The Sixers are expected to be one of, if not the worst team in the NBA next season, and a quick look up and down the roster tells us that’s not exactly a stretch.
The veterans that remain aren’t guys you can count on for consistent output at either end of the floor, and the rest are rookies or other young players that are continuing to develop. Put together, it’s one of the least talented collection of players the league has seen in recent seasons.
New Sixers head coach Brett Brown was introduced to the media on Wednesday, and he knows all of this as well as anyone. That’s why there was no way he was going to leave the comfort of a tenured position with the San Antonio Spurs — one of the league’s best-run franchises — to take on a project of this magnitude without a guarantee he’d have enough time to turn things around.
From Jason Wolf of The News Journal (via SLAM):
“I was not going to take the job without the four years [guaranteed],” Brown said about his contract. “And I am extremely grateful to the owners where they took a step back, and I think it’s a tremendous reflection of what they truly think, too. It’s going to take time. They really do have a tolerance. There is a patience. And as much as it was security for myself, I felt like they made a statement to the marketplace that they’re for real. They really do see this being a long haul-type of position. But it was vital to my decision and I’m thrilled that they allowed me to have that duration.”
Low expectations are understandable in Philadelphia, especially in this first season under Brown. But the challenges ahead are monumental, and whether or not he makes it the full four years has as much to do with the performance of the front office as it does with how he manages during his first couple of years as an NBA head coach.
It’s extremely difficult to build a winning culture and one of “doing things the right way” almost completely from scratch, especially when the losses are piling up and the young players are feeling frustrated at the lack of tangible results.
It’s tough to keep the locker room engaged in those situations, and that will be Brown’s biggest challenge as he undertakes this project — getting his team’s consistent buy-in to what he’s teaching, while keeping the players focused on the bigger picture.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.