Blue Route Notes: Sixers Reel in Hawks; Delaware Blue Coats Learning to Fly

On any given night, the Sixers will be at a quickness disadvantage in the half court. The general premise of this team is to be bigger and faster downhill than the opposition. On Monday night in Atlanta, the Hawks got out to a 40-31 lead after one quarter only to fade down the stretch. Brett Brown in training camp said, “We are huge” and promised not to be “the first to blink” when it comes to in-game mismatches. You get the sense, after three games, that the team is willing to grind teams down, even if it results in early game deficits. On Monday the result was a 105-103 win. That means the Hawks scored just 63 points over the final 36 minutes. 

The Sixers have trailed after one in all three games. However, they have outscored the opposition in all six second half quarters so far. When watching the team, you are reminded of a big game fisherman who hooks a fish and is content to slowly tire the catch out over time while reeling it in. Meanwhile, the opposition must get the feeling when facing the Sixers that they simply need a bigger boat. 

Crunch Time Crown Jewel

“[Joel Embiid] was our crown jewel in a blatant way,” said Brett Brown about Embiid’s evening where he scored 36 points and had 5 assists against a much smaller Hawks team.

 

Trae Young Contained

Trae Young, like the Hawks, was very impressive early. He hit some long range threes early in the game, but as the 76ers adjusted and mixed coverages, he lost effectiveness late. On the game’s final possession, he was surrounded by defenders, thus forcing the Hawks to put their fate in the hands of 43 year old Vince Carter. He was unable to deliver. Ultimately though, the Hawks came away looking like a dangerous team with playoff potential.

Matisse Stock Watch

Thybulle continued to be disruptive with 4 steals and 2 blocks. He is averaging an amazing 4 stocks (steals plus blocks) per game. But even more impressive, when adjusted for pace, Matisse is averaging 8.1 stocks per 100 possessions. As Brett Brown calls him, he is the “Reckless Thief.” It is early, but he looks to be a huge part of the defensive identity that this team is building. His ability to stalk players even from behind is already elite.

Meanwhile in Process South:

The Delaware Blue Coats are holding their training camp this week. Head coach Connor Johnson is impressed by the improving talent quality in the G-League. “Every team got better this summer,” said Johnson who is coaching his second season in Delaware. On Monday he pointed to Norvel Pelle and Haywood Highsmith as “great advertisers for our league.” Five of the players (Highsmith, Smith, Shayok, Koumadje, Miles) in camp spent the preseason with the 76ers. They come to Coats camp with a built-in conditioning advantage. Johnson said that, early on, the focus has been on defense and that only 10 minutes or so of Day 1 of camp was spent installing an offense. The three pillars of Johnson’s philosophy are “Defend, Run, Share,” and his training camp has reflected that so far. 

The G

The G-League is rapidly becoming a viable platform for professionals to showcase their abilities. Playing in a high level league closer to NBA scouting and coaching staffs creates a path to the show. Historically, players felt the need to play overseas if they didn’t have an immediate opportunity in the league. Highsmith is joined by 2018 first round pick Zhaire Smith, as well as multiple players from 76ers training camp, in Delaware this week. After practice Tuesday, Zhaire Smith said that he is excited to play big minutes in Delaware. He said he wants to “show my whole game, shooting, defense.” The Sixers are and will be watching his progress closely. Both days thus far, Sixers’ front office and scouting staff have been in Wilmington to watch camp.

Wings Stand Out Early

As you look at the general construction of the roster, it is very wing heavy. Highsmith, Smith, Shayok, Brownridge, Terry Harris, and Terrence Drisdom lead the wing rotation. Xavier Munford and Shizz Alston will be counted on as lead guards, and Doral Moore and Christ Koumadje give the Coats two of the biggest backline rim protectors in the league. When asked about his point guards’ responsibility to run the offense at the fast pace that fits the wings, Johnson was frank. “I’m never going to tell our wings that they run too fast or defend too hard.”

Blue Coats camp continues through this week. The home opener is November 9th versus the Maine Red Claws. There is a good chance you will be able to see Tacko Fall versus Christ Koumadje in the home opener! Click the link for schedule and ticketing information. https://bluecoats.gleague.nba.com/schedule/