Tobias Harris thoughtful

The Philadelphia 76ers held their routine media availability prior to practice on Monday. Brett Brown, Tobias Harris, and Glenn Robinson III all stopped by, and all three added different flavors to the Zoom webinar.

Brett Brown

Head coach Brett Brown elaborated on previous comments he had offered about the Sixers being built for the playoffs: “I think there’s a defensive presence, a physicality, length, height that makes me say that, as much as anything. The fact that our offense, at times, has struggled for different reasons–for me, it’s space–gives you pause. Really, for me, it’s driven more from a defensive comment and opinion as much as anything.” Brown’s team has experienced quite the polar opposite defensive performance at home compared to on tour this season. At the Wells Fargo Center, Philly sported a 102.7 defensive rating, good for second best in that context in the NBA. On the road, that rating deteriorated to 112.1, just outside the bottom ten in the league in that category.

On his team’s level of focus in the bubble

Brown attributed the lack of ability to explore Orlando as a factor into a noticed increase in the level of focus he has observed in the bubble. Brown remarked, “What I sense is that this is the flagship thing of everybody’s day, and you love going to practice, and you’re back in the gym. I think, for that reason, it’s the priority, it’s the focal point, it’s the thing that is most important. Although that is the way it should be in a normal situation, people got lives, families, outside influences , and a lot of other things that could maybe water down that comment.”

The head coach continued, “I just feel that because we’re so secluded, so isolated, that we are confined to this tight space, albeit a very safe tight space, and I think the NBA has been amazing with this sort of ‘campus’ we’re on. It’s not like you want for much, they do an amazing job of providing. But, the sanctuary becomes the gym, and I think, for that reason, if you want to point it into ‘they’re more focused’ and so on, that’s probably true. But, I think that focus is driven with the backdrop of ‘this needs to be the most important thing that we do today’ and I think everyone’s really excited to be back in the gymnasium.”

Contextualizing Ben Simmons’ achievements

With Ben Simmons turning 24-years-old today, Brown offered some perspective on the meteoric rise of the Australian point forward. Brown said, “Just think about that age and, if you start referencing some of the other great players in our league, just from a statistics or an acknowledgement perspective, if you start draping championships on at what age these other great players experience championship success, you’re gonna find there’s a commonality of about 28-years-old seems to be the honey spot for a bunch of great players and so he has just turned 24.”

“Now to answer your question,” Brown continued, “To be a two-time NBA all-star, to be discussed in a very serious way as a Defensive Player of the Year, to certainly be discussed to be on an All-League Defensive Team, to be rewarded with a max contract, to come in and play a point guard primary ball-handler position, all along that path achieving some of those things that I just said, be able to pivot out and into an interior position next to Joel, letting Shake have that responsibility. The versatility that I have just discussed, the age that that versatility has shown so much promise and then rewarded as I have just talked about is off-the-charts unique.

Brown glinted about Simmons’ potential, saying, “His better days are well and truly ahead of him, the foundation that he has already established at such an incredibly young age with all those things that I have just mentioned, I don’t think gets the full praise that it should and I think that the Philadelphia 76ers are very fortunate to have him in our uniform for, I’m sure, a very, very long time.”

The Sixers are very fortunate, indeed

Simmons, who has been wildly and endlessly discounted for his resistance towards attempting jump shots, has averaged 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.2 assists, and 2.1 steals in his third season in the NBA. He was sporting a true shooting percentage just below 60 percent, with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.3:1.

The LSU product experienced significant growth in the twenty games he played since the beginning of 2020 before a back injury took him out up until the suspension. Simmons averaged 19.8 points,  8.9 rebounds, 7.55 assists, and 1.95 steals in those 20 games. Perhaps a primary factor in that observed growth was Simmons’ improvement from the free throw line–he registered back-to-back months shooting above 60% from the charity stripe for the first time in his career.

On expectations for playing time allocations and rotations

Brown provided a window into what his plan is for building up minutes for his starters and defining his bench rotation. Brown stated, “I’m not gonna play our heavy weights extended minutes in our exhibition games. The first exhibition game is only four 10-minute periods. The last two exhibition games are full-on games, four twelves, normal games. I suspect you’re gonna see somewhere in the twenty-minute mark for my heavy weights. That may change a little bit the last game before we go play a regular season game.”

The Seeding Games

Of course, Brown expects a significant up-tick in the usage of his “heavyweights” once the games begin to count. “Once the dust settles and the regular season begins,” Brown said, “I’m looking anywhere from ’34’ is the easy number for me to talk about. In the playoffs, I said what I’ve said, I’ll say it again–I hope I can play Joel Embiid 38 minutes, and Ben not that far off, either. You can see the trajectory that I expect it to go with those few players that I mentioned.”

Brown went on to imply that another “silent tournament” was upon his roster: “In relation to the rotation, that’s stuff we’re going through now. I know that in the scrimmage games, there’ll be more than enough time to look at different rotations, especially given the lack of extended minutes that our starters will receive. I think that, by the time the dust settles after the three exhibition games and then the regular season begins, I think there’s enough of a runway to come pretty close, I hope, to settling on something. It’s all still moving parts and performance driven, but I hope that’s how it plays out.

Brown clearly has an itinerary for his starting lineup, and maybe even his Sixth Man, Al Horford. But it seems that the names occupying the seven-through-ten spots in the playoff rotation are still very much up in the air. 

