Brett Brown not pleased by poor defense against the Timberwolves
Thad Young averaged 14.2 points on 50 percent shooting in six preseason games. (USA Today Images)
Flush the season? Sure. Great idea. Everybody’s on board with the Sixers’ plan. You sacrifice the present for the future. You lose now and get a stud or two in a loaded draft next June. Maybe you bring in a free agent, too. And you bank on Nerlens Noel’s recovery from knee surgery and Michael Carter-Williams’ development at point guard.
Presto -- instant contender.
It’s sound thinking. You will get no argument about that here. Doesn’t make it any easier in the here and now, though. Not for those few who might choose to watch, and certainly not for those filling out the ragtag roster.
For those who are, in other words, living in the darkness that precedes that far-off dawn.
On Wednesday the Sixers closed out a 2-5 preseason with a 125-102 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves (see story). The Sixers’ only victory over an NBA team during the silly season came at the expense of Boston, which is also attempting mightily to improve its standing in the Andrew Wiggins Derby. (The Sixers’ other win was over a Spanish team, during an overseas trip.)
They dropped their last four, all by double figures. They lost their only previous home game by 30 last week to Brooklyn, even though Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko didn’t play, and Kevin Garnett barely did. And they were routed Wednesday even though T-Wolves stars Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love sat out the second half.
This is not a tank job on the Sixers’ part. Not in the strictest sense. It is a Commitment to Lousiness. That it will pay dividends down the road might be hard for the participants to keep in mind, as they’re getting pounded nightly.
Take Thaddeus Young, the longest-tenured Sixer. Again and again he talked after Wednesday’s game about the need for patience, while admitting that it “definitely can be very hard” to deal with the challenges of a season like this one.
He is just 25. It’s difficult to remember that sometimes, because it seems like he’s been around for a long while. Also because there’s a seriousness about him, a professionalism all his coaches have admired; first-year boss Brett Brown is the fifth Young has had in his seven seasons.
Just two seasons ago, Young noted the Sixers were one victory away from the Eastern Conference finals. Then came the Andrew Bynum debacle and the Jrue Holiday trade and here the team is, starting all over again.
“It’s hard to deal with at times, because it sounds like the same old song and dance,” Young said, “but ... I just have to be patient, for the simple fact that you’re dealing with a lot of young guys.”
Guys, he said, who are struggling to grasp Brown’s concepts. Brown himself said before Wednesday’s game that he is employing “plain vanilla” schemes to shorten the learning curve.
“We’ve tweaked a lot, but we’ve reduced,” he said. “We’ve really reduced.”
Truthfully, though, there’s only so much the new coach can do with a threadbare roster. Young is the team’s best player, but is better suited to being a complementary piece than a centerpiece. Not here, though. Not now.
“I have to help lead,” he said. “I have to help teach them. I’ve been talking to Coach, each and every day -- basically just going in there (to Brown’s office) and going over a lot of game tape. I’m learning on the fly, and I have to teach on the fly also. ... Sometimes it does get to you a little bit, but with these guys, they listen. They try to retain all the information we’re putting in. They’re very receptive.”
Brown talked about “the pain of rebuilding” when he was hired in August. And that pain, he said Wednesday, is “always more real when it’s real time.”
“The enormity of the challenge,” he added, “is ever-present.”
But he likes his players, and is committed to developing their skills, improving their conditioning and getting them to play “a helluva lot better defense” than they did Wednesday, when the T-Wolves knocked down 15 of their 29 three-point attempts.
Given all that, he said, the season “will go where it goes.”
Young said he has talked to his teammates, telling them, “We can’t lay down for 82 games. It’s a long season. If we lay down for 82 games, it’s going to be an even longer season. Guys are going to get frustrated. Guys are going to get stressed out.”
So they have to stick together. They have to fight their way through the darkness. Because the dawn is a long way off.