As the Sixers set out Friday for a two-game road trip to Texas (they play at Dallas Saturday, and Houston Monday), they did so with realistic reflections on their first week of the regular season.
In a perfect world, the team would love to have more wins, plain and simple. Even still, the general consensus among Brett Brown and his players is that despite a 1-4 start, the club is headed in the right direction, especially when compared to similarly early stages of previous seasons.
“I think we’re so much further along,” said Brown Friday.
For evidence, the fifth-year head coach pointed to the Sixers’ near-victories against Washington, Boston, and Houston, all of which finished among the top four teams in their respective conferences a year ago (Toronto, the Sixers’ third opponent this season, was also a top-four seed).
“We were in every game, I’d say, except Toronto,” said T.J. McConnell. “When you see how well we’ve competed against those teams, and were in those games, it’s a positive.”
“You have games that we should have won,” Brown said. “You go back and watch the tape, and whether it’s the large majority of the Boston game, the large majority of the Wizards game, or the large majority of the Houston game – elite, top-10 NBA teams – there’s lots to be excited about.”
Lessons Learned from Houston Loss
So what, exactly, did Brett Brown and the Sixers see when they popped in the tape from Wednesday’s last-second loss to Houston?
For starters, Brown said, the entire team has a responsibility to effectively take advantage of and manage Joel Embiid’s skill set in crunch time. Brown holds everyone, from coaches and teammates, to Embiid himself, accountable in this effort.. This obligation means A). making sure Embiid doesn’t end up in situations where he’s vulnerable to turnovers, and B). figuring out how to space him in ways that create needed outlets.
“I feel excited to grow the responsibility of getting him the ball, then what’s he doing, and what are we doing around that,” said Brown, who went through a similar experience with Tim Duncan in San Antonio.
Most on Brown’s mind Friday, though, was concentrating on how to better finish games, given Wednesday’s final minutes.
“We will learn from that, and remember what we did in January last year with all of the close games that we were in,” said Brown, referring to the 10-5 month the Sixers strung together. “Growing that part of our evolution is on my mind.”
All things considered, Ben Simmons’ first five games as a pro have been pretty excellent. He’s averaging 16.4 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 7.8 assists per game, and nearly came away from Wednesday’s contest with a second consecutive triple-double.
Moving forward, Brett Brown hopes the Australian point man will become more comfortable “really grabbing” the team, and continue to embrace the mindset that goes hand in hand with the role he’s been assigned.
“It’s one thing for a coach to anoint you a point guard,” Brown said. “It’s another thing to own that responsibility, and own the characteristics that truly come with that position.
“He will get there, because he’s got a poise – we all see the poise he has – quite remarkably, at this stage. He’s not flustered by the moment.”
If there was one line Friday that Brown wanted reporters to hear more than anything else, however, it might have very well been this one:
“He’s gonna be great, and he’s really good right now.”