Tobias Harris

Harris offered few words, but they were powerful. When asked about his involvement with the NBA’s Player Association’s social justice shirts that will be fashioned by players, Harris got right to the point: “Nothing against the t-shirts, but we want to make sure that [Kentucky Attorney General] Daniel Cameron will arrest the cops and officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s death. That’s all I got to say. That’s gonna be my answer for every question. [Hard to make out what was said due to some peripheral dialogue] Daniel Cameron to step up, do what’s right. That’s the only message I got today, and I appreciate everybody. Thanks.”

Glenn Robinson III

When asked about the correlation between the bubble experience and building team chemistry, Robinson III emphasized the significance of maintaining that closeness within the team. “I think that’s probably one of the most important things we can do right now,” Robinson III said, “Keep that chemistry high, keep that energy high.”

Robinson III went on, “Continue to get to know my teammates and I think we’re doing a great job at it. We had an off-day the other day, we went golfing and went to dinner, just trying to get on that same page. We missed each other for a couple months and I think that’s the best thing we can do moving forward. Almost as important as on the court, I think off the court, our chemistry, it needs to be there and we’ve been doing that.”

On the NBA’s list of permitted jersey phrases and his foundation

Robinson III’s request to put the name of his foundation on the back of his jersey was denied by the NBA. When asked if he was provided a reason why, Robinson III answered: “No, my guess is the NBA established their list of names that they felt was appropriate, that they felt was fair and just and that’s fine. Much credit and much love to everyone who did choose any words on that list.”

Robinson III continued: “For me, I’ve met Trayvon Martin’s mom and she’s been part of our foundation. I’ve worked with her, and I would love for that to be on there as well as my foundation. I also put out a tweet that player-led organizations and grass-root foundations that we’re around, I think it’s important to highlight. We’re here putting in the work and we want to show our skills to the world.

Remembering where you came from

Robinson III also touched upon the importance of community to him, personally: “I think the NBA and, I know, the Sixers are open to it, as well. It’s just, helping us in any way that we can with our foundations with where we come from. I know me, personally, coming from Gary, Indiana. That community needs a lot of work and that’s why I’m here today playing, try to help my teammates win a championship. I’m here for them, and I’m here for the city of Gary.”

On the rise of Shake Milton

The wing, acquired at the deadline from Golden State, offered strong endorsement of teammate Shake Milton, who will be inserted into the starting lineup upon the return to play. Robinson III said, “Shake’s gonna be Shake every day. I think that he’s done a great job of not letting the media, not letting different distractions come in and affect his game. He comes in and works hard every day. The kid’s putting up shots, putting in work every single day. So, I’m proud of him.”

Robinson III also offered the second-year guard some words of wisdom. He said, “I told him, ‘Your game, when I first got here, against the Clippers. Him scoring 39, that’s him. I think that he has that chip on his shoulder and he’ll continue to prove that that’s him on a nightly basis. You might not need him to score 39 every game, but that type of caliber player is who he is and I believe in Shake.'”

The veteran applauded Milton’s work ethic, as well. “That’s [coming in early and staying late] been him since I got here and, as far as I know, he’s been working like that throughout the whole season, throughout his whole career. I think we got a lot of high level guys that we put in the work. Like I said, when I first got here, even the other day at Disney, when we got off days, there’s guys that want to get in the gym and want to continue to get better.”

On Ben Simmons’ on-court leadership as a power forward

When asked about Ben Simmons’ fit at power forward, Robinson III zigged while many others have zagged. He said, “I think the obvious is what people are seeing is in the media now, of him taking and making jump shots. I think he has that capability. But overall, that leadership still hasn’t changed when the ball isn’t in his hands.

Robinson III continued, “He grabs a defensive rebound, he’s out, still finding guys. I think it’ll allow him to grab a couple more boards and get out and push. As well as his defensive presence, I think, every game is what I’ve noticed, at a high intensity level since I’ve gotten here. So, I’m excited to see him at any spot on the court. I’m excited to see the different lineups that coach will try to put out there and everyone is looking good and we’re gonna get in another good practice today and keep it rolling.”

On players being engaged on social justice issues

Robinson III commended his team’s openness to discuss difficult topics: “Given the situation and the current conditions, just kind of that the world is in, I think those things naturally pop up, as well as the virus talks. What I’m kind of proud of the team is we have more discussions that are open that are more than just basketball. We’ve had a lot of, just, life discussions about kids, about family, race, and social injustice.”

GRIII also offered kudos to the Sixers’ dedication to keeping the topic relevant. He remarked, “Coach already does a great job before practice bringing up current events, but we just take it amongst ourselves to talk as men a little bit better and a little bit more. Just be vulnerable and open with each other, and I thought we’ve done a great job at that.”

Robinson mentioned Tobias Harris, specifically, as someone who has been a leader in the team’s activism: “So, we’re kind of leaning on Tobias right now, we’re gonna come together as a team and figure out where to go forward and what we’re going to do for the city of Philadelphia, come together with everything that’s going on right now. We want to decide as a team why we’re here, what are we playing for besides a championship, we’re also playing for our community and the things that are happening in the world. I think it’ll be pretty impactful, pretty big statement, hopefully, is coming from Tobias soon.”

On adjusting, as a scorer and defender, from Golden State to Philadelphia

Monday’s media availability was wrapped up with some insight into how Robinson III views his role as a member of the contending Sixers, compared to what it was in Golden State. Of his mentality, Robinson III said, “Just been trying to come in and do my job at the highest level every day, both defensively and offensively. Playing at that wing position, I think we’ll be facing a lot of wings that I think I’ll have an opportunity to step up and guard those guys along with get out and run and knock down some shots and have fun. I think that’s an element of the game I’m going to bring to this team is that energy and having fun.”

The Sixers’ next media availability will be Tuesday.