Say what you will about the roster construction of the Sixers the last few years, but most nights you could expect professional effort from the team. Brett Brown’s guys generally play hard and don’t wilt, despite facing steep uphill battles time and time again.
One of the new Sixers, however, doesn’t seem to agree with that premise. By way of CSN Philly, new addition Gerald Henderson wasn’t happy after last night’s loss to the Houston Rockets:
We do have some good talented guys and good young guys, but we have enough to be able to compete better than we are. I don’t really look at our team and say, ‘Alright, we’ll be good down the road because this guy has talent.’ We have enough to compete right now. So we just need to give better effort.
We just didn’t really fight. We got physically, just effort-wise, dominated. It isn’t about me or anyone staying positive. You just have to stick to what we know is going to win. It’s not just about staying positive when there’s bad stuff going on out there. We need to focus in on things we know we need to do better.
I don’t know that I necessarily agree with Henderson; a lot of the Sixers’ problems seem to stem from awareness issues, not effort. Defensive leaks spring because of personnel weaknesses, and even if you think guys like Nik Stauskas can take the intensity up a notch, it won’t change ball-watching tendencies or foot speed. Matchups matter too — Jahlil Okafor is at an immediate disadvantage against a Mike D’Antoni team trying to establish a breakneck pace, even if he turns in a career-best effort.
Still, it’s probably not something to sweep under the rug. Henderson works alongside these guys every day, and he knows what the team is capable of. He might be a limited offensive player, but Henderson is well known as a tireless worker and a leader in the locker room, so his voice carries some weight.
What Henderson might be seeing are the little things — a lack of box-out here, lazy transition defense there — that add up over the course of a game. For a team still working from a collective talent deficit like the Sixers, those plays add up over time. They have to be keep the switch on for 48 minutes if they want to take strides as a unit.
If nothing else, it should help the young Sixers to hear this from a peer rather than a coach. Joel Embiid has given everyone hope for the future, but they need to continue building on their foundation in order to make it a bright one.