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Old-school coach Brown learning new-school methods

Sixers' Brett Brown trying to adapt in the analytics age.

Brett Brown longs for the days when he can work one-on-one with his players. (Associated Press)
Brett Brown longs for the days when he can work one-on-one with his players. (Associated Press)Read more

SOMETIMES you get the feeling Brett Brown would love to get that phone call at an ungodly hour. You wonder how much he would rather be able to concentrate on elbow placement, follow-throughs and footwork.

Those were the old days of the NBA, when he was with the San Antonio Spurs, first as director of player development. Steve Kerr, Bruce Bowen, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, to name a few, would call the always energized Brown at all hours, looking to put in some extra time at the team's extravagant practice facility. Those were one-on-one sessions. As much was gained in the relationship area as in the shooting sessions themselves.

Now, it's different. Some would say better, others would say it's overload. The 76ers, with their vision zoned in on the analytics part of the game, probably lean towards the latter.

It might not be the way Brown grew players during his 12 years in San Antonio. In fact, it couldn't be much more different. The second-year coach appreciates having all the knowledge at his fingertips - from what a player's shooting percentage is on one side of the floor compared with the other, to how many long two-point shots he is attempting. The numbers are all there, probably more statistics than anyone could ever try to comprehend.

It is a very different way for Brown.

"Just the quantity of information and people that you now have that you can allocate to specific things," he said of the main differences from his time under Gregg Popovich. "Shooting coaches, two or three strength and conditioning coaches, a wealth of analytics, outside of just a coach and a player getting on the floor and working on a jump shot or a dribble. The ratio of coaches to players has changed dramatically since my first year [in San Antonio], where I was responsible for 15 players and you had to compartmentalize and run the gym with groups and sections, and you had to allocate chunks of time, pre- and post-practice. That fundamental formula still exists, but the resources that you apply to it are far greater. I came into the league and there were three of me [directors of development], and now every team probably has two or three. It's like hitting coaches in baseball; shooting coaches are going to be the emerging thing. I think that nearly half of the NBA teams have an isolated, dedicated shooting coach. We're going to blink and, in 5 years, everybody is going to have one of those, too. Development just spins off on so many areas with so many people nowadays."

"[The one-on-one] is a thing that I miss the most. It's a relationship thing, it's a sweat-equity thing. It's something that's personal. Now in my role, because I oversee, I think, 13 coaches of some sort underneath me, from intern video guys to full-on bench assistants, coaching the coaches for me is almost at times harder than coaching the players. They didn't know me. I didn't know them. And to surround yourself with 13, 14 new voices and faces . . . I need loyalty, I need expertise, I need for them to have the same voice and philosophy that I have, I need to be open to say, 'Hey, what do you think?'

"I got good people from lots of different programs with a lot of experience that I can learn from them, too. That dynamic and then how you distribute coaches to players, I have platooned everybody up. If we've done anything well, I feel comfortable that everybody has a role.

"I'm very interested in the NFL. I think there's a lot to learn in how to set up a program in the NFL. I have a person overseeing defense. I have a person overseeing offense. I have a shooting coach. I have somebody dedicated to development. I have somebody dedicated to analytics. I have somebody dedicated to a video-room breakdown. Everybody has their role and their lane. I miss just the personal thing, where it's just me and the player. I still get that, but not as much as I wished that I did."

Still, with the huge coaching cast and with the analytics, development for the players on this club will take time. Tony Wroten, Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel still are very well below average when it comes to shooting. Wroten is more of a driver than a shooter, but improving on his outside shooting would make him lethal offensively. MCW missed a summer of practice because of shoulder surgery and Noel is just 31 games into his NBA career, after sitting out a season with a knee injury.

"There is a realistic patience and calendar that we all have to have," Brown said. "Improvement can be realized in 3- to 5-year incremental time. I think Nerlens, as he moves up the food chain in his free throws, we're going to see him get to a level. I think Michael's going to improve his shooting. People forget that he came off that shoulder surgery, and sometimes I do [too]. He missed a whole summer of just putting in time.

"Right now, we struggle so severely offensively, incredibly severely offensively, and shooting is our No. 1 Achilles' heel. The development thing that we're talking about takes time."

Maybe once the humongous practice facility in Camden gets built, and if all the pieces of this team are still in place, Brown's phone will start ringing in the middle of the night, and the development process will have its simple moments once again.

Upcoming games

Sixers at Brooklyn Nets

When: Tonight, 7:30

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/The Fanatic (97.5 FM)

Game stuff:  The Nets have lost three in a row after falling to the visiting Celtics on Wednesday night. In that game, Brooklyn forced only seven Boston turnovers. After missing the previous game with a sore side, guard Deron Williams played 4 minutes against the Celtics before taking himself out for the rest of the game. He's now out indefinitely with a rib fracture.

Indiana Pacers at Sixers

When:  Tomorrow, 7:30 p.m.

Where:  Wells Fargo Center

TV/Radio:  Comcast SportsNet/The Fanatic (97.5 FM)

Game stuff:  Center Roy Hibbert limped off the court at Golden State on Wednesday with a sprained ankle, so his availability will be iffy. The Pacers have other injuries, including Rodney Stuckey (groin) and George Hill (also groin).

Atlanta Hawks at Sixers

When:  Tuesday, 7 o'clock

Where:  Wells Fargo Center

TV/Radio:  Comcast SportsNet/The Fanatic (97.5 FM)

Game stuff:  The Hawks won their sixth straight game on Wednesday when they beat the visiting Memphis Grizzlies. That was also their 20th win in the last 22 games. Atlanta now has a nine-game winning streak over teams in the Western Conference.

Sixers at Toronto Raptors

When:  Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

Where:  Air Canada Centre

TV/Radio:  Comcast SportsNet/The Fanatic (97.5 FM)

Game stuff:  One of the surprise teams in the league, the upstart Raptors will be right in the middle of a six-game homestand when the Sixers visit. Heading into last night's game, Villanova product Kyle Lowry averaged 25.8 points in his previous six games, while former Sixer Lou Williams had hit double figures in 10 of his previous 13.

By the numbers

32:  That is the number of assists the Milwaukee Bucks had on 41 baskets against the Sixers on Wednesday. It was a season high for Milwaukee.

14, 7, 6:  Those are the numbers of points, assists and rebounds, respectively, that no player in the league except Michael Carter-Williams is averaging. MCW is averaging 14.9, 7.4 and 6.3.