Philadelphia 76ers

Brett Brown a coach at heart … even during break

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Brett Brown a coach at heart … even during break

After the Sixers’ 105-100 loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, head coach Brett Brown recommended to his players to completely get away from basketball during the all-star break.

The funny thing is the coach won’t be taking his own advice.

Brown flew from Salt Lake City to San Antonio to spend the weekend with his family, who still makes Texas its home after the coach spent years as an assistant with the Spurs.

Upon arrival in the Lone Star State on Thursday, Brown had about four hours to get ready for basketball practice. Yes, practice at the Spurs practice facility with a group of children under 10 years old.

“The Spurs are just fantastic to me,” Brown said prior to leaving Utah. “I will come in and use their facility and I will coach those kids like I did for five or six years. I miss it.”

The team of children -- the Boomers -- will welcome Brown back with open arms, just as they always did when he would return from a Spurs road trip that forced his absence.

“The team is called the Boomers after the Australian Olympic team,” Brown said proudly. “My assistant coach named them and got fantastic uniforms, and I would run the practices and set up the structure. When I was out of town he would run the whole thing and it has been going on for six years now. I love doing that.”

When asked if he was the head coach, Brown’s mouth immediately formed a smile before he thoughtfully answered.

“I was the director and did about everything,” he said.

Brown has not always coached this particular group, but he has always coached Sam Brown. That’s Brett Brown’s 9-year old son, who is a crafty left-handed point guard.

“He hasn’t met a shot that he doesn’t like, which is a good thing,” Brown joked about his son. “He thinks Steph Curry and Kyrie (Irving) can dribble.”

Brown grew up the son of a coach with Bob Brown being a long-time high school coach in Portland, Maine, as well as being a coach at various college levels.

No matter where the stop on the map, Bob Brown was always a New Englander and that shaped Brett’s Brown’s basketball knowledge.

Brett Brown’s experience with his father was vastly different than what his son has come to know in his nine years. Being an assistant coach in San Antonio for his son’s entire life until this season has enabled Brett Brown to have Sam Brown around NBA players on a daily basis, including all-star weekend.

Brown was a Spurs assistant coach when the staff twice coached the West all-stars in 2005 and 2011. During that second time around, Brett Brown shared the weekend with his son.

“To be able to share the NBA game with my son Sam is just one of the true privileges,” Brown explained. “I can’t express how grateful I am. His version of my Portland, Maine point guard Terry Kenniston for him is Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving and Michael Carter-Williams. To be able to share that experience with your own son is a true privilege.”

Brown’s analogy is classic. As a young point guard he admired the play of Kenniston, who was named to the high school second-team All-Mainers in 1972. Seven years later, Brown himself was named first-team All-Mainers.

Brown won’t just be coaching up his son and other kids during the break. He also planned to spend quality time with his wife and two daughters during the long weekend.

It’s the perfect getaway from the Sixers’ tough 15-39 season.

“It is going to be one of those great weekends with my family,” Brown said.

Give and Go: Who will be the Sixers' sixth man?

Give and Go: Who will be the Sixers' sixth man?

With training camp starting next week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato and producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we discuss who should be the Sixers' sixth man going into the 2017-18 season.

Camerato
This role has become a hot topic since the Sixers finally have the pieces to put together a consistent starting five and establish a go-to sixth man. This summer I wrote an article on the starting lineup in which I projected Robert Covington to start and Dario Saric to come off the bench as the sixth man. The Sixers need Covington’s defensive presence at small forward and Ben Simmons likely will start at power forward while running the floor. Not every reader agreed in the comments section and the Saric-as-a-starter sentiment was echoed on social media. 

I still see Saric as the best fit for sixth man. This role is often filled by a starting-caliber player. Saric had 36 starts as a rookie, including all 25 games in which he played after the All-Star Break. Brett Brown wants the Sixers’ sixth man to be on the court to end games. Saric averaged more minutes (7.1) in the fourth than any other quarter last season. 

The key would be getting Saric to buy in to being the sixth man. Saric worked his entire career to be the best player he could be. He is his own toughest critic and became visibly disappointed when he had letdowns last season. There is a shift in mindset going from a starter to the first player off the bench. Saric can thrive in this role, but first he has to embrace it and not looking at it as a demotion. The sixth man can be just as valuable, if not more, than a starter. 

Haughton
With a widely projected starting lineup of Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, JJ Redick, Markelle Fultz and Simmons, the Sixers’ sixth man would appear to be a lock as Dario Saric. After all, Saric is a strong all-around player and coming off an impressive rookie season.

