The inexorable march to the top of the draft lottery continues, but the ugly murmurings can no longer be ignored.
Don’t blame Brett Brown.
The Colangelos sent their coach into a gunfight with a dull, rusty knife. The other teams have assault rifles. He has Sergio Rodriguez.
The Sixers already changed architects. It would be disastrous to fire the foreman.
They are 1-9 entering Wednesday night's game against the Wizards. Things might get better before they get worse – the next four opponents have combined for 10 wins and six of the next seven games are at the Wells Fargo Center – but it might stay bad, too. As it stands, they are on pace to win about eight games, which would be the worst record in NBA history, worse than the 10-win low point The Process hit in 2015-16.
As bad as things have been, the Sixers had a chance to win five of their 10 games in the final minute and they lost four. This might sound like a coaching problem, unless you read the statement differently:
The Sixers had a chance to win five of their first 10 games in the final minute! Holy cow! Are you kidding me?!
This would be a more accurate reading since they’re leaning on rookies Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, and considering Nik Stauskas gets to play at all.
The close losses – fool’s gold, really – prompted questions about Brown’s fitness to coach; questions that, for the moment, lack merit. They remain as unanswerable today as they were in the first three tank-athon years of Sam Hinkie’s disastrous Process.
They cannot be answered until: Embiid, a basketball neophyte, develops a more complete game; the sports science team eases minutes restrictions on Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, who are coming off injuries; and the team discontinues its baffling boycott on decent starting point guards.
Embiid’s foot and Okafor’s knee (and gut) are likely to keep them from making a bigger impact anytime soon, and there’s no point guard cavalry coming.
Brett Brown might be Riley, Popovich and Auerbach rolled into one. He also might be Eddie Jordan. Give him some actual NBA players and you’ll find out.
Jerry and Bryan Colangelo, the father-and-son demolition squad hired last season to depose Sam Hinkie, claimed they sought to make the 10-win team from last season more competitive. Really? They let Ish Smith get away and then added Jerryd Bayless, Sergio Rodriguez and Ben Simmons, the No. 1 overall pick, whom they plan to convert from (poor-shooting) power forward to (poor-shooting) point guard.
It doesn’t help that Bayless and Simmons have been hurt. But then, it doesn’t necessarily mean that either of them would have been appreciably better than the junior-varsity alternative of Rodriguez and T.J. McConnell, an undrafted place-holder from last season. Bayless seems close to returning - he's just been recalled from the 87ers - but so what? He has never been a starting point guard in the NBA. Rodriguez bombed out of the NBA as a younger man and spent the previous six seasons in Spain, with good reason, it turns out. Simmons, for all of his talent, has never played an NBA game. Assuming competence from any of them is simply foolish.
Certainly, the final seconds in the close losses were especially hard to watch. This season is about developing Embiid, a generational talent with minimal basketball experience coming off a 2½-year layoff due to an injury that will restrict his participation and his development. It has been painful development. Embiid, raw and overwhelmed and turnover-prone, finally delivered in the fourth of his four late-game opportunities.
Okafor, a more polished offensive player in the post but only 62 games into his NBA career, was asked to produce in the late stages of the other game (Embiid, restricted by his injury recovery, did not attend). The Sixers ran three passable plays in the last minutes of that loss but they still missed two of the three shots.
It is Brown’s job to devise plays that produce shots. It is not Brown’s job to make the shots.
Conversely, consider what Brown has done.
He developed Embiid. He managed to keep half of the games close. He did it with a misfit group without a floor leader in the fourth year of a rebooted rebuild.