Ten More Takeaways from the Sixers’ Exit Interviews

Joel Embiid and Kawhi Leonard after game 7
Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Monday and Tuesday was sidebar city, USA.

I wrote about the following topics, if you care to read:

Here are ten more takeaways from Monday and Tuesday that did not make it into the above posts:

1. The luxury tax

Josh Harris is fine with entering this territory, within reason.

From Tuesday:

Harris: Yeah, look, we’ve said it repeatedly and we’ll keep saying it. We’re committed to do what it takes to bring a championship to Philly, including spending into the luxury tax. And just going back to Keith [Pompey]’s question, Brett [Brown] knew through the Toronto series that his job was not in jeopardy. Let’s be really direct about it.

Elton Brand: Also, I’ll add to that. We’re going to be fiscally responsible, also. You know, we’re just not jumping into the luxury tax. There’s going to be moves to make.

Harris: I mean, obviously [laughs]. Thank you.

2. Joel Embiid’s diet

You read the same story I did about Joel crushing four Chic-Fil-A sandwiches, plus four milkshakes, four orders of fries, and four cookies.

I asked Elton Brand about Embiid’s diet and how he’s taking care of his body:

Brand: I didn’t see the four chicken sandwich story; I just know that athlete care… four chicken sandwiches, yeah, I guess that’s a lot. I haven’t heard that story but I know he’s focused on his body. He’s very intelligent. He works intermittent fasts. He eats salmon. He eats vegetables. When he’s locked in, he’s locked in. He knows he can do it and what he has to. An actual target weight, we’ll decide that together and see where he wants to be, where he needs to be not just next season but postseason and long term.

Crossing Broad: Did Joel change his diet at all throughout the course of the season?

Brand: When he’s focused, he’s locked in and he can basically do anything. This is what I saw his plan about, salmon, veggies, not eating before 11 and having a six hour window and locking into stuff like that and did it to a T. He’s focused. He can get there and will get there.

Look for salmon and veggie Joel Embiid moving forward.

3. Jimmy Butler and Brett Brown’s relationship

On Monday, Jimmy Butler talked about his growing relationship with Brett Brown and explained that the coach understands “how different of a human” he is.

Brown elaborated on that Tuesday:

I believe what (Jimmy) said is true, first. Somebody shared with me what he said and I agree with him, and I appreciate his words. He is a different thinker for sure and I say that with respect. We get his cares, we get that he’s highly-competitive, we understand, I think, there’s a connection to his spirit and physicality to the city that mirrors each other. The evolution of me doing a better job of learning how to use him and him learning how to use us and Joel and so on evolved to the point where it ended up in an incredible place. The ecosystem of ‘Ben, it’s not your ball right now, you go down to the dunker spot,’ and ‘Jimmy, it is your ball,’ (is an example). And Tobias trying to figure out where he fits in and Joel wants a touch, and JJ can make shots and so on. That’s a hard environment to pull off. And to the players’ credit and Jimmy Butler, being one of the significant contributors, credit, they did it. I’m in locker rooms, you’re not. You may come into a timeout on national TV and see it, but I feel it. We arrived at a place that was actually a team. They had each other’s back. Listen to the players’ words and listen to mine, but really listen to theirs. And I give him a lot of credit for that. He emerged to be a leader.

4. Zhaire Smith

Will he play summer league this year?

I want to. I just want to see where I’m at, because I put on a lot of weight muscle-wise and see how I move with that and to see if I still got it (laughs).

Brett Brown says it’s a “huge summer” for Zhaire, and I think we all agree on that. He’ll be entering the second year of his rookie deal in 2019-2020 after playing just six regular season games to the combination Jones fracture and allergy issue.

5. Coaching vacancies

Brett lost two assistants this year, Billy Lange to St. Joe’s and Monty Williams to the Phoenix Suns.

How does he plan to fill those jobs?

Without getting into sort of the granular pieces of what those qualities need to look like, I know completely, sort of, the areas they will be responsible for. Most of you know that I set my NBA staff up like an NFL program. It’s very compartmentalized, in regards to special teams, and pieces of our offense and pieces of our defense. There are people responsible for “big man” coaches and perimeter people and so on. It’s very NFL-ish and it works for me to better organize it. As so as I search and try to find with Elton who’s going to be on the bench and what are we going to do behind the bench, there are skills, there are sort of ways people see the world, like “are you an offensive guy or defensive guy” type things that will factor into who we hire. As time unfolds, I think in the next month, we will be able to make a “who’s going to be replacing Monty” type thing as an example.

