ATLANTA - Just about every night his team competes in an NBA game, coach Brett Brown has to feel as if he's walking into a gunfight with a slingshot.
For the first time this season, however, he is starting to get a full load of ammunition. Still slingshot ammunition for the most part, but more of it.
Kendall Marshall and Tony Wroten, two guards who have been sidelined after tearing their ACLs in January, are finally getting to the point in their comebacks at which Brown will be able to use them as much as he desires. While both were still allowed to play only 20 minutes Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks, it was the first time Brown had both available to him on the same night.
But, as is everything else Sixers, the duo does form a problem of sorts. Brown sees both as point guards. There is no question Marshall is that, with a pass-first mentality and a great ability to get the ball to players in spots where they need and want the ball. His scoring ability is way down on the list of what makes him an NBA point guard, with an awkward shot and that pass-first attitude. Wroten said a couple of weeks ago he sees himself as the point guard of the future for this program. He is a very capable scorer, with tremendous quickness and speed, who can get to the basket seemingly whenever he desires. He possesses the speed Brown so desires in his fast-paced offense, but not the best decision-making at times.
Brown said on Wednesday morning: "I still see them being point guards more than playing them together. I think there will be times when I'm playing them together."
Here's the reasoning. If he has both of them on the floor together, there is literally no spacing going on, as Wroten is also a suspect shooter. That means the floor is closed off as he's looking to go to the basket, while Marshall is trying to play pick-and-roll with Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel. It means the "two" guard spot, while being occupied by Wroten, is devoid of a true outside shooter. If Okafor and Noel are going to prosper, they need the floor to be wide-open, and that happens if the likes of Nik Stauskas, Robert Covington or Hollis Thompson is making shots from outside.
"I've never had more options this year. And so you feel the game," Brown said. "You've got the luxury that some of those point guards can go to (shooting guards) and you just feel the game. I just know that the opportunity to play more people and really pay attention to that position is more open than it's ever been.
"I think the wings that we have are good and upcoming players. You especially are aware of having shooters on the floor. So Tony going to the 'two' or Kendall going to the 'two' and T.J. (McConnell) being at 'one,' I don't feel the need to do that. I think we have players that can well serve those 'two' and 'three' spots.
So how does this play out? If Marshall is Brown's point guard, that's 30 to 35 minutes, once he's fully cleared. It would appear that Wroten has to get as much as 25 to 30 minutes a night, as, next to Okafor, he's your most explosive offensive threat. But if both are on the court, then Wroten's playing the shooting guard, and then the court gets clogged, and so on and so on . . .
Nothing seems to come easy for this team, with its four best players seemingly sharing to positions (Okafor and Noel both centers, Wroten and Marshall both point guards).
More rocks, but still using a slingshot.
"It's a lot different," Marshall said of playing with both Noel and Okafor on the floor. "It's different with spacing, with play-calling. They bring different things to the floor. It's always going to be obvious when Nerlens is on the court (with Okafor); he's a big man. So, obviously, he's not going to be out at the three-point line. It's not good or bad, it's just a different type of situation."
More puzzle pieces that need to be fitted somehow.
Drexel legend and former Comcast analyst Malik Rose has found himself a new home in Atlanta, where he is the manager of basketball operations.
"It's been great, I'm really enjoying it," said the affable Rose. "I have my hands in a lot of things, and I have a lot of freedom with this job. I'm learning an awful lot from a great front office group. (General manager) Wes Wilcox is terrific. My family doesn't mind the warm weather down here, that's for sure. It's just been a great fit, and I couldn't be happier."
Rose, who played 13 years in the league, was with the San Antonio Spurs as a player when they had assistant coaches Mike Budenholzer, now the Hawks' head coach and president of basketball operations, and Brett Brown, the Sixers' coach. He is one of the most popular former players around the league and has a terrific basketball mind. A great move by the Hawks.
On Twitter: @BobCooney76