Inside the Sixers: Brown will have tough task keeping young 76ers from being demoralized

Coach Brett Brown is dealing in reality with his young, inexperienced team. "It's not going to be a fake relationship, not a false environment," he said.
Coach Brett Brown is dealing in reality with his young, inexperienced team. "It's not going to be a fake relationship, not a false environment," he said. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 21, 2013

Even if they don't read the papers or worry about what is said in the electronic media, as forward-center Spencer Hawes advises, 76ers players and members of the organization won't be able to escape the negative vibe following the team this season.

The team's strategy is simple: clear as much cap space as possible and build with younger players on a road back to respectability.

It's a route that often takes longer to travel than originally anticipated.

While that seems like a sound strategy, the reality is what the team faced last week, two blowout preseason losses in which the only things missing were the offense, defense, and any answers against two teams of differing skill levels.

The Brooklyn Nets are the anti-Sixers, a veteran team with a perceived small window for contention. The Nets beat the Sixers by 30.

The Charlotte Bobcats, who scorched the Sixers by 26 points, are seen as a more compatible playing partner. Yet nothing seemed even about the teams, although the Sixers didn't play their three main veterans, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, and Hawes.

While preseason scores shouldn't always be taken seriously, this is also a time to build confidence, even though it may evaporate quickly once the regular season begins.

But what happens if these preseason pastings demoralize the Sixers even before the Miami Heat come to town for the NBA opener on Oct. 30?

It's one thing to know that a team will be competing for nothing more than ping-pong balls in the NBA draft lottery.

It's another to go out day after day and have to rebound from one rout after another.

So first-year coach Brett Brown isn't dismissing the results of the preseason games. In fact, when asked if he worries about the blowouts demoralizing his young team, Brown was nothing but honest.

"I do," he said after Friday's practice. "I think that is on me to keep it upbeat but positive and honest and all things that [are] day-to-day teaching."

So don't expect Brown to tell the players about their playoff prospects. He must, and will, deal in reality.

"It's not going to be a fake relationship, not a false environment," Brown said. "It's real, and we have to get better, end of the story."

Hawes said he has told the young players not to read any preseason prognostications. He said that as a young player he used to read everything, but it only led to negative feelings.

Hawes admits that the preseason blowouts could play on the young players' psyches, and that is where he gives Brown high grades.

The losing "can creep in there, but Coach has done a great job since we have been here having the attitude that we are trying to build and not get caught up in the results," Hawes said.

Sometimes, though, the results, especially the dreadful ones, can't be ignored by a young team. So when Thaddeus Young was asked if he was worried about his teammates' becoming demoralized before the preseason ended, he paused before responding.

"I wouldn't say worried. I say we definitely think about it," the veteran said. "You don't want a team to go out there and have their confidence shot because we lost to a team like Charlotte."

Then Young added, "Everybody is still highly confident."

That remains to be seen.

Give the Sixers and Brown credit for continuing to grind. The practices have been lengthy, and Brown is covering a gamut of areas in both film study and on the court.

For veteran teams, the preseason may not matter much, but it does for the Sixers.

That's why the final two preseason games, Monday against Cleveland in Columbus and Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center against Minnesota, are extremely important.

The Sixers don't have to win the games, but it would be a major confidence booster to show they can be competitive before the results really do start counting.


mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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