Sixers head coach Brett Brown did a one-hour Zoom call with media today as the NBA inches toward a return later this month.
It was lengthy and somewhat dense at times, so I decided to write down a number of bullet point items, beginning with the biggest question mark surrounding the Sixers as they prepare for Orlando:
- Ben Simmons is “good to go.” Brown described him as being at a level that the Sixers “think is 100% health.” This is a more positive quote than what we got two weeks ago, when Brown said “I think he is going to be available,” in regard to his star ball handler.
- He explained the return to Orlando as a work in progress and says he has hope and faith in the league to run a safe operation despite spiking COVID-19 cases in Florida.
- Nobody on the team has tested positive for COVID.
- There will be no opt outs on the Sixers squad.
On Ryan Broekhoff, the 6’6″ wing who was signed this week to the open roster spot, Brown gave a rather candid answer:
“I was shocked that he agreed to come, first of all. I recruited him to the national team of Australia pre-London Olympics and we sort of uncovered him. I think he was 17 years old. When I lived in Australia, I lived in primarily Melbourne, which is Victoria. Sydney is New South Wales. And he’s a Victorian kid, so I’ve known Ryan forever. To mislead him about ‘hey there’s lots of opportunity here,’ that’s not true; and I told him that. You’ve got six people (in the mix), and we could all look at each other and say ‘what about Matisse (Thybulle), and Glenn Robinson, and Furkan (Korkmaz), and Alec Burks?’ You can go on and on and on, and this isn’t an opportunity where it’s clear that there’s a runway or a pathway (to playing time) at all. That was the flavor of my talk. I downplayed it more than anything. He’s out of contract and I don’t want to mislead him or anybody. I believe that when I hung up the phone he was going to go to Europe or maybe somebody would recruit him a bit better than I did. I didn’t go out of my way to paint anything positive, knowing he would still back himself and trust his skill set and not back away from competition at all. When I got the call the next day and he decided to come, I told him what I just told you, that I was surprised he decided to do it, given the way I laid things out.
What I do know is he’s got an NBA skill in that he can shoot. I think there’s an Australian toughness that he brings to the table. He’s not 22; he’s in the latter stages of his career. It’s one of those things where who knows (what could happen)?”
- Brown is able to be in the gym, where development coaches have been able to work with the players.
- He pretty much dodged a question about the eight-game schedule leading into the playoffs, and what the incentives are for moving up and down when it comes to seeding, considering that there is no home court advantage.
- He thinks the team will respond well to playing away from home on a neutral court.
- The main thing on his mind is getting to Orlando and beginning camp with a good fitness base. He wants the team to be in a “B” fitness base, which they can then get to an “A.”
- The majority of recent conversations with players have been about social injustice: “The truth of the matter is that my last two Zoom calls with my team were one percent basketball.”
- He admitted that everybody has a level of anxiety going down to Orlando, but for him personally it does not “water down” his excitement level.
- He gave a lengthy answer to a question about Black Lives Matter and hopes the Sixers can play a role in helping push the movement forward. They’ll discuss it “far more in depth” when they get together in person. Brown also revealed that he’s part of an NBA coach committee that is working on ways to help the fight for social and racial justice.
- Brown commented on Howard Eskin’s beard, saying it looks as though he’s come from the Maine woods. He referred to him as “Forrest Gump.”
- He’s not concerned about his COVID-19 risk as a 59-year-old man.
- “It’s a big one, it’s a huge question,” he said of figuring out Al Horford’s role in the team, and whether or not he’ll be a starter.
- He believes that the team is built for the playoffs, the way it was constructed.
- Brett alluded to Shake Milton perhaps being the backup point guard moving forward, but wouldn’t commit to that 100%.
- Brown says nobody has put in as much time working out during the pandemic as Joel Embiid.
- There might have to be minutes restrictions for a lot of players coming back from the time off, but nothing concrete on that.
- He does not believe that Milton’s play before the postponement was an “outlier.”
That’s about it. Ben Simmons health update was the biggest takeaway. Broekhoff is scheduled to speak at 2:30 p.m.