Joel Embiid and Brett Brown

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid defends Brett Brown

Dave Uram
March 13, 2019 - 11:43 am
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Brett Brown’s Sixers are about to embark on they playoffs, with the potential to go deep. At the same time, the way they sometimes play begs to differ. 

According to ESPN, owner Joshua Harris, who rarely speaks about the state of the franchise—especially in season—recently said it would be “problematic” if the Sixers were to get bumped in the first round.​ If their final regular season games don’t go as planned, they very well could match-up against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Until proven otherwise, Boston owns the Sixers, and that’s not a first round opponent the Sixers should want. 

Brown has declined to comment on Harris’ “problematic” declaration, but common sense says that remark adds pressure on Brown, even if Harris never meant for it to be like that. Whether or not he did is unclear. 

Some fans are quick to pounce on Brown when things don’t go right, especially in end of game situation. Even though he’s played a major role in bringing the Sixers out of the dark days of “The Process” to one of the most entertaining and talented teams in the NBA, a potentially early postseason exit could very well be blamed on Brown. In fact, it probably will be, fair or not. In most cases, it would be unfair, especially given what Brown has endured during his Philadelphia tenure. He’s a good coach. He has his flaws, but no one is perfect.

Tuesday’s 106-99 nail biter against the lowly shorthanded Cavaliers was a frightful example of what it looks like when the 76ers fall flat on their face. If they committed 22 turnovers and played “C-minus” defense against just about any other team, it would’ve been a loss and, thus, maybe blamed on Brown for not getting his team ready. 

Related: 7 things about Sixers' ugly win over the Cavs​

Sports fans often react to failure by pointing fingers at the coaches. Others will blames the players. Without doing a poll, I sense the coaches gets the brunt of the criticism. They don’t leap through the air and compete a dramatic put-back dunk like Joel Embiid did against the Cavaliers Tuesday. They draw up plays that either go right or wrong. They’re judged on wins and losses, even if it’s the players responsibility to execute what’s instructed of them. 

“We as players, we make the plays,” Embiid said in reaction to the notion that the pressure is on Brown. “The coaches don’t shoot the ball for us. Obviously they got to have a great game plan for us. They got to get us ready offensively and defensively, but at the end of the day, it’s all about us.”

Embiid is essentially supporting Brown, but also highlighting the importance of good coaching. If Embiid commits six of 22 turnovers like he did Tuesday, fans won’t put that on Embiid. They’ll smile about his self critical comment that he played like “trash,” or his double-entendre when asked about his conditioning

As far as Brown, they’ll wonder why he said the unforced turnovers were the result of a casual approach, or the urgency wasn’t at the level it needed to be. They’ll question why he didn’t make sure his players were focused enough. And all of this wondering doesn’t even involve the uninspiring plays out of timeouts fans often see, or the fact that Ben Simmons completely missed the rim on a late free throw against Golden State earlier this month that was purposely off target. Brown will get blamed for questionable strategy even though Simmons should be able to get the job done. 

“We got to go out and compete,” Embiid continued saying after Tuesday’s victory. “We got to play hard. We got to make shots. They’re not pushing our hands to shoot the ball. So, at the end of the day, it’s all on the players, but the coaches they got to do a great job preparing us too.” 

Embiid is defending Brown, but he’s also stating the fact that there’s a level of responsibility shouldered on the head coach as well. 

In the end, Harris’ comments should eventually be irrelevant because if Embiid and the Sixers play to their potential, and not the way they performed Tuesday versus Cleveland, they should advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Eastern Conference Finals and The NBA Finals. 

But it’s undeniable that the pressure is on Brown, even if Embiid says it’s on the players.