Brown on roster cuts: 'It's never easy'
Brett Brown's Sixers are expected to start the season with just 11 healthy players on their 15-man roster. (AP)
A day after the 76ers pared down their roster to 16 — 12 of them actually suited up for practice — the team jumped back into it for a two-plus hour practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine on Friday afternoon.
With fewer bodies bumping into each other, coach Brett Brown hopes to use the next few days to enliven the workouts before Wednesday’s season opener against the Miami Heat.
Still, there was a need for explanation as to why certain players were let go and others remained. Perhaps the most notable was 6-foot-9, 265-pound forward Royce White, who was the surprise casualty of the Sixers’ cut down. Though he’s free to sign with any team he wishes, the Sixers hope to keep an eye on White.
Who knows, maybe he could turn into a D-League candidate?
“We hope so,” Brown said.
“We want to pay attention to Royce. We want to keep him within our reach,” Brown continued. “When it comes down to a basketball decisions and how you fill in a team and all the components that come with it, from a team perspective, it wasn’t meant to be.
“I think he’s an incredibly gifted player and a good person. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Temple star Khalif Wyatt, Marquette product Vander Blue and Sudanese forward Mac Koshwal were officially waived with White on Friday after being informed of the decision on Thursday. The Sixers have until Monday to get their roster down to 15 players and it appears as if four players will be inactive because of injury when the season begins.
That gives the Sixers 11 players dressed for action come Wednesday and of that group only Spencer Hawes and Daniel Orton are taller than 6-foot-9. Hawes is the oldest at age 25, just two months older than Thad Young. So even though Hawes and Young are going into their seventh NBA seasons, the Sixers are lacking in veterans as much as they are in size.
That’s not all bad, Brown said.
“We have some young players in the program who legitimately have a chance to grow with us,” Brown said. “I think [rookie point guard] Michael Carter-Williams is a lot better than I thought he was going to be. I think our veterans, though they’ve had up-and-down performances, their commitment to what were doing and their leadership are honorable.”
In the meantime, Brown will drill home defensive work with the team. Because of their lack of size, the Sixers have to protect the paint more than most teams. But in doing so, the Sixers become prone to giving up open shots from beyond the three-point arc.
So not only do the Sixers want to run the fastbreak on offense, but they'll also be running in half-court defense.
“Our defense, when you look at Xs and Os, needs to improve,” Brown said. “Defense is where our bread needs to be buttered and everything else needs to come from that. We didn’t see that in our last [exhibition game against the Minnesota Timberwolves], and we need to.”
Defense is where White could have helped, especially with the Sixers’ injury constraints. Guard Jason Richardson will be out for the foreseeable future, but no one is really sure when (or if) big men Arnett Moultrie, Nerlens Noel and Kwame Brown will lace ‘em up.
With four players injured, the Sixers are really in a bind.
“I’m terrified of the realities of our injured list,” Brown said. “How many NBA teams start a season with four guys on the injured list? We have no relief. To carry 11 people and play hard games and still practice hard and reduce injury — that’s a funny mix. I have to be smart with the realities of our roster.”
It won’t be easy, especially considering that the Sixers will face the two-time defending champion Heat in the opener and then the Chicago Bulls in the second game of a back-to-back three days later.
Indeed, the young Sixers’ will begin to feel those growing pains from the get-go.