Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)

Harris insists franchise has the right plan

- By Rob Parent rparent@delcotimes.com @ReluctantS­E on Twitter

PHILADELPH­IA » The 76ers’ critics apparently can’t play the numbers game. They choose to believe their eyes rather than trust logic, or the purveyors of such.

Which brings us to Josh Harris, who knows better. The majority owner of the NBA’s least likely team to be counted on took a pregame stand before the home opener against the Miami Heat Saturday night to say the critics of his team who only look at commoditie­s like a sixth man rather than take a grander view of THE PLAN are missing the point altogether.

“When you go through the data, at least as it stood a week ago, I think we were sixth in new season tickets; last year we were 11th in road attendance, we were 10th in revenues year to date,” Harris said. “So those (criticisms) don’t seem right.

“It feels like we’re right there in the upper echelon of ... fan support and revenues and that kind of stuff. People are going to be entitled to their own opinions. We have a plan that we feel good about and we’re sticking to it.”

For the listening impaired, that would be sticking, not stinking.

But then, Harris wasn’t really addressing the critical details of what’s happening on the court as opposed to what’s happening in the business office. For that side of the critical equation, consult Brett Brown.

With every missed free throw, through all those head-shaking turnovers and during that entire final, fatal stretch of 8 minutes, 21 seconds of quite literally pointless basketball the night before in Mil- waukee, the latest version of THE PLAN had already been played out enough for some outside critics in the first two games.

Of course, a bunch of them would show up at Wells Fargo Center Saturday night anyway. But it would still be Brown’s job as head coach to answer for it.

“It’s a real eye-opener for me,” Brown said. Budding disasters often are, but to Brown’s point of view, the early work of Nerlens Noel and Tony Wroten and ... the other guys ... was hardly a cause for sounding off negatively.

After all, it is a little early for that.

“Forty-eight minutes is a very long game for the group that we have,” Brown said, “from an experience and resume perspectiv­e. Navigating through 48 minutes of an NBA game is very difficult. But that’s the league we’re in.”

Finishing games in this league, Brown indicated, was the job of “... hardened men; veterans that knew how to navigate 82 games.” Look around. “It’s such a skill, a mindset, a toughness that people have the ability to back things up,” he said. “That’s life in the NBA. So our group has to learn that now, Nerlens (Noel) has to learn that now. I’m very curious (about that).”

Noel, the power forward in progress, fared fairly well in the team’s first two losses on the road. He closed the first quarter against the Heat in the home opener with a strong move to the basket for a layup.

He is reputed to be a defense-first player but has indicated he has skill, as the plan developers claimed two springs ago.

“I thought watching him (Friday) night there were some signs,” Brown said. “There were moments when you sat back and thought, ‘That is an A-plus athlete, no doubt.’ He translated some of that into basketball plays and polished plays.”

Similarly, shooter turned point guard (while Michael Carter-Williams keeps getting told by his bosses he has to recover from a right shoulder ailment) Wroten has been exciting. So long as he isn’t at the foul line.

All that has already been easy to see. But none of it changes the tell-tale ending of that game Friday in Milwaukee; a 93-81 defeat in which the Sixers missed their final 14 shots over that 8:21 final countdown.

Was that part of any plan, or just a fully anticipate­d sign of things to come?

“I think our offense is more of a problem at the moment and I’m glad about that,” Brown said. “If you had to say you’re negligent in some areas, I’d prefer to have it that way in Game 2 and then figure the other stuff out.”

A work in progress, a plan ever evolving.

Carter-Williams, who is expected to begin scrimmagin­g by Thursday, seemed to be feeling good prior to the game Saturday ight. But saying he’s feeling good? That wasn’t so easy. He was cautious when asked for a polite update, as he’d offered reporters Friday morning while in Milwaukee.

“Well, he said you need to talk today,” Carter-Williams said, relating why he talked at length in Milwaukee. “So I didn’t know if that meant every day or what ... I don’t know because it’s like a team thing. But I can ask.”

Nah, that’s OK.

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