Out with a Whimper – Observations After What Would Appear to be Brett Brown’s Final Sixers Game

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Ben Simmons-less Sixers were swept out of the playoffs by the rival Boston Celtics, putting the cherry on top of a sundae that never tasted very good to begin with.

You could see it coming from a mile away. They competed in games one and three, but just didn’t have the perimeter talent or shot-making ability of their opponent, nor did they execute in the biggest moments of a forgettable series.

Brett Brown has coached his last game for the Sixers, and while it’s not official yet, the fans and media have already made the decision. His post-game press conference featured a whole lot of past tense phrasing, which you’d think might be awkward, but it really was not. He seemed resigned to his fate and just sort of went with the flow of the foreboding (but reasonable) questions being asked.

This, by far, was the most telling exchange, and gave us a clue as to how he really feels about the past seven years:

Keith Pompey (Inquirer): Do you think we ever got to see you at your best, with all of the injuries and everything you had to deal with?

Brett Brown: Brett Brown, or the team?

Pompey: Brett Brown.

Brown: No.

Pompey: Can you elaborate on that?

Brown: No. Thank you for asking the question.

Translation: “I had to deal with all sorts of bullshit over the years.

Maybe he’s right or maybe he’s wrong. Obviously he wasn’t happy with the rollercoaster ride of front office and personnel changes since 2016. I personally don’t think he ever did enough from an on-court perspective to justify an eighth season, and while we’re all mindful of the fact that a motion offense coach was given a wonky and stiff roster, these player/coach/front office relationships run their course and you’ve got to move on at some point. Too often Brett’s teams just wilted in crunch time, or put together terrible half court offensive possessions in the playoffs because he wasn’t hands-on enough when he needed to be. He always could have done more to help himself, regardless of the circus taking place around him.

This, in my personal opinion, is the biggest issue, which goes well beyond coaching, and it comes from a graphic shown towards the end of the broadcast:

I don’t know if Jay Wright or anybody else is coming in and fixing this right away. Even if you miraculously moved on from Harris and Horford, he’d still have to figure out the Simmons and Embiid puzzle. As a four-out/one-in college coach, he’d certainly have to run something different at the NBA level, because his Villanova scheme doesn’t fit what the Sixers currently have. Perhaps he’d figure it out, since he’s a great coach, but I guess the point I’m trying to make is that this team is more than a new coach away from a title. There are multiple things that require re-jiggering.

Here’s another postgame quote from Brett, admitting the obvious:

“The job of an NBA coach is to take the team that you have and try to maximize it and get the most out of it. I did not do that. I came in and we talked about smash mouth, bully ball, that we’re built for the playoffs and we’re big. Really all of those kinds of phrases equal ‘man we have a huge team, we have a big team.’ The thing I found most challenging as the season played out was that space became an enormous issue. Effectively you had a mismatch every time you went down the court. And that’s Joel’s world. That’s Joel’s domain. Trying to help the team, trying to coach the team to conquer that problem, I felt was a challenge. From a spatial issue, from a team design, that was an area that we needed to get done, and I don’t believe I did a great enough of a job doing that.”

It is what it is. The NBA is a guard and wing league in 2020 and Elton Brand built a team of big guys. It didn’t work out and now they’re going to have to try something else.

I’ll also say this about Brett –

People seem to think the media was in the bag for him because he was a “nice guy” or “answered our questions” or whatever you wanna say, but I think we always felt bad or had a soft spot for him because he was asked to stand up in front of the cameras and answer all sorts of ridiculous shit about Sam Hinkie, Bryan and Jerry Colangelo, the Burnergate scandal, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, and whatever other insane drama occurred along the way. Here’s a guy who was supposed to be trying to coach a group of talented players, and he had to be the shield for general managers and owners who were sitting around in their Philadelphia or New York offices.

We’ll probably get official word of Brett’s firing on Monday morning, or later this week, but in the meantime, let’s wrap up the worst series of all time with some observations:

Series notes:

  • Tobias Harris is okay after taking that nasty fall in the second half. Was really nice to see him come back to the bench and then re-enter the game…
  • …that said, he had an incredibly poor series, finishing 38.3% from the floor while hitting 2 of 15 three point attempts. He mustered 63 points in four games.
  • Al Horford was 12-25 in this series for 7 points per game. He was 0-4 from three.
  • Markelle Fultz hit more three pointers in the postseason than Horford and Harris combined.
  • Joel Embiid’s final per game playoffs line = 36.2 minutes, 30 points, 12 rebounds, one assist, 3.8 turnovers
  • Furkan Korkmaz finished the series 0-7 from the field.
  • Could be wrong, but I think Mark Jones called Josh Richardson “Jason Richardson” three times in this series.
  • Raul Neto wasn’t the reason they lost the series. Maybe his inclusion in the rotation was reason #19 or #20 why they lost, but he only played in two of the games.
  • Shake Milton shot the ball well in his first playoff series, but obviously he’s a young player and will grow on the defensive side of the ball.
  • Having Glenn Robinson III would have helped the rotation.
  • They actually only finished with 12 turnovers per game. As of publication, that would make them the 5th best out of 16 playoff squads.
  • At 30.3%, their three-point percentage was dead last among all playoff teams, tied with Indiana.
  • Their 39.6% field goal percentage was dead last.

 

More on Monday. Enjoy your Sunday evening.

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