Big topic in Camden today after Josh Richardson said he felt like the Sixers needed more of it after Tuesday’s hideous loss to Indiana, their third straight defeat after clobbering Milwaukee on Christmas Day.
The team came home for New Year’s Eve, took Wednesday off, and then hit the practice courts hard on Thursday, a session that took place after a team meeting in which some of the lingering concerns were addressed. The Sixers haven’t had much legitimate practice time during their packed Fall schedule, but two days between games helps them take a step back and reset, if you will.
After the session, Brett Brown, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Al Horford all gave good answers regarding the three-game losing streak, the amount of effort being put into these performances, and Richardson’s “accountability” quote from 48 hours prior.
Let’s go person by person in Q/A format:
Q: Do you like that your players want to be more accountable and speak about accountability? Or is that something you wish they kept to themselves?
I’m fine with it. I live in the truth really well. I like the truthful discussions. If they feel like they can be more candid with one another, then so be it. By and large, we keep things pretty much in house as you know. I think it was delivered with good intentions and a level of accuracy. So it’s just part of 82 games, it happens sometimes when you lose, these kinds of cracks emerge, and sometimes they’ve overblown and sometimes they’re accurate, a bit of pre-mortem stuff. That’s a long-winded way of saying that I’m okay with it. We had a great practice and they talked freely and we’re excited to go play Houston.
Q: How much of a role do you need to have when it comes to motivation?
I’m the head coach and I own it all. I really mean that. At times you need some help, but I’m the head coach, so that’s part of a coach’s job. I think we’ve navigated some interesting times in Philadelphia well. There are things we all could have done better. But I reminded them a week ago we were pretty good on Christmas and it’s such a snap shot to how this whole thing works. You feel pretty good one day and then you don’t feel so good six days later. But it’s real and it’s the world we live in. This is my job to help these guys be at their best and tell them when they’re not.
Q: Some people watch this team and think they’re coasting through the regular season, that you can’t just flip a switch. Do you see that?
I definitely see it out of them. It’s not acceptable. I completely sort of coach and live life thinking that good things add up, and you don’t just click your heels and April 14th is here. That’s not how I see anything. We shared that notion today. They’re smart enough to agree. To the earlier question, that’s stuff I gotta kind of remind them at times, maybe remind them more than I have. There are so many bullets as a head coach you think you’ve got. I fire them responsibly, or feel like I have over the years, but you need some help. People do have to own things and be able to accurately answer the question of ‘what do I want out of this? what’s my role and responsibility? what does leadership look like in my world?’
Q: Why aren’t you guys playing well right now?
I mean in the grand scheme of things it’s three games. Obviously we know we should have had better games and a couple we should have won, but we’re sticking together today and had a great practice. Everyone was locked in and it was good to be back.
Q: You’ve used that term a lot this year, ‘locked in,’ especially after big wins against good teams. Do you feel like you guys have trouble finding that focus for lesser teams? Road games against teams below you in the standings?
It comes and goes sometimes. It’s one of the things we’re trying to maintain and get to an area where we’re executing our plays at a high level and defensively communicating and knowing what we’re in.
Q: Josh said there was a lack of accountability in the locker room.
Yeah I agree. We sat down and talked this morning (as a team), so we all know why we’re here and what we can to get out of it, which is a championship, and we just have to hold each other accountable.
Q: You’re not sensing any frustration between guys, are you?
It’s one of those things where you have ups and downs. You’re not gonna be 82-0. As long as we stay together and don’t lose our minds we’re gonna be good. I think we’re gonna be fine.
Q: After the Indiana game Josh talked about a lack of accountability on the team. Do you think there’s a lack of accountability?
We’re good. We’ve been off for the last three games, but we’re good. I don’t really want to share what goes on inside but we’re good. I feel like everybody has a good spirit and we know we’re gonna get out of it.
Q: Do you feel the need to say anything in the locker room after a streak like this?
Yeah we talk about it. I don’t talk much, I lead by example, but if I feel the need to say something I will. As a leader you kind of have to do that. So that’s what you’ve gotta do.
Q: Are there positives in new players to speaking up?
Everybody has the freedom to do whatever they want. We’re not entitled. I’ve been here the longest, Ben has been here, but we’re not entitled. The way I get better, I like people telling me what I don’t do best and I feel like if I do something wrong, these guys let me know. Like I said, we’re humble, we want to learn, and we want to get better. There’s no sense of people being afraid to speak up. Everybody has freedom, and that’s the culture that we have.
Q: Your thoughts on accountability?
I just think that (Josh Richardson) was definitely frustrated with the way the game went. But today we took a step forward and had a really good practice. I was really encouraged by it. What he said was a message well-received, but I think it obviously had to do with having a rough game the last game.
Q: What is player-to-player accountability? You’ve been in the league for a long time.
Just talking. Just talking to one another. I think we’re all new with one another. Where’s the line where you call a player out when he needs to be called out? Things like that. Usually that happens on the defensive end. It can be on the offensive end, but mostly on the defensive end. That’s what he was referring to and he made a good point.
Q: Is the ecosystem of this locker room unique in the fact that the older guys are new to the program, while Ben and Joel have been here a while but are only 23 and 25 years old? Does that change the dynamic of how things work?
It is different. It’s different in that way. As we go along I’m finding my way and understanding how I can help the group, and where I can come in and have a positive impact. That’s all part of the regular season.
Q: Is there a period where you’re kind of finding your feet and you don’t want to come in here and starting giving out orders right away and asserting yourself without having a full grasp of what’s going on?
Yeah. Yeah I think to be fair, even though they are younger, I’m looking at Joel as our leader and our guy we have to lean on. He’s the guy who has been here the longest. He understands, he knows what we need to do. I’m just trying to help in any way I can, to fit in and do whatever I need to do.
Sixers at Rockets tomorrow at 8 p.m.