Philadelphia 76ers

Iowa State's Naz Long makes himself heard at Sixers' morning workout

Iowa State's Naz Long makes himself heard at Sixers' morning workout

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Anybody in the Sixers’ facility during Saturday morning’s early session could hear Naz Long. It was just three-on-three in a pre-draft workout, but Long was in command — not necessarily with his play, but with his voice.

“I’m a leader on and off the court,” Long said.

Apparently so. Paired with Vanderbilt center Luke Kornet and a Sixers assistant after two prospects went out with injuries, Long was vocal on the court. “Good shot big fella,” he shouted in encouragement when Kornet drained a three from the top of the key and then faked a defender into a fly-by for an easy layup the next possession. 

Long’s trip to Camden was his 11th such pre-draft workout with an NBA team. He hopes to have 14 in total before next Thursday’s fateful day. Still, the fifth-year senior out of Iowa State took time last week — when he’s trying to make his case to find a home in the world’s best basketball league — to host a youth camp in Ames. That’s just the leader he is.

The competitive spirit is a plus, but it’ll take more than that for Long to get drafted. He’s not on DraftExpress’ list of the top 100 prospects. He’ll be 24 in August and missed the 2015-2016 season with a hip injury. Long, who during his time at Iowa State went by Naz Mitrou-Long, the last names of each of his parents, hasn’t been a star. The Cyclones had other guys to fill that role. This year, it was Monte Morris. Georges Niang carried the load before him. But Long can shoot it. He’s been a vital three-and-D guy, with a lot of emphasis on the three. 

“I’m not overly athletic or freakishly long or anything like that," Long, listed at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, said, "so I have to do the little things.”

With someone like Ben Simmons (or Markelle Fultz) running the one, Long said he could see himself playing a role similar to that of Patrick Beverley on the Rockets. Beverley, also undersized, moves to the two when James Harden operates at the point.

Long hit 98 threes on 38.4 percent shooting from deep as a senior. Six of them came in a massive win at Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse, snapping a 51-game home win streak for the Jayhawks. But perhaps this fun fact stands out: Long’s career high came against Drake with 37 points and eight threes at Wells Fargo Arena. If he can shoot like that in venues named for Wells Fargo, he’s surely welcome in Philadelphia any time. 

All jokes aside, he stroked his jumper nicely during shooting drills Friday. He alternated with SMU’s Sterling Brown and fared better than his fellow two-guard. Long got the sense that he could do the same should he get a shot with the team this summer. 

“We just got done talking to coach, and (I would) just reiterate his principles — defense, space and pace,” Long said. “I think I’m the perfect player for that. I play defense. I knock down threes and I can space the floor when needed or I can create for others. 

“I’m a tough-nosed guard.”

How Brett Brown got Sixers through 'The Process'

How Brett Brown got Sixers through 'The Process'

Nineteen wins. Eighteen wins. Ten wins.

As the 47-199 record mounted over his first three seasons as head coach, the same question arose loss after loss: How does Brett Brown keep the Sixers together?

Those who played for Brown during this time could have given generic answers. They simply could have been happy for the chance to play in the NBA and commented on his optimistic demeanor.

When Henry Sims told the story about Brown dancing, though, it was clear there was more to their experiences with the coach than just going through the motions of losing basketball. Other players were quick to offer their enthusiastic responses, whether they had been on the Sixers for multiple years or 10-day contracts. 

Brown has the opportunity to coach a team on the rise next season. The Sixers are coming off a 28-win season. They have young talent, at least one future All-Star, a pair of No. 1 picks nearing their NBA debuts and a highly-coveted veteran free-agent signing. The playoffs even are in reach. 

To get a better sense of how Brown got his team to this point after the early years of “The Process,” the players explained it themselves. 

Henry Sims
Two years have passed since Sims played for the Sixers, yet one specific afternoon stands out vividly. Sims played 99 games for Brown during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. 

“We had went on a road trip and lost like four straight. They were pretty bad losses. We got home and Brett Brown came in the gym dancing with the assistants. They had some song. It lifted guys’ spirits — life isn’t so hard playing basketball. 

“I give a lot of credit to Brett Brown because he kept everybody positive and in a good attitude. I know it was tough for him to walk in that locker room every day. As a coach, you want to win. He kept us going, he kept us working hard. If you were watching our practices, you would have thought we were one of the top teams in the NBA because of how hard we were playing in practice.”

JaKarr Sampson
Brown had a fondness for Sampson, exhibited when Brown said “I miss JaKarr” a day after Sampson had been waived. Brown admired Sampson’s spirited attitude, and the sentiment was mutual. Sampson suited up for 121 Sixers games over the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. 