Former assistant Jim O’Brien worked with Brett in an advisor role this year, then took Lange’s spot on the bench to finish the season. Kevin Young was the 4th bench coach on game days.

6. Tobias Harris and his fit

Harris played better for the Clippers this year. He shot 49.6% from the floor in Los Angeles and 43.4% from three over the course of 55 games. With the Sixers, those numbers fell to 46.9 and 32.6%, respectively, in 27 games. He played 82 total games, so a full season split between two clubs.

You saw flashes of All-Star potential for Harris, such as game three in Brooklyn and his 32-point effort at Oklahoma City. Despite the inconsistency, Brett Brown feels like Harris is a great fit for the team:

First, if you go back to the notion that we play fast, we share the ball, we go side-to-side, we’re not just setting people in the corner. Lots of the league is like that. You go sit in the corner, give it to a player that just runs a middle pick-and-roll 30 times a game, and have a blast. I don’t think that works. I think people want to move and touch the ball and share and so on. And so we try to play that way. We play fast. If he’s anything, he’s an athlete, he’s a deer. He gets up and down the floor as well as anybody in the NBA, let alone fellow four-man, three-man. To empower the three-point shot, we all get that’s never going backwards. There’s going to be more and more and more threes taken as we all get older. He can do that. There is a connection from just a human being side that also is a fit for this program. He’s incredibly polished, he’s elegant, he’s all class. And when you start talking about those things in a fit, maybe the most exciting thing that I feel is that he’s 26. We can get him better. We can get him better and having spent, what? Those guys started 10 games. Think about that. They played 10 games, the starters, before we played Brooklyn. And then they were able to knock out another 11. And so the days are early for us and for him and I really feel that his human skills, his character, his talent-base at age 26, we can bring that to a higher level. And he’s a great worker and person and he will let me coach him. He will let us coach him.

Agreed. He’s a phenomenal guy, the type of person you want in your organization. Based on numbers alone, it’s hard to justify a max deal for Tobias Harris, but I feel like his game can still grow to an All-Star level. That is my personal opinion.

7. JJ Redick and the totem pole

Does JJ Redick want to return to Philadelphia? He’s enjoyed his two seasons in Philadelphia, but understands that there are bigger free agent priorities than him heading into the summer:

I go back to the word stability, you want that. You don’t know, I couldn’t say now what will be available, what options will be there July 1st. I recognize I’m a little bit down the totem pole here, and I had to wait around last summer as well. Obviously I’d love to be back, I haven’t tried to hide that at all. I’d love to be back with the Sixers, I’d love to finish my career here and all that. But you don’t know how it’s all sort of going to play out, and I’m mature enough to recognize that, and know that the Sixers have other priorities just as they did last summer.

Redick earned about $12 million this year. He made $23 million the season prior.

8. Joel’s load management

Aside from the diet and individual health stuff, we talked to Joel Embiid on Monday about his willingness to accept more strict orders from the front office and medical staff.

As a bit of a primer, Joel said a few months back that he believed communication was much better this season in that regard. And he’s always spoken about wanting to have a say in the process, i.e. that if he feels good, he’d like to play. But we would be open to a different plan this year if that helps maintain his health over the course of a long NBA season:

Oh yeah for sure. We’ve already talked about it. Looking at the way Toronto managed Kawhi last season, obviously I don’t want to miss that many games but when you start thinking about back-to-backs and all that, obviously having a good team around you helps. Most of the time I kind of feel bad, because I feel like I let everybody down by not playing or suiting up. If you see that and you know that guys are going to take over or be sure that you’ll definitely win, we have the talent to do so, I guess it’s an easier decision for me. I think as long as I think we got it all covered and I feel like we have an opportunity to win games without me I’m up to it. Definitely got to take a better approach. Just got to keep working on my body, it’s only going to get better.

If you’re asking me, I wouldn’t play Joel in a single back-to-back next season. If you’re managing his health, it has to start in October, because he’s a 7’2″ guy with injury history who also happens to be the key to getting this team to the Eastern Conference Finals.

9. The Embiid/Simmons relationship continues to grow

Brett Brown dropped an interesting quote earlier this season, telling Zach Lowe back in March that reports of tension between Joel and Ben were “incredibly overrated.”

