with Pistons

Report: Point guard Ish Smith agrees to 3-year deal with Pistons

It seemed like Ish Smith had more value to the Sixers than to another team, but the Detroit Pistons thought otherwise, reaching a three-year deal with the free-agent point guard early Friday morning, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Smith, 28, will be Reggie Jackson's backup with the Pistons.

Smith averaged 14.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists in 50 games for the Sixers last season. He shot 41 percent from the field, 34 percent from three and 67 percent from the line.

The Pistons will be the 10th NBA team in seven seasons for the well-traveled Smith.

The Sixers have an obvious need for guards. They exercised their option to keep shooting guard Hollis Thompson, but lost Smith and chose not to extend an offer to Isaiah Cannan, who became an unrestricted free agent.

Sixers lose several guard options during first wave of NBA free agency

Sixers lose several guard options during first wave of NBA free agency

It didn’t take long for talks of big money to swirl around the start of NBA free agency, which began at 12:01 a.m. Friday morning. Within the first hour, multi-year deals — some max — were being reported.

Several of them affected the Sixers.

• Linsanity isn't coming to Philly. Point guard Jeremy Lin tweeted that he's joining the Nets on what the Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski reports is a three-year, $36 million deal. 

• Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson agreed to return on a four-year, $50 million contract, Wojnarowski reports. Clarkson was a restricted free agent who would have made sense for the Sixers to pursue.

DeMar DeRozan will remain with the Raptors on a five-year, $139 million deal, the Vertical reports. DeRozan was viewed as the top free-agent guard.

Elsewhere, the high salaries were not a surprise. The jump was going to happen with the increase in the salary cap. The recipients in some cases, however, were less expected. Here is a look at three other situations that emerged early in free agency. Deals cannot be finalized until the moratorium period ends July 7.

Bradley Beal nearing max to remain with Wizards (according to Woj)

Terms: 5 years, $128 million, no options

Beal is one of the best shooting guards available in free agency (restricted). He is a player who could have made a major impact on a new team (think, in the Sixers’ backcourt), but it looks like he will remain in Washington to give the Wizards a one-two punch with John Wall. Beal averaged 17.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists last season. He shot 44.9 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from three. Beal turned just 23 years old on June 28.

How this impacts the Sixers next season: Even though the Sixers need help at the two-spot, they are rebuilding and not necessarily in the max deal game this summer. Beal's return should help get the Wizards back on track to the playoffs as they can build around their young guards.

Like the Noah move with the Knicks, this doesn't have a major effect on the Sixers next season, but could in the standings for future years as the Sixers work to become a playoff team.

Timofey Mozgov agrees with Lakers (per Woj)

Terms: 4 years, $64 million

This was the biggest “say what?” news of the night. Mozgov appeared in only 13 games and totaled 76 minutes in the Cavaliers’ entire championship run. He averaged 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds in 5.8 minutes during the playoffs. So let’s go back a season, when his value seemed to be more aligned with what he will be earning. During the 2015-16 postseason, Mozgov posted 10.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 26.5 minutes over 20 games, all as a starter, for the Cavs.

The Lakers need a big man (Roy Hibbert and Robert Sacre are unrestricted free agents), and at 7-foot-1, 275 pounds, Mozgov fits the bill — one that will cost them a hefty sum each season.

How this impacts the Sixers next season: The Sixers still are waiting on that draft pick from the Lakers, which is top-three protected again in 2017. Each roster move for the Lakers could play a role in where they stand in the lottery next season.

Joakim Noah to leave Bulls for Knicks (according to Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post)

Terms: 4 years, $72 million

Noah has played his entire nine-year career on the Bulls. That chapter will be closing, but this new one will bring familiarity. Noah will be playing in the city where he was born and with former teammate Derrick Rose, who the Knicks traded for recently. The length of this deal raised some eyebrows because Noah is 31 years old and has battled injuries throughout his career. Last season, he appeared in just 29 games (two starts) and underwent shoulder surgery in January. Noah averaged 4.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 21.9 minutes before the season-ending operation. 

How this impacts the Sixers next season: The Knicks have fallen out of playoff contention. They will look to improve in the East with a tandem of Noah, Rose, Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. This signing doesn’t have an immediate impact on the Sixers until they begin fighting for postseason seedings.

Other moves to trickle out early Friday morning:

Hassan Whiteside will return to the Heat, he announced via The Players' Tribune

• The Pistons and Andre Drummond are nearing a five-year, $130 million max contract, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.

• The Hornets are poised to keep forward Nicolas Batum on a five-year, $120 million deal, according to Woj

NBA Notes: Serge Ibaka happy after surprise trade to Magic

NBA Notes: Serge Ibaka happy after surprise trade to Magic

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A week ago after waking up in Paris to flurry of congratulatory text messages, Serge Ibaka wasn't quite sure how to feel about the NBA draft night trade that landed him in Orlando.

But one text message in particular helped him feel better about his transition from the Oklahoma City Thunder -- a team contending for an NBA championship -- to a young team trying to figure out how to make the postseason.

"One of things that made me feel good at that moment was dad texted me," Ibaka said Thursday a news conference. "Before I could get excited and happy, my dad was happy. He congratulated me and said he was real happy for me. That's what changed everything at the moment.

"This is a business, and things happen for a reason. So I'm happy to be here and for my family and for my daughter" (see full story).

Mavericks: Center Mejri has knee surgery
DALLAS -- Mavericks center Salah Mejri has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, a procedure that isn't expected to sideline the 7-foot-2 Tunisian during the season.

Mejri, who had surgery Thursday, emerged as an energetic shot-blocker and rebounder in the second half of his rookie season in Dallas. He turned 30 in June.

While the Mavericks plan to pursue a starting center in free agency, they like the youth and promise in Mejri and the 6-11 Dwight Powell, who turns 25 in July. Powell is all Dallas has left to show for the ill-fated Rajon Rondo trade with Boston in December 2014.

Mejri averaged 3.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 34 games with six starts last season.

Clippers: Frank promoted to front office
LOS ANGELES -- The Clippers have promoted Lawrence Frank to executive vice president of basketball operations under Doc Rivers.

Frank has spent the last two seasons as an assistant under Rivers, who coaches the team and serves as president of basketball operations.

In his new job, Frank will oversee the basketball operations department and report to Rivers.

Frank coached the New Jersey Nets from 2003-10 and the Detroit Pistons from 2011-13. He was an assistant in Vancouver, New Jersey, Boston and Brooklyn before joining the Clippers.

Bucks: GM Hammond gets contract extension
A person with knowledge of the situation tells The Associated Press that the Milwaukee Bucks have extended the contract of general manager John Hammond through the 2017-18 season.

It's an extra year on Hammond's contract and the plan is for him to continue to serve as a consultant after that while assistant GM Justin Zanik takes over the main front office duties. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Bucks have not announced the move.

Zanik was hired away from the Utah Jazz in June to be groomed as Hammond's successor.

Hammond has been the Bucks GM since 2008 and was the NBA's Executive of the Year in 2009-10. He has helped bring in promising youngsters including Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker.

Yahoo Sports first reported the extension.