Sir Charles Speaks
A hallmark trait of Brett Brown’s coaching tenure with the Sixers – now entering its fifth season – has been the constant emphasis he’s placed on the holistic part of his players’ experience.
The latest example came Monday, on the eve of the team’s first training camp practice. Brown, in an effort to promote togetherness and camaraderie across the entire organization, invited players, fellow coaches, support staff, and front office members to his home in Lower Merion Township for a barbeque dinner.
“You’re always thinking of opening night, and how you want to do it, where you want to do it, what message you want to try to convey the loudest,” Brown said. “I decided it would be pretty good to bring them to my house.”
Brown called the evening a “good night,” one made that much more special thanks to its guest speaker.
“Charles Barkley was kind enough to offer his time, and come over and have dinner with us,” Brown said of the former Sixer-turned-NBA on TNT analyst. “He talked so freely, and so much in a genuine way that it was an incredible night to start the season, and the message he would shared with our team is something that I’m sure everybody will remember.”
With the Sixers from 1984 through 1992, Barkley still owns a house in the Philadelphia suburbs, and occasionally spends time in the area. The forward was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 1993, an 11-time All-Star, and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist.
Barkley’s credentials also include enshrinement in both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and the College Basketball Hall of Fame. His No. 34 jersey was retired by the Sixers in March of 2001.
The words Barkley shared clearly left an impression on Markelle Fultz, this year’s top draft pick.
“Just the passion he has for us, even though he’s not playing with us anymore, him seeing the success we can [have], him seeing it from the outside, just showing Philly pride really,” Fultz said earlier this week. “It just makes you want to play for those who already came through before you, all the legends , and all the players that already came through the program and organization before you.”
The Sixers had another team-building activity Thursday. This time it was a ping pong outing in Center City.
Camaraderie Keys Chemistry
Following the Sixers’ second practice of the preseason, there was a lot of talk from Brett Brown and several of his players about how competitive this training camp has already been.
“I feel it in the gym,” Brown said Wednesday. “I think that when you look at the month of June and the month of September [when there were voluntary 5-on-5 pick up games], you felt it then. People looking over their shoulders, wondering where they fit in.”
Brown wouldn’t have it any other way.
While the resulting dynamic might be intense, there seems to be an understanding that such an atmosphere is necessary, and ultimately be to the Sixers’ advantage in the long run.
“We’re in a great position, because everybody’s coming to compete every day to make each other better,” said Justin Anderson, in his first training camp with the Sixers after being acquired from Dallas mid-season. “We have one common goal. We don’t care who gets the credit.”
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The fact that players on the club are close, and enjoy spending time with each other on and off the court, helps, Anderson says.
“We’re putting ourselves in position, man. If we continue to compete like this all of training camp, then we get a chance to go out there for preseason, and make some noise, we can get the season rolling pretty quick. That’s our plan, that’s our goal.”
Saric’s Attitude Not Changing
When Brett Brown was asked last week at his annual pre-season media luncheon where he sees Dario Saric fitting into the Sixers’ rotation, the head coach’s answer was crystal clear: “Anywhere we want.”
Over the course of his career, both in Europe, and his one year with the Sixers, the Croatian forward has shown he can make an impact in a variety of ways, and in multiple roles. Regardless of what he’s asked to do, Saric, as he told reporters Wednesday, tries “to fight 100 percent.”
“That’s in my blood, if I can say, surviving, and I will go like that.”
Saric only got into town this past weekend. He logged heavy minutes at EuroBasket 2017 earlier this month, and the Sixers are keeping an eye on him to make sure he’s feeling good. One of his teammates hasn’t noticed a difference.
“I’m surprised – he’s been playing all summer, he’s playing well,” said Ben Simmons. “He knows what shots he can hit, he’s a smart player, he can pass the ball. He can do everything. It’s been good having him back here.”