Noel endearing himself to Brown at Okafor’s expense
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.”