Sixers GM Elton Brand spoke with the media before the thorough ass kicking of the Chicago Bulls, a game in which zero starters saw the floor.
I shared his quotes regarding Joel Embiid last night, quotes that left open the possibility that the Sixers’ best player might not be ready to for Saturday’s opening round playoff game against the Brooklyn Nets. Brand reiterated that he’s “optimistic” that Embiid will be ready to go, but did not rule out the chance that Joel would need more time to return to 100% fitness.
The team is off today, so nothing new on that front, not unless we get an injury report from the PR staff, which Brett Brown suggested might be coming down the pike. We’ll keep an eye out for that.
In the meantime, here are some quotes from the other assorted topics Brand touched on in his 19 minute conversation with reporters:
Expectations changed throughout the beginning of the season, now I’m confident that my expectation is to make a deep playoff run.
What is a “deep” playoff run? –
My goal, and my expectation is to definitely get past where we got last year with that team. That’s why I made these moves. We got to the second round, we lost to Boston. I expect us to pass that.
On the starting unit’s lack of time together:
…we’ve won some big games, we’ve beat some elite teams when we were all together, so I’m not that concerned, but it’s a real question and it does take time to jell and get cohesion, for sure.
More after the jump:
Does depth concern him? –
When the playoffs start, coach is gonna cut it down to, I think eight and a half is what he told me the other day. I don’t know what the half is (laughs), but 8.5 players. There won’t be a time where you won’t have Tobias, Jimmy, Joel, JJ, or Ben out there on the court. It’ll be at least two or three of those players. It’s not too concerning. Mike Scott, Boban, Simmons can step up, T.J. won a game for us last year in a playoff series, so it doesn’t concern me much.
Is there a stark difference between regular season and playoff basketball, or is that overblown? –
No, it’s a stark difference. The intensity ratchets up. The physicality is different. Star players win in the playoffs and that’s what we’re built for.
If you don’t get past the second round, does it matter how the series plays out (i.e. losing in 6 or 7 games, or playing a tight series)? Or is ‘we didn’t achieve our goals?’
I don’t wanna go into doomsday scenarios, but you look at how the series went. Of course you look at the factors, what was going on out there. You definitely have to look at that.
How much pressure on you and the coaching staff to get past the second round? –
Absolutely there’s pressure on the managing partners, myself. We embrace it though. If you’re not in the playoffs, there’s no pressure, no expectations. This is where we want to be. Our goal is to bring a championship to the city and to these fans. It comes with that. It comes with the territory. The pressure comes with that.
Do you feel like you are less predictable this year? That you can beat teams in different ways?
Yeah, I agree with that. With having a closer like Jimmy this year, having Ben with another year in the playoffs, having Joel dominate, having JJ in a career year, we’ve got Tobias and what he adds, so it’s definitely a different feel, a different offense. I’m looking forward to seeing it in the playoffs.
Why do you think this team was not as good defensively as most people expected this year?
It’s a different way to define success. We were focused on protecting the rim and when Joel and Boban and actually Mike Scott, when they’re at the five, we’re the top defensive team overall. And limiting three point shots – that’s our goal. We feel that’s playoff basketball, that’s how you win in the playoffs – (defending) shots at the rim and limiting three pointers. We’ve done that. We’ve given up contested twos and some other things, but we’re willing to give those up.
What makes you think, in terms of the roster, that you’re better positioned to win a second round playoff series?
What happened vs. Boston, they limited our shooters. This year we have players that can not only shoot, but get to the free throw line, that can go create, can go get a timely bucket when you need it. Those weapons we have this year, I think that’s gonna separate us. We didn’t have that last year.
On the defensive end it’s toughness, it’s size, we have length and more athleticism. That will bode well for us also.
Would you like to see Jimmy Butler be more assertive early in games, or does he make up for it with the way he plays in the 4th quarter?
(laughs) Jimmy is Jimmy. I remember we were coming off a back-to-back and he told me after the game, ‘man I was tired, I just kept telling the group, just get me to the 4th quarter.’ So, as long as we get a win at the end of the night (I’m good), because he plays the right way. He shares the ball. He doesn’t have to shoot or have the ball in his hands or shoot to affect winning. That’s just who he is, he plays the right way.
On Magic Johnson’s resignation:
I reached out to him, with the recent announcement he had, and just wished him support and the best. He wants to be happy. We support that and he’s a legend, he’s an icon in this game, one of the best ever.
Would you revisit having Ben work with him, now that he’s not officially a member of the Lakers front office?
Yeah, no the rules are the rules, it’s not like I was straight-up prohibiting him with that. It’s just the rules. Anytime you can talk to a legend I think that’s an asset, the wealth of knowledge that he has. Letting a young player speak with him, absolutely.