Brown catches up with former Spurs colleagues

Posted: November 13, 2013

THE ADMIRATION throughout the Wells Fargo Center last night simply couldn't be measured. Before his 76ers took on his former team, the San Antonio Spurs, coach Brett Brown was out on the court working with prized rookie Nerlens Noel. It was out of his ordinary routine that Brown was on the court a couple of hours before the game, and you got the feeling the work he got in was secondary on this night.

Brown had been with the Spurs organization since 1999 before becoming the Sixers' head man last summer. He learned his basketball life under coach Gregg Popovich and was instrumental in the growth of many of the peripheral pieces that helped the Spurs capture four NBA titles during Brown's time in San Antonio. So while he gave Noel some shooting drills, they often were interrupted by handshakes and hugs from Spurs players before their pregame workout.

Brown tried, vainly, to downplay the game against his former team and mentor in Popovich. But an extra bit of energy coursed through his veins all day yesterday leading up to the game.

"You can't help but feel a little bit different," Brown said. "It's where I spent all my NBA days, arguably one of the biggest influences in my life with Pop. So you can't help but feel a little bit different. It's not that dramatic, it really isn't. You have a bunch of games. This one is different, I admitted that at the start. But as far as it tilting you, it's not even close to that. I look forward to playing against players I've been with for a long time, Hall of Fame players, NBA champions, and using that as a yardstick to see exactly where our young guys are at, where the program is at. It's always great to play one of the best, if not the best."

Brown and his team certainly got the best of the Spurs last night, as they cruised to a 109-85 victory.

"He's a great friend. Period," Popovich said of Brown. "That has nothing to do with coaching. Personally, he's a great friend. I'm real thrilled that he has this opportunity, and we'll find out shortly that he's for real. He's just got a great personality, a great energy, an exuberance about him and a love for the game and a love for people. It shows in everything that he does. He'll infect the players with that, and they will respond.

"He was a head coach when I met him, for Australia, so he's not a rookie head coach; he's done this for a long time. He knows what it takes to win. He knows how to put people together; he has patience."

And, Popovich reiterated, the coaching skill to help turn the organization around.

A lot of the hope for the Sixers future very well could hinge on the next NBA draft. Many of the players the fans - and probably Sixers management - hope will land here will be on display tonight on ESPN in a classic doubleheader from Chicago.

At 9:30, No. 4 Duke will take on No. 5 Kansas. The two featured players in that game are freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins and Duke freshman Jabari Parker. Many mock drafts have them as the top two picks in the 2014 draft.

When No. 1 Kentucky challenges No. 2 Michigan State in the opener, plenty of potential first-round picks will be in the lineups, including Kentucky's Julius Randle, James Young and Andrew Harrison, along with Michigan State's Gary Harris and Adreian Paye.

Asked before the game what his starting lineup would be, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich paused for a second and said Tim Duncan would sit. Asked whether he was injured, Popovich smiled and said, "He is not hurt."

As is his way, Popovich is tremendous at limiting the wear and tear his veterans endure during the marathon season. With the Spurs having played in New York on Sunday, Popovich saw it as a good time to let Duncan work on his assistant-coaching skills.

After missing the previous two games with a knee sprain, Sixers backup center Daniel Orton available to play against the Spurs, but saw no action.

"When I did it, I played and kept going, but then when I sat down, it got really sore on me, really stiff," he said. "That was the problem I had with that. They said it was a sprain, so it wasn't too bad. It's close to 100 percent now."

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


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