Sixers Notes: Private Conversations, Backup Bigs, and Defensive Rating

Photo Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Butler spent 10 minutes at the end of Sixers practice on Tuesday talking to head coach Brett Brown.

I threw him sort of a bullshit question to start off his media availability, which resulted in a somewhat goofy exchange:

Crossing Broad: What were you and Brett talking about over there?

Jimmy Butler: Now why would I tell you that? (laughs)

Crossing Broad: Why not?

Butler: You didn’t really think I was going to tell you what I was talking about.

Crossing Broad: Well you gotta try.

Butler: I can’t even remember what we were talking about.

Crossing Broad: You can’t remember?

Jimmy Butler: That’s a lot.

Crossing Broad: It was two minutes ago.

Butler: Yeah, my short term memory loss. You heard about that in the league.

I spun that into some fluffy question about actually getting to spend quality practice the time with the team, which sounds dumb, but it might be more important than most people realize.

After joining the squad back on November 13th, Butler went on to play seven games in 12 days, which is a ton. This week is actually the first time he’s had more than one day off between games, so he really has not had a ton of time to get into the practice facility and get a real chunk of time to dive into the Sixers’ offensive and defensive concepts.

He was asked if he’s up to speed in that department:

“No, definitely not. It’s not a bad thing, I just think that coming from different systems that I’ve been in, it’s so different. The lingo is different. That comes with time. I’m picking it up, studying film, writing all of the different terminology down so that it’s stuck in my head. But I would say I’m the most ‘off ‘out of everybody on the defensive end.”

Yeah, fair enough, I mean he’s barely even been here for two weeks. It’s gonna take time for him to get to where he needs to be, and that’s the same thing with Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala and all of these guys who haven’t even really been here that much longer, if we’re being honest. Chandler didn’t have a real camp and Muscala had some injury issues to start the season.

That said, Butler won two of those seven games with buzzer-beating three-pointers, so he’s doing just fine so far.

What else from today…

Let me see….

Well we got an update injury report that looked something like this:

No news on Markelle Fultz. Brett Brown said on the radio this morning that the franchise expects to know more about the situation on Friday. JJ Redick was asked about Fultz and replied by saying, “I hope he gets healthy.” That’s it, just five words. Butler said that he wants Markelle to know that everybody is in his corner and that they want him to be great. The outside noise is outside noise.

Brown wasn’t pressed on Fultz, and there really isn’t any point on doing that right now. He spoke for about eight minutes, which is pretty short for a typical Brett availability.

I asked him about the backup five, which has been addressed differently in recent weeks. Amir Johnson’s minutes are down in November and he didn’t play at all on Sunday, with Ben Simmons playing center for stretches of time.

Brett:

“It’s sort of fluid judgment, sometimes it’s a little bit of matchup, sometimes it’s gut feel, the notion that Mike (Muscala) is able to step out and take threes and stretch the floor just kind of through volume attempts. I believe his shot, now that is mask is off, is going to come to a higher percentage. So I’ve just decided to go with Mike, instead of Amir, and at times I have gone with Ben instead of both of them. Joel’s backup is always on our mind, how to choose to use that five spot in the vacuum of minutes, which is usually 14, at times 12. It’s still a work in progress in relation to a solid plan. It’s never not catching us off guard. We think about it all the time but right now we’re still studying.”

That’s good news for Muscala. No more mask. He was 0-4 the other night.

Brown was also asked about where the team is defensively through 22 games:

“You know what, it was the same ranking that we had last year at this time, maybe one or two (spots) off. And we moved up the food chain as the season progressed. I think that as you’re feeling the newness of Jimmy with some of the rules that we’re trying to put in, and the fact that Wilson didn’t have a training camp – you know he sat and listened but didn’t really play. Integrating Mike Muscala into this and Landry Shamet and now playing Furkan Korkmaz, you don’t just sort of click your heels and start where you ended. There’s a natural growth, and a growth that we’ve seen over the years, that I believe will be coming this year, too. It’s all about how you form a defense that has the capability to defend in May and June. You need a little bit more than vanilla.”

The head coach pointed out that it’s more about defending the perimeter and the three-point shot in the modern day NBA.

For what it’s worth, the Sixers are 16th in the league with a 108.8 defensive rating. They finished third last year with a 103.8 number. Other teams are down, too, such as Utah, who was the best defensive team in the NBA last year but currently sits at 13th in DEFRTG.

So Brett is right – it’s a work in progress. You need to integrate some new guys, teach Butler the defensive system, and then get everybody to buy in and start putting in the effort. I wouldn’t expect stout defensive basketball in November.

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