Sixers get taught lesson by efficient Spurs

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Sixers get taught lesson by efficient Spurs

BOX SCORE

Sometimes it really is as simple as it looks.

The extra pass, ball movement, check the egos at the door, place the team above individual accolades, etc., etc. That’s the way the San Antonio Spurs do it with coach Gregg Popovich and veterans like Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.

In the Spurs’ 109-85 victory over the Sixers on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay), it was all right there for everyone to see. The Spurs didn’t just run a clinic on Monday night, they did it especially for the 76ers as if to send a message …

This is how it’s done.

“That’s the Spurs and that’s what we aspire to get to,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.

Brown should understand it more than most. After all, his only other gig in the NBA was with the Spurs when he spent 12 years learning from Popovich the way an NBA team is best run. It’s a lesson he’s been trying to pass on to his young team as the Sixers begin the sometime painful lessons in a rebuilding season.

So as the Spurs went on surges to build leads of 18 points in the first quarter and 29 points in the third quarter, Brown could say to his team, “See, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”

“What you saw was the extremes of a team that has been together and move the ball and shared the ball and moved freely versus a team that became static and stagnant and tried to do it individually and really had no rhythm to what we were doing,” Brown said.

“It’s played the right way. Everyone talks about play the right way. What does that mean? To me it means you share the ball. As simple as a concept as that is, it’s really hard at any level because you get egos involved and other factors are involved. Its impact is far reaching to other aspects of the game. That’s the essence of offense -- sharing it.”

Actually, the Sixers weren’t as awful as the final score indicated. They committed just 15 turnovers and four of them were by big man Spencer Hawes. The Sixers also continued to get buckets in the paint, pouring in 52 points from up close. The Sixers blocked nine shots and did a decent job at keeping the Spurs off the offensive glass.

Plus, Evan Turner scored 20 points for the seventh time in eight games while Hawes notched his fifth double-double of the season with 17 points and 13 boards.

There was some good stuff for the Sixers in the loss. Sometimes a team just goes up against a buzzsaw, even with future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan taking the night off.

“They have so many ways to beat you, and the chemistry is unbelievable,” Hawes said. “Even without [Duncan] in there, they have so many weapons.”

In a season that will go down as one big learning experience, Monday’s loss to the Spurs might end up hitting harder than most games. After all, Brown brought along the Spurs’ offense and ethic when he was hired for the Sixers’ job and likely won’t have to explain too much in the postgame film session.

It was all right there in streaks of black and silver racing up and down the court.

“The biggest thing we took from tonight from seeing it first hand was the unselfishness on both ends of the floor,” Hawes said. “They sell out for each other on defense and they get excited when they make the extra pass. Whenever we play the Spurs it seems like they only shoot threes and layups.

“We run the same offense. But look at how they did it and how we did it.”

They also run opposing players ragged. Though the Spurs were playing the second game of a back-to-back, rookie Michael Carter-Williams struggled to keep up with Parker. But it wasn’t like Carter-Williams was too slow or far out of position.

The Spurs just move the ball that fast.

“They throw the extra pass and it’s really hard to cover,” Carter-Williams said after his 2-for-11 shooting night.

And it isn’t just the offense for the Spurs, either. The Sixers shot 41 percent from the floor in the loss, marking the second time this season they failed to shoot at least 47 percent.

But as Brown explained, the Spurs’ offense spreads to all aspects of the game. The Sixers struggled to get out on the break and when stuck in a half-court offense, they didn’t get much ball movement.

“It spills over into many areas and facets of the game where the ball sticks and people don’t get touches. It’s deflating,” Brown said. “Then you go back to the other end and the ball is moving and you have to chase them around and it’s like ping-pong. They make the passes and they find the right people and they can shoot. It’s what we aspire to get to. That’s what we saw.”

The lessons learned in the loss to the Spurs will be put to the test on Wednesday night when the Sixers host the Houston Rockets. After that, the team hits the road for its first extended streak of the season with games in Atlanta, New Orleans and Dallas.

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens (Noel) - Jahlil (Okafor) thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist. 

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers' abundance of big men lends itself to numerous combinations in the frontcourt.

On Thursday, Nerlens Noel had his first experience playing with Ben Simmons. The center gelled with the rookie forward.

"It's a great duo, I think," Noel said following the morning practice session of training camp at Stockton University.

Noel has been paired with many big men during his career with the Sixers. Last season, he faced the challenge of playing out of position at times with Jahlil Okafor. The logjam prompted him to speak out about the current makeup of the roster (see story).

After playing with Simmons, Noel saw how the two can share the court.

"I think we complement each other very well, especially on the defensive end," Noel said. "He's definitely a lockdown type defender that digs in."

Even though Simmons has yet to play an NBA game, Noel already envisions how he can help the Sixers.

"He just plays basketball the right way," Noel said. "When your big man does that, it makes it a lot easier because he is very versatile being a point-forward type. That opens up a lot of things for him to be able to open up for his teammates."