Brown pon­ders pos­si­bil­i­ties with loaded ros­ter

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Tom Moore Tom Moore is a colum­nist for the Bucks County Courier Times: He can be reached at: [email protected]­er­times.com; @TomMoorePh­illy.

PHILADEL­PHIA — Bas­ket­ball is seem­ingly al­ways on Brett Brown’s mind.

Though train­ing camp doesn’t be­gin un­til Tues­day, the 76ers’ head coach has spent hours pon­der­ing what might be his team’s most ef­fec­tive lineup com­bi­na­tions, how his ro­ta­tion could look and so on.

Brown’s start­ing five of Ben Sim­mons, Josh Richard­son, Tobias Har­ris, Al Hor­ford and Joel Em­biid is all but set. The real fun should be­gin when Brown goes to the bench.

For ex­am­ple, does Brown opt for some­body like small for­ward James En­nis as his first sub mid­way through the open­ing quar­ter for Em­biid, which would al­low Har­ris to slide over from the “3” to his nat­u­ral po­si­tion of power for­ward, and Hor­ford to switch from the “4” to cen­ter, which has been his pri­mary spot in re­cent years? Or does he make more of a straight switch with, say, power for­ward Mike Scott for Hor­ford?

“Since the team sort of took shape, yes I have started think­ing stuff like this,” said Brown dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s an­nual me­dia lun­cheon prior to Mon­day’s me­dia day.

With the Six­ers boast­ing one of the league’s big­gest start­ing units at 6-foot-10, 6-6, 6-9, 6-10 and 7-2, how will op­po­nents match up with them? Will foes play more zone to help com­bat the Six­ers’ size and po­ten­tial re­bound­ing dom­i­nance? If not, will be the Six­ers be able to take ad­van­tage of fa­vor­able matchups? Who will Celtics point guard Kemba Walker, gen­er­ously listed at 6-1, cover in the teams’ Oct. 23 opener (prob­a­bly Richard­son)?

On the de­fen­sive end, the Six­ers’ weak­est link among the pre­vi­ous starters, JJ Redick, has moved on to New Or­leans, though they will re­ally miss Redick’s 3-point shoot­ing. Will teams try to ex­ploit Har­ris, who told Brown he “will be bet­ter, de­fen­sively,” in his first full sea­son de­spite start­ing at a po­si­tion with faster, more for­mi­da­ble scor­ers.

Brown’s an­swer to Har­ris? “I hear you loudly and I look for­ward to see­ing it.”

In ad­di­tion, who de­fends Walker (Richard­son)? Might Brown uti­lize some zone de­fense af­ter de­clin­ing to play any in his first six years here?

“I can go on and on and on,” Brown said. “All day, ev­ery day, I think like that.”

So let’s keep go­ing.

Who is on the court at crunch time (pri­mar­ily the starters)? Who is Six­ers’ go-to guy with the game on the line (Em­biid, who Brown again called “our crown jewel.”)?

Does Hor­ford start at cen­ter and Har­ris move to power for­ward in the games Em­biid sits out, or would sixth man Scott slide in as the “4” man? As for Em­biid, whom Brown called “Shaquille O’Neal with soc­cer feet,” fig­ure he won’t play in both games of the Six­ers’ 13 sets of back-to-backs to in­crease the chances he’s fi­nally in top con­di­tion for the play­offs.

While say­ing his goal is to earn the No. 1 seed in the East, Brown doesn’t want to do it if it means Em­biid isn’t close to 100 per­cent for the post­sea­son.

Brown is also look­ing for­ward to hav­ing what he hopes is pretty much the same team all sea­son af­ter es­sen­tially coach­ing three dif­fer­ent ones last year — the group that started the sea­son, the team af­ter trad­ing Robert Cov­ing­ton and Dario Saric to the Tim­ber­wolves for Jimmy But­ler in Novem­ber and the squad af­ter ac­quir­ing Har­ris from the Clip­pers in Fe­bru­ary.

“The changes last year were chal­leng­ing,” Brown said.

While ad­mit­ting Wed­nes­day that dur­ing the tank­ing years he some­times doubted if he’d get to coach a cham­pi­onship con­tender here — the Six­ers were 75-253 in Brown’s first four years — he be­lieves he has the tal­ent to win a ti­tle. Health is his big­gest worry.

The Six­ers have gone 103-61 over the last two sea­sons. They ap­pear on course to be in the mid-50s and are ca­pa­ble of sur­pass­ing the 56 wins of the 2000-01 club that went to the NBA Fi­nals.

Mean­while, Brown is on the verge of be­com­ing the sec­ond­longest tenured coach in fran­chise his­tory. Only Billy Cun­ning­ham, who coached eight years from 1977-85 and won the Six­ers’ last cham­pi­onship in 1982-83, has been on the job longer. Brown and Cun­ning­ham have be­come good friends.

As long as he re­mains the Six­ers’ coach, Brown will con­tinue pon­der­ing all of the pos­si­bil­i­ties, search­ing for ways to give his team an edge. All day, ev­ery day.

MITCHELL LEFF/GETTY

Six­ers coach Brett Brown has a loaded ros­ter and one of the NBA’s tallest start­ing units.

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