The Sixers’ preseason unofficially kicked off Tuesday with Brett Brown’s annual media luncheon at Bar Amis in the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Brett spoke for a little more than an hour and a half yesterday. Transcribing all of that verbatim would be pretty painful, and I don’t think anybody would read it anyway. Plus, a lot of the quotes are outdated now with the announcement that Elton Brand will be the team’s new general manager.

So I think the best way to do this is to go straight through the files and write out bullet points while logging some full quotes for the more interesting stuff that Brett had to say, or the topics that other outlets didn’t focus on.

It was a good session, most of it anyway. A lot of it centered around the GM search, the growth of Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, and high expectations coming into a new season.

General Manager stuff

  • Sam Hinkie was never under consideration for the job
  • Brown had a say in the decision making process. He was looking for what he described as a “consistent partner.”
  • The organizational chart and power structure within the front office will be explained later (now on Thursday when Elton Brand is officially presented as the GM)
  • Brett Brown never wanted the job in the first place. His job is to coach the team first and foremost and he didn’t think he’d be able to help the franchise by assuming both roles at the same time.
  • Brown says it’s “not true or fair” to think that the lack of a general manager affected their pursuit of free agents. He does not see a connection between the GM situation and not being able to land somebody like LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard. “It has borderline zero to do with that.”
  • Finding an executive to run an organization doesn’t happen overnight. He doesn’t agree with the narrative that the Sixers took too long in finding their new general manager. The team did their due diligence with the search process.

Markelle Fultz

  • Markelle has put up around 150,000 shots during his summer workouts. He’s spent a ton of time in the gym and is “seeking out shots.” Brown said he was getting texts from Fultz at the gym at 8 a.m. and 11:30 p.m.
  • He does want to put Markelle in pick and rolls to utilize his strengths. For context, the Sixers run the second fewest pick and rolls in the NBA, so it goes against what they do offensively, but they will look for a balance there to get Fultz going this season. Brown also thinks they can be successful playing pick and roll with Ben Simmons as a screener, and also running deep pick and rolls with Joel Embiid.
  • No specific role in mind for Markelle, i.e. will he play with the starters or will be back a backup point guard? They will find ways to use Simmons and Fultz together and navigate the rotation going forward. (I think you’ll be Ben play more power forward at times to allow Markelle Fultz to run the point and JJ Redick stay in the game as the shooting guard).

Brown did say that Fultz does have some form things to polish up when it comes to his jump shot, but he hopes that the shot does not end up “defining” the second-year player:

“When I look at the actual form, there are times from a posture standpoint, he’s a little bit backwards. When you look at him rising up or getting the ball in his shot pocket, sometimes his head will go back and he’ll play a little more out of a fade type of environment, a fade type of fundamental that we’ll try to correct. I think Drew Hanlen has been incredibly caring and has truly connected with Markelle.”

Ben Simmons

  • Brown thinks Simmons can be confident enough to show a three pointer this season.
  • He’s been working on his shot with his older brother Liam, which Brown is okay with. Liam Simmons had previously coached at Nicholls State and UC Riverside, among other schools.

Brown on that:

“…the thing that I really like about Liam is there’s no bullshit with him. Like, he can call Ben out. He can let him know about time, he can let him know about work rate and coach him. This isn’t like, ‘You’re hanging with your relative.’ It’s not that relationship at all.”

Liam Simmons resigned his position at UC Riverside and moved his family to help Ben work on his shot.

Joel Embiid

  • Embiid “blew him away” during summer workouts, worked a lot on bully ball during his time with Drew Hanlen
  • having a full offseason as a healthy player will go a long way in getting Joel off to a strong start this season

Robert Covington

  • spent a big part of his summer improving his ability to attack close outs (as part of learning from the Boston series)

Jerryd Bayless

  • Brown has had multiple conversations with Bayless and his agent and doesn’t want the veteran guard “rolling over” this season.
  • Says Jerryd is certainly good enough and is a legitimate NBA player, he’s not “dead and buried”

Zhaire Smith

  • will return some time in December

Landry Shamet and Jonah Bolden

  • trying to make them better, “could come with G-League games, could come with who knows?” The team has so many options on the table and coming in as a young player is difficult in the NBA.

Continuity and expanding the playbook

Brett has his starting five returning for the first time in his Sixers tenure. I brought that up in a question about continuity and how he can continue to build their offense from we saw last season:

Brown: Right. So when you look at, ‘who are we?’, at this stage of my time in Philadelphia, I would expect everybody at this table should quite understand how we want to play and how we do play. Style of play in my opinion is far different than culture. Ultimately you hope they collide, but style of play is different from behavior in some ways, and you hope they collide and that’s the program. Offensively, we play fast, we share the ball, we ran the second fewest pick and rolls in the NBA last year. We don’t just stand and isolate. We added offensive rebounding last year, which was great, with our size. I think we were top three last year in terms of our length in the league. So if you run, and you share and you crash the boards and shoot as many threes as the team says I can. Now you put that into an environment of, to your point, continuity, and corporate knowledge and consistency, there’s a familiarity that that’s how I want to play. So to incorporate other people into our system, that’s what I anticipate. This year the challenge is going to be getting Markelle the ball, and continuing to grow Ben, who can play some trail and some four. But I don’t expect to pivot too much out of what we’ve been doing. I do hope to use Ben Simmons in some different ways this year, more than I did last year. Does that answer your question?

Crossing Broad: Yeah, though maybe I was hoping for more coach speak.

Brown: Ask me again.

Crossing Broad: Well let me use a football analogy – if you have a senior quarterback returning, you can do a lot more with that player than a sophomore quarterback. The offense can be more than swing passes and dump downs, right? So say you ran maybe three or four horns sets last year, I guess that could be five or six this season, right? Can you take the positives from last year’s base offense and evolve that even further because you have five starters returning and they’re already understanding of the offense and their specific roles?