Simmons talked more about it Monday:

I think our relationship got a lot closer. We grew a lot more as people and players. I think we’re just figuring each other out still. But I got a lot of respect for Jo. He comes in and works hard, plays through certain things that are going on with him. And it’s just like one of those guys who is so determined on the floor. Seeing him after Game 7, it’s hard because you go a whole season playing with that guy. Blood, sweat and tears. But it’s the game and we’re always going to support him, have support with everybody on the team whoever’s is a Sixer.

That relationship will continue to grow as each guy becomes better on the court, too. Spacing, understanding how to play together, evolving their skill sets to reduce offensive redundancy. It all goes hand in hand.

10. Jimmy and the max contract

Is money a thang?

Jimmy Butler said no at his introductory press conference back in November, but this quote was interesting to me:

I mean, technically, I think I, knock on wood, hopefully I’ll get a max contract wherever I choose to go. You’re talking four year or five year, that’s enough money anyways. I think I still have more than enough money now from my first deal.

But talking about this roster, it is (built to win), we just had a slight hiccup, that I think what hurts more than the loss is the fact that we had a great group of guys that were around for one another. It was special, we enjoyed playing for each other. You couldn’t mess with anybody on the team because other guys were gonna be there in your face. To think that this roster might not be the exact same next year, that’s what really hurts.

I got the sense from listening to Jimmy that he is going to go somewhere else next year, but you never know.

Free agency and the NBA draft approach.

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15 Responses

  1. Do you still hate Mexicans? Was the firing what lead you to a full soy diet and insufferable white guilt?

    1. Is the soy thing supposed to be an insult? Did the pizza, bloat and miller lite lead you to acting tough on a keyboard?

    1. Because the sixers are an ass backwards front office.
      They are REACTIVE instead of PROACTIVE.
      They wait and respond…….if it causes a problem….
      By that time……its to late.

      They had to know of this ben simmons ‘jump shot’ and ‘Embiid sloth’ issues
      and they simply chose to do nothing about it because they coddle their players
      instead of being proactive about it and correcting the players problems.
      They knew about these issues when they drafted Simmons.
      They knew about Embiid sloth issues for years.
      He’ missed almost half the games sicne he’s been in the league.
      And it clearly cost them.

      Being reactive is not how a team wins championships.
      By the time you react…it usually to late.
      Can they fix it before next year…..maybe…..maybe not.

    1. Are you fucking serious? Their process was that they lucked into an amazingly talented and unique player at pick 15 in the draft. They were largely irrelevant before that. You’re seriously one of the dumbest commenters on this site, a truly impressive feat. Congratulations!

      1. So, in other words they didn’t steal money from patrons and pervert results of professional basketball games that impacted the league by losing on purpose for almost half a decade? Is that what you’re saying, dumbass?

        1. Right because the Sixers were never up front about what they were doing from the start with The Process. Every fan who decided to spend money on tickets to watch games featuring Hollis Jefferson and Isaiah Canaan were duped into thinking they’d be a contender! Also, it was not half a decade, but as we’ve already established, you’re an idiot so I don’t expect you to understand basic addition.

  2. The only interviews should have been for Brown..as he exited the team,
    Embiid as him and his jiggling gunt walked out the door with his crying hanky
    and Simmons and he made more excuses for his lack of a jumpshot and his
    free loading hanger on brother.

    Then again, i guess its beats working for a living…which has been a standard ‘millenial’
    reply/excuse for years………just like the sixers.

  3. Kevin, can you elaborate on why you think Jimmy is leaving? Sounds to me like he really grew close quickly to the other guys on the team. He an JoJo seem to get along really well. Also, if he wants to win and most money, it’s a no brainer. What other team can offer him that combo that would be interested in him?

    1. Just felt like his delivery and the way he said those quotes was “off.” Some pauses here and there, his voice was a little quieter than usual. He also kept referencing his team of people and talking about their input and their happiness as well. Seemed like there were a lot of considerations to make.

      1. How about he came from a team where he hated everyone for being soft, wound up being surrounded by two of the softest NBA players in history and by some miracle restrained himself from beating the shit out of both Embiid and Simmons for six months? Of course he wants out.

        No one with integrity would want to be associated with this disgrace of a franchise.

  4. I think the end of the season struck jojo and Simmons right in the face , no amount of brown trying to get through to these two players would ever have the impact of how they felt walking off Torontos court Sunday . They tried it their way , maybe next year they try it browns way . They’re just boys still , but I think they grew up alot in the Toronto series . And i think butler would have an awesome impact on them as well .

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