Brett Brown will shorten his rotation at some point and prepare for matchups proactively, rather than reactively, but that’s not the immediate plan.
Right now, Brown is interested in evaluating the talent of the 76ers’ recently acquired players and experimenting with different lineups.
“There’s a tolerance level that I have where I want to learn,” Brown said Tuesday night after the Sixers’ 112-109 loss to the Celtics. “I want to learn as much as I can about the group that we have and all these things.”
How long will the learning and experimenting process last between now and the end of the season?
“As long as it takes,” he said.
Though Boban Marjanovic is not an ideal backup center to play against the Celtics, he racked up 10 minutes and 30 seconds of playing time through three quarters Tuesday (Joel Embiid played the entire fourth quarter).
Yes, Marjanovic is an OK option situationally and he had a flat-footed defensive rebound and later a hookshot over Al Horford — plays that garnered huge ovations from the crowd — but Horford and Daniel Theis are bad matchups for Marjanovic. The pair are too athletic and quick, often forcing the 7-foot-3 center to run around and chase rather than use his size for anything meaningful.
Ideally, Brown would have given some run to Jonah Bolden, as he alluded to in his postgame comments. That’s most likely what would have happened had Tuesday’s game been in the postseason rather than mid-February.
“Looking at different people is always on my mind and trying to figure that out for when it matters most in April,” Brown said. “Like the usage of Boban. At times tonight, you thought might you get Jonah in the game, as an example.”
The decision not to get a look at Bolden in the backup five spot against Boston is one worth questioning, especially considering that we all know Marjanovic’s limitations. To Brown’s credit, there will be one more game against the Celtics before the regular season closes. One would think that by the time that March 20 game rolls around, the Sixers rotations will be closer to finalized.
There’s also an argument to be made that James Ennis was better equipped to deal with the Celtics’ wing players, but Brown wants to know what he has in Jonathon Simmons, so Simmons received the minutes Tuesday. These are the sacrifices Brown is going to be making in the near future.
To understand which players work best together and which lineups are viable and efficient, Brown will be rotating through the players who are on the edges of the roster; Marjanovic, Bolden, Simmons, Ennis, and Furkan Korkmaz. Eventually, when the playoffs come knocking, Brown expects to use a nine-man rotation: the Sixers’ starting five, T.J. McConnell, Mike Scott, and two players to be determined.
Not only will the evaluation of those new players take time, but it also is going to take time for them to pick up the Sixers’ offensive and defensive sets.
“We’re still trying to learn the plays and defensive schemes,” Scott said. “It’ll take a while but we’re professionals just playing basketball, so it shouldn’t be hard.”
The Sixers have one more game before the all-star break. The team will visit the New York Knicks on Wednesday for the second game of a back-to-back. That’s 48 more minutes of data that Brown will have to look at as the learning process continues.