Noel en­dear­ing him­self to Brown at Okafor’s ex­pense

The Boyertown Area Times - - SPORTS - By Jack McCaf­fery jm­c­caf­fery@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @Jack­McCaf­fery on Twit­ter

The 76ers’ over-crowded cen­ter ro­ta­tion con­tin­ues to leave the No. 3 over­all pick in the 2015 draft on the bench. And af­ter a 105-95 vic­tory Sun­day over the Brook­lyn Nets, it sounded like Jahlil Okafor could re­main there for a while as Brett Brown con­tin­ues to back up Joel Em­biid with Ner­lens Noel.

“Every­body has their own skill set,” Brown said. “And if you ask me, ‘What am I learn­ing about Ner­lens?’ It’s that he does what Ner­lens does. Jahlil is a pro­fes­sional scorer. He re­ally can score the bas­ket­ball. Ner­lens isn’t that. He’s more of an up-and-down deer, a gazelle run­ning from rim to rim, one way on of­fense, one way on de­fense. You look at them for the skills they were blessed with.”

On a 28-minute med­i­cal re­stric­tion, Em­biid clocked 23:59 Sun­day, pro­vid­ing 20 points and five re­bounds. Noel played 24:01, with eight points. And for the third time in four games, Okafor did not play.

“As I’ve said all along, we’ve learned that you can’t jam three into one po­si­tion,” Brown said. “It just short­changes and is un­fair of every­body. But one of my as­sis­tants showed me a clip of Nik Stauskas mak­ing a three. And you see Richaun Holmes and Jahlil Okafor up, swing­ing tow­els. That means the most to me. I have tremen­dous re­spect for the way Jahlil and Richaun have han­dled this. Won­der­ful team­mates.

“And so at the mo­ment, it’s a long year. That was a small-ball game and I thought Ner­lens did well. Those two qual­i­ties, run­ning one way, run­ning the other, then hav­ing the abil­ity to pro­tect the rim is what Ner­lens does.”

*** The Six­ers’ vic­tory Sun­day was their 10th of the sea­son … in their 35th game.

If that sounds fa­mil­iar, it’s be­cause it matches their win to­tal from last sea­son, when they were 10-72.

“It’s not as ex­cit­ing as it might sound,” Brown said. “We are mind­ful of that num­ber. We are win­ning bas­ket­ball games more fre­quently than we have been. But for us, it is still, ‘Are we do­ing our job? Are we not skip­ping steps? Are we putting in good days?’ And we be­lieve as sim­ple as that sounds that they will add up and will count as some­thing.”

*** Josh Har­ris and the Six­ers’ own­er­ship picked up the bill for the Six­ers to see “Hamil­ton” on Broad­way Satur­day. Whis­pers were that they found a way to pur­chase 20 tick­ets for the sold-out show at $2,500 apiece. So con­sider it a $50,000 team-build­ing ex­er­cise.

“Give the own­er­ship group a lot of praise and ap­pre­ci­a­tion,” Brown said. “Josh Har­ris and David Bl­itzer al­lowed our team to get to­gether and go see some­thing in­cred­i­bly unique that cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of 23-year-olds.

“To hear the play­ers talk about it on the bus on the way back to the ho­tel was good. Team stuff like that, grow­ing a cul­ture, build­ing a pro­gram off the floor, that stuff mat­ters to us.”

Em­biid, for one, needed to sit in a fold­ing chair in the aisle, as at 7-0, 275 he lit­er­ally could not fit into the the­ater’s seats.

*** Af­ter miss­ing three games with an an­kle in­jury, Ser­gio Ro­driguez played 11:57 Sun­day.

“I worked very hard with the trainer,” said Ro­driguez, who scored four points. “We have been play­ing great. The way we have played the last few games has made every­body very proud. We have been work­ing hard the whole year. We could eas­ily have won five or six more games. But this is part of our growth. We have to keep work­ing the way we are.”

Ro­driguez did not have a min­utes re­stric­tion. Yet he did not start, with Brown keep­ing T.J. McCon­nell in the lineup.

“He’s been play­ing great,” Ro­driguez said. “He’s been work­ing very hard. He has done a great job all year. I am pretty happy for him. We have good chem­istry. We talk a lot dur­ing prac­tice and dur­ing the games. For us be­ing suc­cess­ful, that’s a big thing for both of us.”

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