Brown: Yeah, and this is where I get excited, you said it and I said it – when you have continuity, when you have corporate knowledge, I saw in my (Spurs tenure) that (the offense) just blossomed, it just took off. Structure didn’t change that much. But the nuances and the things that Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker and Tim Duncan found for each other, you know, they ended up teaching us. I’m excited to take our base and add some wrinkles. They’re going to teach us some wrinkles as well. But the good news is that I love our base. I like our offense. I like what we do defensively. I like our called plays. I’m always mindful of how we can be better with Joel and JJ. I think I can coach Dario more. Now you’ve got Markelle Fultz and where are you going to put him positionally? But we’re still drawing from our base. We’re not changing the base offense and some of the sets that we run. Wrinkles will evolve and we’ll place those guys where they should be placed.

Nemanja Bjelica

  • Brett confirmed that Bjelica reneged on his verbal commitment and was targeted by other teams during a period in which he was having passport issues re-entering the country.

I asked Brett about the backup power forward position and the passport thing:

Crossing Broad: Ersan Ilyasova was such a like-for-like swap with Dario last year, a stretch four, that Euro power forward that can shoot. What’s the plan this year with that spot? Can Mike Muscala give you those stretch four minutes?

Brown: Yeah, he can. And when we studied him, and looked at how much four did he play, for example, he played a lot of five. And when I studied him more we figured out that he’s actually mobile enough to switch, he’s mobile enough to run, and he can definitely shoot a three. He can play some four, more four than I originally thought. I also think Wilson Chandler can come in and play some four. We’ll call it a small ball four, like a Morris twins type of game. I think Cov can slide over and play some four. But when we watched Bjelica and Ersan, Muscala is a good fit, but I also think we have other answers that can slide into that role.

Crossing Broad: Do you have any kind of conversation with Nemanja after he went back on his commitment?

Brown: Yeah. I mean, he was in a tough spot. And I spoke with him and he had a certain window to make a decision. Do you want to come to Philadelphia? He opted to say ‘yes, I do.’ Then, over the course of time, we tried to get him into the city for a physical and he had some passport complications, and there was a window (of time) where people started (getting in touch) with him. On one level, there’s a human side of disbelief and disappointment, and then there’s the other side, where somebody is giving you 21 million dollars (long pause)…

Crossing Broad: Yeah, I get it.

Brown: You can play the ethical card with that, and it’s true. I’m not minimizing that at all. But it’s also not head-scratching how something like that could happen.

Crossing Broad: Was it funky that the guy had a passport issue considering the fact that he’s lived over here for three years now?

Brown: I don’t think so. I didn’t see any conspiracy theory there, or something sinister. His agency, they’re good. I’ve known his agent for a long time. Initially you’re wondering what went south, what actually went wrong, and we started connecting the dots and it’s really just as simple as I just laid it out. We wish him well and we’re excited to have Mike. Initially it was a little bit of a shock, but here we are and we’ll be fine.

The media

This was a media luncheon, so I asked Brown a sort of open-ended question about the media in general. How were his experiences with the Philadelphia media last season? Was coverage fair? Unfair? Too much availability? Too much repetition in the questions? It was an interesting and very honest back and forth between he and I until another media member came in and derailed the conversation.

Crossing Broad: Brett you did a lot of media last year – before games, after games, shoot around, practices, 97.5 the Fanatic, 94 WIP… You probably spoke to us for hours last year. What did you take away from all those interactions in general? Was it fair? Unfair? Positive? Negative? Were there annoying questions or things you had to answer repeatedly? The NBA does require you to do a lot of media.

Brown: It is the least favorite thing that I do, not because of…

Mike Sielski: Gee, thanks. (laughter)

Brown: But Mike, it’s the truth. It’s not because of you all, or the questions that you ask, it’s the repetition..

Crossing Broad: It’s the same stuff over and over again?

Brown: Well it’s not even the same questions, it’s the volume of man hours I spent. I get tired of hearing myself. Really. And it gets, think about it, you do shoot around, you do post game, you do pre game, you do afterwards, and I enjoy talking to you all, right? But the frequency of it, four times in a day, how could you not? So when I say it’s the least favorite thing, it’s based on the volume, not the content. And it’s Philadelphia, and there are times when it’s, that is not true or that’s unfair, for sure, and you move on. I feel like I’ve (handled) that okay. There are some times where you want to fight (back). You definitely want to fight. There are times you dust it off.. and go fishing or biking or whatever. It’s an interesting question you ask.

Crossing Broad: Is there anything to smooth that over then? Make those interactions better? Improve the dynamic for everybody’s benefit?

Brown: Well I feel for you guys sometimes.

Crossing Broad: Well, for example, everybody goes crazy for the Markelle Fultz stuff, the 10 second videos of him shooting free throws, but we asked you about that last year and you said it wasn’t a big deal because it just means the fans are interested in the progress of the team and really passionate about the team..

Brown: And at times like with me, you’re walking on the head of a pin, where you don’t want something to be some rogue sound bite that’s taken out of context. Like there was stuff that went on last year..

Crossing Broad: Well the star hunting quote is not the full quote, right? Because you said star developing after that, too.

Brown: Star hunting, star developing, I’m happy on that (quote). But I’ll use another example..

At this point Brown was cut off by another media member who didn’t think it was the “right time” or “forum” to have this discussion, explaining that we only had 11 minutes remaining and that they “don’t give a fuck about star hunting.”

I thought it was an interesting and candid response from Brown, but I guess we won’t get to finish that conversation.