Last night was a disaster for the Philadelphia 76ers. Just days after Brett Brown did an underwhelming job of filling the fanbase with confidence surrounding their playoff matchup with the Nets, the Sixers came out flat and were just clearly outplayed by a hungry Brooklyn side. Unfortunately, this loss was a little murkier than being dominated. It highlighted something that many have worried about for a while now. This team is just a little too young, in several ways.
We’ve all heard the same excuses. The starters have only played in 11 games together since the finalization of that top five and injuries have kept them from building a solid rapport. But through all the turmoil Brett Brown has seen, there has been one distinct criticism that just won’t go away…
In English Football, there’s a saying. ‘You can’t win with kids’. I whole-heartedly disagree with that statement, so long as you have a strong coach who can get the best out of his players and turn potential into current ability. And this is where Brett Brown’s coaching comes into question.
Forget the late-game adjustment arguments, forget the second half slumps and throw away the rotational rants. The Sixers showed their youth last night and there was only man on the entire team keeping them from falling apart completely; Jimmy Butler.
Brown went on to call him the ‘adult in the room’, but the former Timberwolf wasn’t exactly pleased with his 36 point outing.
“I mean, I think I can score the ball pretty decent. The thing that bothered me most though, tell you the truth, is the fact I didn’t have a single assist.” He explained after the game. “I think if I’m getting everybody involved and getting everybody else easy shots, I think the game goes a different way. You know, I’ll go study the film and see how I can find my teammates better to tell you the truth. I think if everybody’s clicking, Tobias [Harris], JJ [Redick], it takes away from my points, so be it, I’m fine with that, but I think we have a better shot at winning.”
While Butler’s frustrations were justified, the rest of the team had bigger issues at hand. Things got bad. Really, really bad.
“…If you go straight to the three-point shooting, think about this now, we were 3-for-25.” Brett Brown said. “Then if you take a little bit of a pivot on a stat sheet, you’re going to see that we were only 69 percent from the free-throw line. And so, you know, we missed a bunch of shots, we had three starters down, our bench was outscored heavily by their bench. I think it was 59 to 26.”
So in the midst of a complete meltdown, Amir Johnson and Joel Embiid get caught on their cellphones during the game and Ben Simmons calls out the crowd for booing what was simply a dismal performance. Two pieces of behavior that are just alien to this brand of basketball…or at least they should be.
It’s the first round of the playoffs and there is more excitement around this team than there ever has been. They come out totally flat, players then disengage and start scrolling through twitter, while others respond to criticism with a ‘no, you’ type argument. It’s child-like.
If Jimmy Butler is the ‘adult in the room’, that’s not enough. That man has to be Brett Brown. It’s down to Brown to stomp out the immature behavior and remind the team how big this moment is. Fans have every right to boo if you lay an absolute Egg at home when you’re favored by 7.5 points. Every right.
This is about more than just in-game coaching. Brett Brown HAS to be the adult in the room instead of relying on the potential of players to get it done. In the regular season, that will get you by. In the playoffs? Coaching is the bread and butter, with every intricate adjustment mattering. If Brown can’t keep his team focused or rally them to respond in the face of adversity, then after what could be an embarrassing crash course against the Nets, we will be having a very different conversation about the future of this team and its staff.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports