There are times in the NBA schedule when the focus shifts from the coach and players to the front office and their decisions. As the NBA approaches its February 6th trade deadline, Elton Brand and his staff become the focus. The Sixers, at 26-16, are good, but having lost 14 road games, they look incomplete. When asked about his relationship with Brand, Brett Brown gave a strong endorsement. “I talk to Elton Brand at least twice a day. And if you take that number and you go out into, like, okay, well there’s seven days in a week that’s what, 14 times?”
Brown said that most of those interactions involve face-to-face time where they sit together and discuss the state of the team. “I think the world of him, the club should sign him to a 50-year contract. He’s just incredible to me.” Brown was effusive about Brand’s work ethic and dedication, noting that, after a long and lucrative NBA playing career, the money is not the primary factor for Elton. “He does it with just such passion and pride,” continued Brown, noting that, often, when they talk early in the morning, Elton is up and headed to his famed yoga practice.
But what is most important between a coach and GM is communication, to which Brown said, “It’s a very easy conversation and a truthful one, and so this thing you’re talking about is, is all part of it, you know, day-to-day stuff.”
As the deadline looms, the team looks to add a couple of key elements.
Ben Simmons has been excellent at manipulating defenses lately in creating open threes for his teammates, but converting on those looks has been a recurring issue, especially of late. Furkan Korkmaz spoke after the win against Brooklyn Wednesday on this topic. “Every time I play with Ben, I know he’s going to look for an assist. His ability to create with the ball, he creates a lot of space for you. When I get in the game, I know he’s going to look for me, and I’m just going out there trying to score. He’s out there trying to create for us.”
The team had hoped that Mike Scott would find his way out of a funk, but Scott has been reluctant and inconsistent from three this season. Scott is shooting just 33.6% from deep, but more troubling is the lack of consistency and rhythm with which he has been playing.
The Sixers have been rumored to be in the conversation for re-acquiring Robert Covington, who would be a seamless fit on a team from both a spacing and defensive standpoint. He would be a player that can help them increase both the volume and accuracy of their three-pointers. However, Covington will be difficult to acquire, and would not solve the perceived second big need which is…
2. Ball-handling and Shot-Creation
Right now, the Sixers rely quite a bit on Ben Simmons and Josh Richardson to create their base offense. Especially without Joel Embiid, the team has just those two, as well as Trey Burke and Raul Neto as deep bench PGs. The team appears to need another capable ball-handler to bring the ball up and initiate offense in a reliable way. This need seems more pressing some nights than others.
Players like Sacramento Kings guard Bogdon Bogdanovic and Golden State Warriors guard Alec Burks are interesting options. They are both players on expiring contracts who might be less costly to acquire than Covington but may have a less clear plug-and-play role on the team. They are theoretical fits, but integration into the team concepts are somewhat unknowns. Younger players tend to be harder to project as far as fit, and as we approach February, there are fewer practices leading up to the beginning of the NBA Playoffs.
So these things are admittedly front-and-center on the team’s mind. Brett Brown and Elton Brand managed to pull off some big deals last season, and it would be a shock to see them stand pat this year. As Brown concluded his discussion about Elton, he said they discuss the “trade deadline, it’s all part. And it’s just a relationship that I, I personally value very much, and I respect him very much for the job that he’s doing.”
On the Home-Road Struggles
“Were 19-2 here, 7-14 on the road, why?” Brown credits some of that disparity to the fans and says the team “goes to a different place defensively” in 4th quarters at home.
— J Blevins? (@JBlevinsNBA) January 17, 2020
Brown is searching for answers. The problem for the 76ers on the road could have many potential sources. Brown mentioned defensive intensity at home. “I discussed this with my team, the last 24 hours, last few times I’ve been with them. You know, we’re 19-and-2 here and 7-and-14 on the road. Why? Well that’s my question, you know, and I listened,” he said about his conversations with the team.
“You know I have my own thoughts on that. You’d be lying if you didn’t connect some of that to this building and the fans, and it’s filling in you feel, you know, a responsibility, and it grows and swells …and I feel like we go up a level, defensively.”
“I really feel like we go to a different place in fourth periods, especially defensively. That’s where I have my sights set, because I think that side of it produces a physical toughness, I think that it feeds into a mental toughness.”
The coach will understandably focus on his own team and what they can control; but another possibility is that the 76ers are making life difficult for opponents, but the opponents are the variable.