THIS CURRENT group of 76ers no doubt has coach Brett Brown's fingerprints all over it. You half-expect the players soon to all be talking in Boston accents and practically jumping out of their skin when talking about an aspect of the game that excites them.
Brown is as real as it gets. He is direct, firm and honest with his players. He emphasizes on a daily basis that they are all in this together. He makes no bones about wins or expectations, instead earnestly telling his team that he and his coaching staff are here to make them better players, make them NBA-worthy - whether those talents play out here or somewhere else. He is sincere when he says he wants the Tony Wrotens and Hollis Thompsons and James Andersons and Lorenzo Browns and Daniel Ortons to prosper in this league for years to come.
He is the anti-dictator. He listens to anyone and everyone around the court, thirsty for any bit of knowledge that he either hasn't consumed during his life around basketball or has overlooked. In the games that rookie Michael Carter-Williams has been straddled to the bench due to injury, Brown can often be seen talking to his starting point guard, sometimes giving words of advice, many times asking the 22-year-old what he is thinking, who should be where and what he would do in certain situations.
Brown is 52, with energy to match any of his players'. He is the one who makes the calls, decides who plays when and how to discipline when necessary.
At Monday's shootaround, Wroten was at the foul line at the far end of the court at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine while Brown was at the other end talking to Orton. All the players were at the foul line, working on their free throws at the end of the workout - a seemingly uneventful wrapup.
But all of the sudden, Brown scurried down the floor and wrapped his arms around Wroten from behind. The 20-year-old guard had a what-the-hell look on his face as Brown squeezed tighter.
Asked afterward what that was all about, Wroten said: "I don't really hold on to my follow-through [on foul shots]. He feels like when I hold my free throws, when I hold my follow-through, that it's a better percentage than when I don't hold it. He wants me to keep my wrist up there until the shot goes in."
It's the small victories that Brown cherishes - and will probably be the most he gets this season. He has said repeatedly that his team "will take our lumps" this season. Still, small victories and learning are what stoke Brown.
"You'll see me from time to time [during a game] talk to Nerlens [Noel] and gauge J-Rich [Jason Richardson]," Brown said. "All those guys have something to offer and need to be challenged a little bit during the game even when they can't play. I love walking down and saying, 'Nerlens, would you like to be out on the front of this press?' Or 'How would you handle this situation?' And asking J-Rich, 'Get them going, I need your help.'
"We have an injured group, we have a young group and between the two of them you reach out from time to time and you find a way to keep them both involved. When you have a young team and you're getting beaten fairly badly at times or emotions start to get the better of us, I think that [Richardson's] a calming voice. He is somebody that I will ask freely, 'What do you think?'
"He's been around the league a lot and I feel comfortable doing that and I think he feels comfortable answering that type of question. I feel that he has a leadership voice and a veteran voice that needs to be heard. It comes from a different level when you have a peer talk to a peer, a teammate talk to a teammate. I think it comes with a different source of power."
It's all part of the master plan, helped run by all and not by the coach alone. While Richardson heals from a serious knee injury that might not ever allow him to return to the league, he is involved more because that's what Brown wants.