How Brown is keeping his sanity

Posted: February 07, 2014

THE STRAIN ISN'T outwardly visible. The twinkle in the eyes is still ever present when he talks about the game. His energy level is as endless as it was before the season began and there doesn't appear to be more wrinkles or more gray gathering on top of his head.

The only evidence of this long season wearing on 76ers coach Brett Brown is the strained vocal chords that squeak his thick New England accent once in a while.

But that's the exterior. Inside you just know the man is crumbling as the losses mount. His team probably will lose just about as many games this season as it took the San Antonio Spurs to accumulate in two seasons during Brown's 12 seasons there. The peripheral topics, such as potential trades and questionable attitudes, are starting to creep into the daily conversation. The improvement of the younger players always has been vital this season, and that is where Brown has to focus to keep his sanity.

"It's something that I didn't judge properly," he said recently of the enormous task he is undertaking. "It doesn't diminish my enthusiasm to be here. I'm thrilled to be here. I just recognize the monster that's ahead of us. It's a well-managed league, a well-coached league. Trying to build the program to a level that we hope to build it requires just so much work and so much luck and there is no wiggle room. You can't skip a single step. The magnitude of what it really takes to build up a franchise and a team, when you're living it and breathing it and you're going through how good the league really is, it catches you off-guard from time to time. It doesn't water down one thing, I think, in relation to me being so excited to be here and have this opportunity."

When looking to the future the obvious building block is talent. In Michael Carter-Williams, the organization appears to have the point guard of the future, as he is the leading candidate for the rookie of the year award right now, twice selected Eastern Conference rookie of the month. Sure, there are still questions about his ability to stay healthy, along with his mental toughness. But he is a solid individual, so overcoming those obstacles should be in his favor.

The bond that has been formed between the coach and injured center Nerlens Noel is undeniable and you get the feeling the player wants to play for the coach as much as the coach wants to coach him.

And that is what is just as important for this organization during the reconstruction as lining the walls with talent: that there is the perfect mixture of talent and attitude. As paramount as it is to get the best players possible, it's as important to Brown to gather quality personalities.

"It's everything," Brown said. "You can get so tricked by talent, so tricked by what you hope develops into potential, but ultimately it's people and it gets down to the integrity that they approach their craft, the character, the competitiveness, the toughness. All those things mean something. And really when you cut to the chase and you're building a program, those qualities mean a hell of a lot more to me and our program than some young superstar that just maybe can get over the top but there are character issues."

That should ring loudly in the ears of those fringe NBA players who litter the roster. This is a tryout year for many of them, obviously not only on the court. So it would probably behoove the Tony Wrotens, James Andersons, Hollis Thompsons, Lavoy Allens and Arnett Moultries to pay attention to what their coach is saying.

In the meantime, the season trudges on, the coach pretends to have a big-picture outlook when it's really the pains of each and every day that are slowly wearing him down, even if he won't admit to as much.

"I feel like the things that we know are not negotiable, or the things that have to be our compass keep me on track," Brown said. "They ground me, they remind me, they keep me on track. I like having a routine, I like having a clear set of rules. I like something that is very black and white and in my mind, trying to build this up, it is black and white and those types of rules - fitness-wise, standards - don't jeopardize how I coach."

For nearly 30 minutes after the team's practice yesterday, Nerlens Noel put on an impressive display of moves close to the basket under the guidance of assistant coaches Greg Foster and Billy Lange. The workout mostly consisted of baby hooks from each hand after quick moves across the lane. Noel also caught passes on the wing and made quick, one-dribble moves to the basket, mostly finishing with dunks where his head was close to the rim. His surgically repaired left knee seemed very sound for the workout and his excitement couldn't be denied.

"You can see, even though it's just sort of shadow boxing, you can't help to see how quick he jumps, his athleticism, his length," said coach Brett Brown. "It is exciting to just look out there and see what you project to be. He doesn't appear to favor [the knee] at all. Things are going well. All those things that we have to get through in order to at some point get him on a court, are going well."

Brown said that the next steps are to get Noel to play with others and, of course, against others. That's when he will have to make unscripted cuts that will be the true test of how strong his knee is.

UPCOMING GAMES

Los Angeles Lakers at Sixers

When: Tonight, 7 o’clock

Where: Wells Fargo Center

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet / ESPN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: The Lakers snapped a seven-game losing streak on Wednesday in Cleveland and did so in pretty strange fashion. They started the game with just eight players and after two injuries and two foul-outs, finished with a player on the court who had already fouled out. Still, they were able to post the win, helped by Steve Blake’s second career triple-double.

Sixers at Los Angeles Clippers

When: Sunday, 9:30 p.m.

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet / WPEN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: The Clippers still could be stinging a little bit after a tough loss Wednesday to the visiting Miami Heat. That was their second straight loss at the beginning of a six-game homestand. Blake Griffin posted his fourth 40-plus game with 43 against Miami, while Chris Paul was out with a shoulder problem.

Sixers at Golden State Warriors

When: Monday, 10:30 p.m.

Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet / WPEN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: Going into last night’s game the Warriors had been struggling with their strength — shooting. In going 2-2 in their previous four games, Golden State had shot 38.9 percent from the floor. They had lost seven of 12 and five of their past seven at Oracle.

Sixers at Utah Jazz

When: Wednesday, 9 o’clock

Where: Energy Solutions Arena, Salt Lake City

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet / WPEN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: This is one of the teams in true competition with the Sixers for draft-order position. After losing 14 of their first 15 games this season the Jazz has gone a commendable 15-18.

BY THE NUMBERS

44: That’s how many times the Sixers have given up 100 or more points so far this season.

31: That’s how many times the Sixers gave up 100 or more points last season.

101.2: That’s how many points the Sixers are averaging this season.

93.2: That’s how many points the Sixers averaged last season.


On Twitter: @BobCooney76

Blog: ph.ly/Sixerville

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