Typically, when a team is obviously
tanking not focusing on wins and losses for the season, they will mask that fact. They'll give half-hearted rebuttals when it is suggested that they can't compete this year, they'll talk about playing hard and surprising teams, about having faith in whatever talent they have accumulated to this point.
Yesterday, as reporters peppered new head coach Brett Brown with questions about his immediate success with the team, that by and large did not happen. Rather than trying to convince you that they'll exceed expectations, he repeatedly mentioned how tough it is going to be. Rather than focus on wins and losses, he focused on developing the pieces they do have.
"We all know the pain of rebuilding is real. We all will experience it. It isn't something that happens quickly...There needs to be a tolerance, there needs to be a patience," Brown said to the media yesterday. "It's hard sitting there going through a normal rebuild process, but I think that you have to just make sure you stay focused on what you're really here for."
"The pieces I think can be a good compass for me and, again, not really paying that much attention to the result."
A coach saying that he's more focused on whether the young players improve than he is about wins and losses? A coach looking towards the long term health of the franchise rather than his short term resume?
Is this real life?
The synergy between Hinkie and Brown is almost eery. The two seem to share an almost singular focus on building a champion rather than appeasing a fickle fan base with meaningless mediocrity.
It's not that Brown is in denial. "It's dangerous," he said during the press conference about the rebuild. Particularly for a first time (NBA) head coach, if the situation does not work out, the negative mark on his resume could impact his future employment. And, despite what I earnestly believe are Sam Hinkie's best intentions, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
But he's cognizant of the reward.
"Can you imagine if we can get this thing right?" Brown asked. "Really. If we can get this right, with the culture and the history that this city has...that is very luring. It is tempting."
"I think this is a very high, calculated chance," Brown explained. "I think the risk tilts far on the [reward] side."
As for his role in the process, Brown focused on building foundational pieces and player development, which was a key aspect in Hinkie's decision to make Brown the next 76ers coach.
"I think that next year, when you look at it, it's going to be an educated science project," Brown explained. "Where we try some different things and look at different things with players and give young players a chance so that we can have a shot at polishing up something that really could be a talent."
The contrast with previous administrations that were (or should have been) in similar situations is stark. Some (most) ownership groups would prioritize playing the best players, the best combination of players, to give you the best chance of being competitive and immediately relevant. To have a coach come out and call next year a science experiment, to openly admit that they are looking to give young players an extended chance to play through their struggles and polish them up to priotize making them the best that they can be?
This organization, perhaps to the chagrin of Scott O'Neil and the sales staff, has made no secret that building the foundation is the one and only priority right now.
There are many ways to handle a rebuilding process and to truly try and build a foundation. The 76ers, it seems, are doing it right, and with a synergy among the decision makers that is a truly unique gift to a starving fan base.
Reading into things?
If you're looking to read into statements made by Brett Brown when trying to guess which pieces will be key going forward, he may have presented some hints on how he views the roster.
Brown went out of his way to mention Thaddeus Young at every opportunity. With Brown's high praise and Hinkie making several statements about building his team about hard working players who work hard to improve on their craft, the 76ers may not be as quick to move the (relatively) high priced forward as many may think.
That's not to say that they definitely won't move Young, as for the right offer I definitely believe everyone is available in Sam Hinkie's mind. But Young, who is on a fair contract from a league-wide perspective, seems to be the type of player both Brown and Hinkie value.
Similarly, when Brown, a self-described defensive coach, was asked about Nerlens Noel his eyes practically lit up. Noel has always been pegged as one of the (only?) foundational pieces on the roster, but you could definitely see Brown's excitement to build a defense around the defensive savant.
Evan Turner? Despite Turner's age and length of time with the team (which, amazingly, he's one of the longer tenured 76ers even though he's only 3 years into his career), Brown didn't bring up Turner frequently, and didn't do so until seemingly 20 minutes had gone by in the press conference. And when he did mention Turner, he mentioned his potential, not current productivity.
It may be reading too much into small statements, but they were interesting nonetheless.