Sixers Notes: Contextualizing Practice and a Few Good Minutes with Mike Muscala

I’m going to be straight with you; there really isn’t much to report from today’s Sixers practice session.

The cancellation of Tuesday’s scrimmage kind of threw a monkey wrench into the week because I thought I’d have some relevant X’s and O’s stuff to talk about by now, some video clips of Markelle Fultz and other on-court topics to evaluate.

Instead, Thursday was just sort of a fluff day ahead of tomorrow’s preseason game against Melbourne United. There were some Australian media members in Camden doing interviews with Ben Simmons and Jonah Bolden.

What I’d like to do is take this opportunity to kind of explain how media availability at practice works. I think some people assume that we get a decent look at each session and can formulate reasonable takeaways, but that’s really not the case at all. We usually get the last 15 minutes of training, which in some cases is the very tail-end of a scrimmage or team drill that devolves into individual and light group work at various different hoops. We’re essentially getting the “cool down” portion of practice, to be honest.

So when I walked into the gym today I live streamed the entire part that was open to media, up until Brett Brown came over to speak with us:

That’s fairly typical.

We got the end of a scrimmage situation that feature a Markelle Fultz layup. We got some inbounding reps. The team brought it together for a final word and Fultz walked inside while the rest of the group worked on free throws, three-point shooting, and whatnot. Drew Hanlen was again on hand and presumably worked with Markelle today.

That’s pretty much it; we get a little bit of meaningful practice and not much beyond that, which is why I wouldn’t put too much stock into the form and mechanics and function and effort that shows up on film. It’s essentially a “let’s wrap it up” part of the session that we’re privy to.

Here, I’ll even draw a helpful diagram that shows you the layout of the practice facility and the areas where we’re allowed to go:

Basically we just sit in the media room or lurk in the hallway for a while, then a PR staffer will announce that the gym is open and we’re allowed to stand in that yellow area in the near corner of the front court.

Fascinating stuff, right?

Anyway, some notes from Brett Brown’s availability:

  • Australia was good to Brown, met his wife there, two of his three kids were born there. Has a good relationship with the Melbourne United staff, two of which are his former players.
  • His staff is going out to dinner tonight with the Melbourne staff. Italian food somewhere in Philly.
  • Brown was not involved in any of the talks to have Melbourne play in Philadelphia. League decision to organize this game.
  • new blood and new faces help keep things fresh in the gym, though he doesn’t feel a need to change the structure of what they’re doing

In truth, the most interesting quotes of the day came from Mike Muscala, who answered a series of questions about his role on the team and the court markings the Sixers use at their practice facility:

How much has Brett Brown had him at the four vs. the five?

“It’s been about half and half I wanna say. Just trying to learn both spots (defensively) and also trying to learn both spots offensively as well.”

When you first came here, did you watch any film to try to figure out what your role was going to be?

“Yeah, I did watch a lot of film, mostly highlight videos. Since I’ve been here, J.B., John Bryant, one of the assistants, has been helping me, especially when I first got here, like a month ago, just watching motion offensive concepts. So yeah, I spent time watching obviously Ersan (Ilyasova) and Dario, to see what they were doing at the four.”

It was just highlights on.. where did you find the highlights? 

“Youtube. Youtube is a great place. (laughter)”

You said at media day that the four point line was new to you. Is that because you were used to working the corners or is it just a spacing out thing?

“I would say a bit of both. I would say that yeah, I was in the corners quite a bit in Atlanta. The first big in that offense would always run to the corner. Here the bigs are in a little different spots. But so far I’m having a really fun time playing in those two spots the bigs play and obviously playing with guys like Joel, Dario, and Amir and being able to interchange at the four and five. It’s been fun.”

When you were in Atlanta, (inaudible, but I think it was a question about how much he guarded the five vs. the four)

“I would say it was mostly guarding the five. But if I remember correctly, last year in Atlanta, the four and five would play a similar type of defense, so that’s a little bit different this year, mostly switching at the four.”

Have you been noticing the red boxes out there?

“I have, yeah. I love those spots.”

So how does (question inaudible, I think it’s about how that helps him in practice)

“I’d say it’s just a visual reminder to be down there. There was actually a time today, one of our offensive sets, I was supposed to be closer down towards that corner, and coach reminded me to get down there to offer more space. And I think that four point line that we talked about, I’ve really noticed that playing and scrimmaging. These guys are so good at penetrating, Ben and Markelle, getting into the paint, so when we do (spread things out), that just offers them more space.”

Does it also help you out defensively, both of those markings?

“Yeah, so running guys off that corner three, not letting them shoot a comfortable shot – we want to limit rotations this year. But when there’s a situation where that corner is open, it’s a reminder to run off, sprint down, make it a tough shot.”

Do you sense differences in the way Brett Brown and Mike Budenholzer set up their teams, or are there similarities? 

“Yeah I think it’s more different. The offenses are quite different. So far I’ve just been enjoying – I think the bigs are very involved in this offense, and that’s been fun. There are a lot less ball screens, but I think with the way the NBA is trending, and with so many switches, I think it’s really emphasized to attack the switch here, and for the bigs, too. That’s fun because it gets everyone involved.”

That’s it.

Keith has another angle on Markelle’s buzzer beater lay-in:

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1 Comment

  • Kurt angle September 27, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    That is how it’s done. Nice try dems, Kavanaugh just dominated you.

    Reply
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