More than anything else, time and patience have been what set this Sixers' project apart from standard NBA procedure. Tanking for the opportunity to draft a star player is timeworn, having seen all sorts of teams bottom out for a year as they seek to rebuild rosters that have been maxed out. Doing so over a period of several years is what is seen as radical.
It is this lack of a timetable, this detachment from schedule, that has allowed Sam Hinkie to pursue a top-heavy team that hopes to compete for multiple championships. Only because of Josh Harris's unprecedented patience has Hinkie been free to turn this franchise into a plaything, of sorts. He is no slave to agenda.
The exceptions to this are the contracts of management, including Hinkie, but especially including Brett Brown. Hinkie rarely gives interviews, allowing him a level of insulation from much of the clamor over the team's timetable. Brett Brown, on the other hand, does. As the Sixers prepared for the opening of training camp next week, Brown talked for an hour to various reporters, answering questions about the upcoming season and, briefly, his own contract.
Like Hinkie, Brown signed a 4-year contract at the beginning of the 2013-14 season. By most standard metrics, Brown has been a failure in his head coaching position-- he has posted a two season aggregate record of 37-127 and a winning percentage of 0.226. But most objective accounts would accede that the record is the fault of the talent on the team, and not Brown's own. And yet, he is now one half of the way through his contract, and he has a historically poor record to show for it.
When reporters asked Brown about his circumstance, he acknowledged the hardship of the last two seasons, saying, "I wouldn't be telling the truth if you told me when I accepted this position that this would be where we are at." But he quickly qualified this remark, adding, "That is not at all delivered as a negative message. I'm excited. It's taken different turns along the way."
Between his poor record thus far, and the dissonance between his perception prior to joining the team and his current standing, it's fair to wonder whether Brown will want to stick around after his contract runs out, or even complete his contract. Jake expressed concerns about how long Brown will want to continue in his role several weeks ago, writing;
I have some (minor) doubts that he's going to want to re-new his contract because these past four years might have been a little too strenuous for his liking. I imagine he'd like to see this through to it's conclusion where Philadelphia wins a lot of games, but from most of his quotes, this seems like it's been a lot harder on him than he originally thought.
Brown has certainly affirmed Jake's suspicion, but he also went some way towards dispelling the larger portion of the statement. Brown adamantly asserted his desire to see this project to its end. "I signed a four-year contract and my intention is to see it through. For whatever reason, I personally feel connected to this city and enjoy the people of this city."
After that quick exchange, Brown quickly pivoted towards talking about on-court issues. "I just don't want to talk about [the contract]," he maintained. "I've said what I have to say. I'm just really excited to coach the group and I'd be disappointed in myself if I commented many sentences beyond what I've just done as it relates to my contract."
It's encouraging to see Brown express these feelings. Despite not having a record that highly touts his performance in Philadelphia so far, it's hard to say that he's been anything other than successful with the cards he has been dealt so far. Brown has been an outstanding advocate for the organization, openly and frequently talking to the press and allowing insight into an administration that has been incredibly tight-lipped otherwise. He brings energy and enthusiasm to a job that has been a slog from the beginning. The players respond to him and respect him in the locker room. And despite the W-L record, there has been a very clear demonstration that he is making an imprint on the team's playing style. He noted in the interview that the Sixers had the 3rd most efficient shot selection in the league last year-- an incredible achievement for a team with an average age of 23, the youngest in the league.
Brown remains one of a kind. While he may not want to talk about his contract, it's encouraging to hear that he feels an affinity to the city, and that he intends to see his contract out, regardless of the situation. Here's to hoping the team will be on the way up in two years, and that HInkie will have extended him long before then.
Other tidbits from the interview:
- Brown mentioned that he was excited to coach the collection of players Hinkie has put together for the new season. He commented, "I think you're going to see more of our own. I think that you're going to see less turnover of the roster. Slowly, we're starting to grow some things."
- The point guard situation remains in flux. Brown mentioned that he expected to bring 3 point guards (out of the 6 currently on the roster) into the season, and said of the potential starter, "The pass is king. The pass is everything. When you look at the qualities for successful teams, and especially successful quality offensive teams, the pass is everything." That seems to point to Kendall Marshall as the obvious candidate to start at the point once he is fully recovered from his ACL tear.
- To that point, Brown said the team is looking to the end of October for Marshall and Tony Wroten to return. They won't be back for camp, but should be playing relatively early in the regular season.
- It seems like the starting lineup is largely set at this point. Brown said of his starting point guard, "We are going to need Jahlil to get the ball. We are going to need Nerlens to get some touches. We are going to need Stauskas and Covington to find ways to get open threes." This points to the probability that Stauskas and Covington will be starting on the wing and will be joined by Noel and Okafor on the interior. Should be fun!