“The energy he brings is natural. He’s very good with the young guys and keeping us energized and motivated when things aren’t looking good, he’s always there motivating us. He really cares about his players, that’s what makes him a good coach. Even now, he texts me sometimes now and then. He cares, that’s the key with him. 

“[He organized] a lot of team stuff, team dinners, we had a Christmas gift swap. He was really good at keeping us together and keeping us liking each other during that time. We never turned on each other. He kept the locker room a good atmosphere. Things are looking bright for him right now.”

Larry Drew II
Before Drew was on the Sixers' summer league roster this year, he was with the team for a pair of 10-day contracts during the 2014-15 season (he played in 12 games). While Brown made an impact on the court, Drew remembers very unique conversations away from the game. 

“A lot of people don’t know, I don’t watch too much television and when I do, I watch a lot of National Geographic, the History Channel, Discovery Channel. One of the first non-basketball conversations I had with Coach Brown was actually about the universe and the stars and the galaxy. That was one of the things that stood out to me. I’m a huge geek when it comes to stuff like that, and just the fact we were able to have an open dialogue about theoretical physics and what not, it was cool. He has a very open mind and he’s very easy to speak to.

“His spirits were never down. Even after losses, he never made it feel like we were doing anything wrong, per se, but that we were headed in the right direction and that it was a couple of little things we needed to tweak. I think that’s huge for a coach to be able to speak to his team in a way to make them feel that it’s going to be OK at the end of the day.”

Hollis Thompson 
Thompson was one of the longest-tenured players under Brown (September 2013 to January 2017). The two shared an interest for deep conversations about education and world events. Thompson played 256 games for Brown.

“He’s got a great attitude, a positive spirit. Even when you’re going through a tough year and losing a lot of games, he finds a way to get everybody going, get everybody excited to play. Even in the midst of a tough game, a tough losing streak, he finds a way to make you laugh or finds the positive in it. … You could see him for who he is as a man [talking about shared interests]. He’s a great coach, but he’s a great human being. I love that dude and I wish him the best.”

Kendall Marshall
Marshall’s stop in Philadelphia was filled with injuries and a crowded point guard position that kept him off the court. He played 30 games during the 2015-16 season. Nonetheless, Marshall barely had finished hearing the question about Brown when he jumped to answer with a strong tone of emotion. 

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Brown as a coach, from what I’ve seen as a father, as a competitor. His ability to come to that practice floor and game arena every single day with the intensity, passion, willingness to teach in those circumstances winning 10, 15, 20 games every single year, that’s one of the most impressive things that I’ve seen in the pro level. … He was always in a great mood, unless we were messing up (laughs). He’s always joking, that Boston accent is always strong.”

Chris Johnson
Johnson played for Brown during training camp and saw how he prepared the team for the regular season, even though the odds of winning were against it. His time with the Sixers spanned nine games over less than two months in the fall of 2014. 

“He brought a positive attitude to practice. He kept everybody’s spirits together. We kind of knew what was going on, but Brett was a great coach, he was a smart coach, and he had the best interest for his team and the players. In preseason, two-a-days, guys were tired, but one thing I always remembered was he always came in and tried to keep everybody’s spirits together, let everybody know it’s part of the grind and it makes you better.”

Joel Embiid, T.J. McConnell win NBPA Players Voice Awards

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Joel Embiid, T.J. McConnell win NBPA Players Voice Awards

Joel Embiid was a big winner in the 2017 NBPA Players Voice Awards.

He earned honors for Comeback Player of the Year and, in what seemed like a lock all season, Best Social Media Follow.

Embiid made a huge impact in only 31 games after missing his first two seasons because of foot injuries. He averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks, all while being capped on a minutes restrictions and held out of back-to-back games. Embiid was on pace to win Rookie of the Year before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He underwent surgery in March. 

His influence was just as big on social media. Embiid became a Twitter star before he even played an NBA game. Now with over 857,000 followers, he has kept fans entertained with everything from his admiration of Rihanna, an All-Star campaign to get a date, and his recent beef with LaVar Ball. Embiid frequently posts videos engaging with fans (who usually are chanting "Trust the Process") and puts a creative spin on his Instagram locations.

Embiid wasn't the only Sixer to win an award. T.J. McConnell earned the well respected "Best Teammate" award, presented to one player from each NBA team. McConnell’s hard-nosed approach and relentless hustle earned him the starting point guard role in late December. The underdog has fought to establish his place in the league for the last two seasons and has made an impression on the Sixers' staff, fan base and his peers while doing so.  

NBA players voted on these awards at the end of the regular season. The winners were announced on the NBPA's Twitter Friday morning.