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Sixers' Brett Brown must adapt to returning players

SO IN the past few days, Brett Brown has seen the front office shaken to its core, as Jerry Colangelo was brought in help The Process move forward, whether that be in a quicker way or in a totally different direction.

SO IN the past few days, Brett Brown has seen the front office shaken to its core, as Jerry Colangelo was brought in help The Process move forward, whether that be in a quicker way or in a totally different direction.

That's really not something the coach can concern himself with right now, as his plate is fuller than someone's at a free buffet.

Jahlil Okafor has been struggling on the court of late - when he's not serving two-game suspensions or battling an upper respiratory infection - as his off-the-court problems seem to have affected his game.

Tony Wroten, probably the club's best scorer, is just returning from a torn right ACL he suffered on Jan. 13. Kendall Marshall, who suffered the same injury two days later while with the Bucks, is scheduled to make his 76ers debut Friday against Detroit, and forward Carl Landry, the team's one true veteran, at 32, probably will be back from a wrist injury after Christmas.

So as much as the front office has been shuffled lately, the lineup will shortly become a shell of what it was recently, let alone to begin the season. The team that Brown envisioned at the beginning of the season will finally have all of its pieces very soon. But with such limited time together, it will take time for it all to gel.

"People aren't going to like hearing this, but I think post-Christmas, because you've got Landry and Kendall Marshall and you've got Tony Wroten," Brown said of when things may all come together. "It's not like you're bringing back 15th and 14th men. I feel like we're going to need some games under our belt, all of us, from coaching it and subbing it and playing it. Somebody is going to take a hit. You're not just going to play a mass group."

Eventually, when everyone gets their games in some sort of rhythm, Marshall will start at point guard. Wroten might well get a lot of minutes at the shooting guard, while also playing some point. Landry will back up and play with both Okafor and Nerlens Noel. So players such as T.J. McConnell, Isaiah Canaan and others might find themselves relegated to the bench a little bit more.

"I think it's going to be important for me to reward competitiveness," Brown said. "Who's competitive? Who's playing well? You're not going to roll out 12 and 13 guys. Somebody's got to take a hit. There's a lot of moving parts. That doesn't make it easier with the introduction of these guys, but it makes it better over the long run. The start of the middle third of the year, we're just going to keep moving forward, obviously, but it's not going to be fluid, I don't think, until the start of the middle third."

Brown divides each NBA season into thirds: from the beginning of the season to Christmas, then Christmas to the All-Star break, then from the break to the end. The fluidity of it all still revolves around the rookie Okafor, who has struggled since his incident in Boston on Thanksgiving morning. In the four games he's played since then, which sandwiched the team-mandated two-game suspension, Okafor has shot 16-for-51 from the floor (31.4 percent) and has averaged 10.5 points.

"This is my only focus, on this court, so it's not a challenge or anything like that," Okafor said when asked whether outside influences are hurting his game. "I'm really involved with the team."

His coach seems to differ on how much things are playing a part in his recent play.

"It isn't even close to being more than that, including all of us and me as the head coach," Brown said. "You can't create stories or think things that I don't believe are true. He's gone through a hell of a hard time. The most dramatic time, I'm sure, of his (basketball) life. To think that's not going to impact how you then go play in front of 18,000 people and go be on national TV again and put yourself out there, where you're scrutinized on your performance, that's quite naive, I think. I'm putting it solely on the situation. You add the fact that he was sick. You know, there are outlies kind of all over the place."

Add in that his team was pathetic in a 51-point loss to San Antonio on Monday and you can see some unraveling amid a group that prides itself on being so tight. Brown addressed each player Tuesday about it. He sees veterans coming into the fold. He knows more talent is on its way in a short time frame.

Changes abound.

Six shots

Brett Brown said that Tony Wroten won't play Friday, against the Detroit Pistons. He is still on a 16-minute restriction. Kendall Marshall will be on the same restriction when he debuts Friday . . . After hosting Detroit on Friday, the Sixers will play 10 of their next 12 games on the road.