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Brett Brown on Simmons: "The program just got significantly better"
Moments after the Philadelphia 76ers selected Ben Simmons with the No. 1 pick, in the craziest of draft nights, a straight-faced Brett Brown was asked at Sixers headquarters for his reaction.
“Well,” he deadpanned. “They say you have 5 minutes to make your decision. It took us 5 seconds.”
The Sixers have had a crazy ride of it themselves: an elongated lose-a-thon that reached the heights of NBA infamy over the past three seasons. The Sixers’ experience had become a nightmare, so much so that a shakeup was in order.
The sudden hiring of Jerry Colangelo late last year, to serve as chairman of basketball operations, not only acted as a necessary jolt to the organisation and its philosophy under previous general manager, Sam Hinkie, it also seemingly jolted the Sixers out of their nasty dream.
Colangelo would ultimately usher in a sea-change in approach, and dare we say it, start the clock on a new process, one that would embark on the pursuit of normal organisational values, such as success, and you know, getting better.
For a Sixers organisation that had been, for all intents and purposes, dormant in recent years, the wake-up call was timely. They succeeded at the draft lottery, winning the top overall pick.
And if that metaphorical alarm did not well and truly go off by that stage, drafting Ben Simmons yesterday surely would.
Simmons’ selection perhaps finally represents legitimate stepping stones towards on-court normalcy, and a path away from the nightmare of recent years.
“I think we got a real, sort of, further addition of hope on how we can grow our program, and it’s been a real exciting night,” said Brown.
“It’s just one of excitement for the program, [and] the city. You look at him [and] you figure out what he’s going to be, and what he is, and you just weigh it all up. The program just got significantly better.”
Brown repeatedly referenced the program throughout his address to the media. Despite all the losing, he’s invested countless hours as a teacher, nurturing his ever-changing roster, instilling a culture of professionalism under trying circumstances.
If Brown’s countenance did not appear openly euphoric, it’s because there’s still much work to be done if the program is to succeed. In Simmons, the Sixers finally have a franchise cornerstone, whilst perhaps not necessarily validating The Process, certainly offers the chance to validate the program.
Brown was at pains to highlight how special a player Simmons is; an almost fantastical concoction of size, speed, athleticism, and basketball instincts.
“When you say he’s 6’10” [and] 245 pounds, and people are guessing what position is he,” said Brown. “Normally, you’re going to say that guy is a forward or a center. He’s that versatile where you’ve seen him bring the ball up the floor.”
“Sometimes in my wild dreams I envisage him as a point guard,” added Brown, finally cracking a smile as he contemplated all of the possibilities that Simmons unearthed. “I think we’ll start him out as a power forward and let him dribble, let him rebound, lead a break, let him play, let him get out in the open court. But his versatility makes it a real exciting challenge on how best to tap into him.”
If nothing else, all the pain, and all the losing over the past three seasons has culminated in this one night -- this one pick -- and every one of the 5 seconds that it took to officially declare Simmons as a 76er.
Brown and his staff will take far more time of course to assess how they need to utilise their greatest draftee since a certain A.I.
“For me it’s always who do you guard,” said Brown. “And I feel he’s going to be able to guard 4-men.
“He’s going to be able to switch out on pick-and-rolls, if we choose to do that. It’s his instinct and his history to play that spot.”
The Sixers may plan to initially use Simmons as a power forward, but they will let him explore and expand his game as his rookie season progresses. Such a scenario opens the door for fanciful projections, and Sixers fans may dream of Simmons perhaps becoming a 6’10” point guard one day.
But Brown preaches patience. It took a while for the Sixers to land their franchise player, so why spoil it and rush the dream?
“There were times that if you caught me I would think that I want to treat him as a true point guard,” said Brown. “Just give him the ball.
“I think it’s the hardest position to play in the NBA. I think to just give him the ball in that capacity is borderline cruel. You know, he needs to feel NBA basketball.”
Yes, quantifying Simmons represents a new problem for the Sixers, but it’s a good problem.
“I just know that he is that versatile, that it’s going to be a good problem to figure out,” said Brown.
For now, Sixers fans can comfort themselves knowing that the organisation has finally woken up from their nightmare. It’s a new beginning.
“There’s some level of relief,” said Brown on how he felt the fans would react to the drafting of Simmons. “Some reward they feel for enduring the pain that we’ve all gone through.”
That pain has been replaced by a collective sense of joy. No longer do the Sixers and their fans feel entrapped within a bad dream that never ends. Simmons has woken them up.
Instead, there is wondrous hope and a sense of euphoria that comes from serendipity.
Whilst Simmons’ dream of playing in the NBA is now complete, the Sixers’ hope that their collective dream continues for a little longer, perhaps even into June.