TORONTO - Brett Brown is aching for his team to play at the league's best pace (possessions per game), but he hasn't had the right players to do so.
So adding a point guard to the mix who is a little slow afoot, has a shot that looks like it would be laughed at any local high school gym and is coming off a major injury wouldn't seem to be the answer at this time.
Oh, but it just might be. Kendall Marshall watches as T.J. McConnell and Isaiah Canaan play at their highest capable speed at all times and just smiles (and sometimes cringes). He has been watching for a while now, as he's been sidelined due to a torn ACL last January. Slowly but surely (emphasis on slowly) Marshall is being worked back into the rotation. He was still on a 16-minute restriction in Sunday's 96-76 loss to the Toronto Raptors, but the promise that he shows during his limited time has coach Brown finally envisioning a point guard of the future. In fact, with the Sixers clawing back late in the fourth quarter and with Marshall already on the bench with 17 minutes played, Brown sneaked him back in for a couple of minutes to try to get a win, but it didn't happen. In a 20-point loss, Marshall was a minus-1 in 20 minutes of play.
"He is excellent at throwing the ball ahead and getting good shots from that," said Brown. "He is an NBA point guard."
Brown emphasizes the "NBA" part because he really has no other point guards on the roster who would qualify as such, meaning being able to play good significant minutes, particularly at the end of games.
He is convinced Marshall is that.
The coach won't be able to fully showcase his coveted point guard for a while, however, as the recovery is being handled slowly and it will take some time for Marshall to fully find his game. He will be instrumental in helping Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor learn to play with each other, Brown said.
"That comes from throughout the year watching them play and now playing with them," Marshall said of his simplistic style. "I'll start to learn how to get them the ball. Not so much of where to get it to them. When we can get it to them easily, then I know they'll finish the play.
"I think a big part of it is just the player that I've always been. When I first got to college the game seemed super-fast. When I figured it out, everything seemed to slow down. Same thing when I got to the NBA. It was super-fast and then it slowed down. I think a lot of that just comes with experience, but a big part of it, too, is just who I am. I've always had my own pace of play."
The Sixers' pace isn't very good right now. Obviously, nothing is. And Noel had to leave the game with a corneal abrasion Sunday after getting an elbow from Kyle Lowry (16 points). He was sent to the hospital for observation. Okafor was the lone bright spot, going for 23 points and 14 boards for his seventh double-double of the season. Robert Covington added 15 points and nine rebounds for the Sixers. DeMar DeRozan had 25 points and Luis Scola 22 for the Raptors (16-9), who won their fourth in a row.
Marshall will sit out Monday's game in Chicago as he is not yet cleared to play back-to-back games. Tony Wroten, also recently returned from ACL surgery, will be able to play after sitting out Sunday.
It is the musical chairs world of point guards in which Brett Brown lives. He can only hope it's soon solidified when Marshall is fully healthy.