It’s no secret that 76ers coach Brett Brown is on the hot seat.
Since the start of the season, the expectation has been that he’ll lose his job with anything less than a deep postseason run.
- NCAA postpones deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from NBA draft, return to school
- National Basketball Players Association gauging players’ interest to resume 2019-20 NBA season
- How much do NBA organizations want to resume the season? It depends on the team’s market size and championship window.
But what if the 2019-20 season doesn’t resume due to the coronavirus pandemic? In that scenario, the Sixers (39-26) would be remembered for underachieving. The team that started as a favorite to win the NBA title would end the campaign in a disappointing sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
Of course, Brown has thought about that scenario and what it would mean for his future.
“You’re human to think about it all the time,” he said during Friday’s Zoom conference call with local media.
Brown added he’s not thinking about it to the point where it weighs him down. But the seventh-year head coach is aware.
“And I feel this strongly,” he said, “as it sits in my sort of coaching world, this thing is so, for me, incomplete.”
Brown pointed to his ballyhooed starting lineup of Tobias Harris, Al Horford, Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson, and Ben Simmons playing together in just 19 of 65 games. He, once again, noted that the Sixers are built for the playoffs.
Embiid has been sidelined a total of 17 games due to injuries. He also served a two-game suspension for fighting Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns. Simmons missed the last eight games and 11 overall with injuries. Richardson missed 17 games. Horford missed three.
Horford was also demoted to the bench Feb. 11 because he wasn’t pairing well with Embiid and Simmons. He returned to the starting lineup three games later only because Simmons was sidelined with a pinched nerve in his lower back.
“Like every team, you got some not fortunate injury situations,” Brown said. “We get [that] we needed to be better on the road. We were dominant at home.”
No team has had as big of a disparity between its home and road records as the Sixers.
They had the league’s best home record at 29-2, yet they were 10-24 away from the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers lost 10 of their last 11 road games.
“I felt everything was pointing toward us landing the plane, getting good health, and letting that [playoff] environment be judgment day,” Brown said. “So I dump all my energy into ‘Let’s do everything we can [during the league suspension].’ I feel very confident and respectfully cocky that we’ve done good work.”
The NBA’s regular season was suspended March 11 after Utah center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. Brown has been using this time to evaluate his team.
Every Wednesday for the past seven weeks, Brown holds a virtual meeting with 18 staffers, including his bench coaches. Then on Thursdays, he does the same with his eight player-development coaches along with the strength-and-conditioning coaches, sports-performance staffers, and analytics personnel.
“I want to know what did we do well and what didn’t we do well, and why to both questions,” Brown said of the meetings.
The meetings with the coaches have included everything from offense to defense to challenge rules, etc. The meetings conclude with deep dives into if their possible early-round playoff opponents such as the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and Miami Heat.
“We are out in front of it,” Brown said.
Meanwhile, the focus is on getting the best usage out of individual players during the development staff meetings.
Brown is proud of the work he and his staff have done. He also mentioned how his development coaches are working daily and communicating their findings with the players.
“As it relates to your direct question, ‘How does that impact you?’ I don’t know,” he said. “But what I do know is what I just said to be true. I’ve been with you and this city for seven years. We’ve gone through naviculars and pandemics and [four] GMs and 100-whatever players, and here we are.