Brown in teaching mode as Sixers head to Europe

Posted: October 04, 2013

IMAGINE, or recall, coaching a group of youngsters playing T-ball for the first time. While hitting the ball off the tee is something they could attempt almost all day long, trying to teach the other aspects of the game is quite a challenge. Training a 5-year-old to stand out in the sun and wait for a ball that never comes is a demanding task.

Heads spin (literally and figuratively), attention wanes and frustration builds.

Welcome to 76ers coach Brett Brown's world.

The coach left for Europe yesterday for two preseason games armed with a 15-man active roster that features six players who haven't played a game in the NBA (Vander Blue, Michael Carter-Williams, Hollis Thompson, Royce White, Rodney Williams and Khalif Wyatt), four others (Solomon Alabi, Darius Morris, Tim Olbrecht and Tony Wroten) who have experience in the league but have combined to play just 131 games, and a starting shooting guard (James Anderson) who has averaged 3.7 points on 39.1 percent shooting in his 116 games. Veterans Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen round out the group. Mac Koshwal will not make the trip because of visa problems.

That lack of experience causes Brown to teach, teach and teach some more. While something is explained, demonstrated and explained again, it is not always reaching its intended target. So before the new coach can move forward with another part of the offense or a different set of rotations on the defensive end, he must stop for further and repeated instruction often. Kind of like telling a 5-year-old to pay attention in the outfield.

"We'll compete," said Brown with a "if nothing else" sort of tone. "They will play hard and they will compete. I think it can get ugly and ratty and inevitably you foul a lot and you gamble a lot and you can make poor reads. But those aggressive-type mistakes at this stage are good. I see it being ratty in those areas because they are trying to play so hard. It's a real fine line that these guys are going to go through and I'm going to have to get them there in taking that aggression and being smart with it. There is an education with discipline with young guys where you wind them up to play hard, but we have to be groomed to play smart.

"I'm always assessing myself and you always feel like you can make things better, teach a little bit better. At times you want to design the flow of the practice a little bit differently. I'm always trying to walk that line of avoiding wasting their time talking all the time. You want to cut to the chase and get to the point, but you want to teach. 'Hey, that's not right, that's not the way we do it. We just got done telling you this. We showed you on a tape, we showed you on the court. At what point isn't this enough for me to give you before you do it right?' There's a responsibility on their part to pick it up. That fine line of demanding and saying that 'I understand that you're young and you don't understand my accent,' and I'm throwing all this stuff at them. You always walk this crazy balance of what's enough, how do you say it, positive, negative. It's stuff every coach goes through, but it's a little foreign to me because of the youth that we have because you could stop at every play and say something that's truthful."

The 6-day trip that includes a game against Bilbao, Spain, on Sunday and a game in Manchester, England, on Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, will give Brown a chance to not only see how his players have absorbed what he's implemented, but for them to build relationships with one another. As much as this is a young team, it is also one that is painfully unfamiliar with each other.

"I've been looking forward to this all summer long," said Young. "This is my first European trip as an NBA player. I was in France and Germany when I was in high school, but this is a different experience and I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be great. I don't think it's going to be us going out of town and going to the clubs and stuff like that a far as bonding, but I think we'll have a great time as far as doing the NBA Cares stuff and all the requirements that they have for us once we get over there. That's a great time and a great experience and we're going to take advantage of it."

"I'm really looking forward to going to Europe," said Carter-Williams. "It's going to be a good experience on and off the court, but I know when you go it's business. But we're looking to get wins. Bottom line is we want to play together and play hard.

"I'm interested to see how we are as a team. We're pretty competitive with each other so it's going to be good to take that out on another team. Going over there is great, it's something special. I'm just going to go over and have fun and try to learn a lot."


On Twitter: @BobCooney76

Blog: ph.ly/Sixerville

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