However, that starting five may force Brett Brown to go in a different direction with his first man off the bench.

Sure, Brown’s opening group may have a lot of firepower, but it lacks a necessity of legitimate NBA teams: a proven floor general. With Fultz and Simmons in the backcourt, the Sixers have two players that have yet to take part in an NBA regular-season game. They also will be trying to adjust to playing off the ball (Fultz) and running the team as a full-time point guard (Simmons).

That’s why I believe Brown may opt to go with Jerryd Bayless as his first reserve to combat the expected growing pains of his rookie backcourt. Bayless didn’t exactly wow Sixers fans by playing in just three contests a season ago because of torn ligaments in his wrist, but the veteran still has 513 career games under his belt (29 in the postseason) and knows how to play both guard positions.

It may not be the preferred pick, but Bayless may be the necessary choice as sixth man if the Sixers hope to achieve their goals in the upcoming campaign.

Hudrick
I know it doesn't please some Sixers fans that Saric seems destined to come off the bench, but really, it's a great sign.

Saric has proven to be a good NBA player after a strong rookie campaign, but think about it. This roster suddenly has talent. People are getting giddy and talking playoffs. Do you know what playoff teams have? Good players coming off the bench. It's not a knock on Saric as much as it's a testament to how talented this roster has become.

I will say that Matt's idea of using Bayless as the team's sixth man is interesting. Brown puts such a heavy emphasis on the point guard position. He's referred to it as the hardest position to play in the NBA. And now he's turning the keys over to a 6-foot-10 player that's never truly played the position. 

In the end, I'm going Saric. He should come in and dominate most team's second units offensively. Plus his grit and energy are perfect for the role. The Sixers just have to hope he embraces it.

Sixers Mailbag: Playoffs, winning records and restrictions

Sixers Mailbag: Playoffs, winning records and restrictions

Guess what time it is … just over a week until the start of training camp. Playoffs, winning records and restrictions are on the minds of a lot of Sixers fans. Thanks to everyone who submitted their questions with #CSNSixersMailbag. 

My prediction for this season is 43 wins. That being said, the win total has so much to do with health and restrictions.

The Sixers finished 28-54 last season. Reaching 43 wins would be a significant jump. I heavily considered their 10-5 month of January for this projection. That was the small window last season when the Sixers (finally) had a healthy group to work with and Brett Brown could coach a team, not just a revolving door of players. Based on the potential they showed during that month, a 15-win improvement is not out of the question.

I did factor in the fact the Sixers have 14 sets of back-to-backs. It remains to be seen in how many of those Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will be cleared to compete. I would expect restrictions to be heavier at the start of the season, when the Sixers’ schedule is stacked with playoff-contending opponents. Even if the team starts out below .500, they will have the opportunity to catch up in the standings in the second half of the season when their schedule is much more Eastern Conference-heavy. 

And if you’re thinking playoffs, the Bulls grabbed the eighth seed last season with a 41-41 record. The competition in the conference has lessened and teams may be able to get into the postseason under .500. 

Good question, and one that will be a hot topic for Simmons and Embiid this season.

The team has not announced minute restrictions for Simmons, who has yet to play in an NBA game because of a right Jones fracture. That will be further evaluated during training camp and into the season. 

I would expect the Sixers to place some type of restriction on Simmons and monitor him carefully as they did with Embiid. Whether that is a limitation on minutes or consecutive games is to be determined. 

Simmons is a key piece for the Sixers’ future, not just the 2017-18 season. They will not rush into playing time just because he is cleared for game action. 

From lottery picks to postseason seedings, yes, we are talking about the playoffs before the season even begins.

The Eastern Conference is wide open for teams to move up in the standings. Trades by the Pacers, Bulls and Hawks have created the opportunity to shake up last season’s top eight. 

I made this prediction earlier in the summer and I’ll stick with it in mid-September: I am projecting the Sixers as the seventh seed in the East. That’s behind the usual five, the Cavaliers, Celtics, Wizards, Raptors and Bucks and … the Hornets jumping back into the playoffs at six. 

Of course, playoff predictions for any team, especially the Sixers, depends on health, player availability and future trades. 

Feels like a while since last season ended, right? Here are some dates to look forward to before Opening Night on Oct. 18 against the Wizards in Washington, D.C.:

Sept. 25 - Media Day

Sept. 26 - Start of training camp

Oct. 4 - First preseason home game against the Grizzlies