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.”