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March 18, 2017

Sixers starting to earn legit respect around the NBA

The other night, after the Sixers lost a one-possession game to the scuffling-but-still-extremely-dangerous Golden State Warriors, I saw an interesting observation come across my Twitter timeline from San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami:

The Dubs liked what they saw from the depleted Sixers, and from watching this team all season, it anecdotally feels like they’re starting to earn some legitimate respect from around the NBA. What used to feel more like pity at times now comes across as admiration, at least in one reporter’s opinion.

For example, the Warriors were very complimentary a few weeks ago in Philly as well.

"You've got to give this team a lot of credit," Draymond Green said a few weeks before dominating the return contest in Oakland (via CSN Philly). "They're going to be really, really, really good. I mean, they're missing Embiid and Ben Simmons and they're really on their way."

Brett Brown was asked about this subject on Thursday after Sixers practice in Camden, and he agreed that his team, still a major work in progress at 25-43, has recently been getting a good bit of love from their opponents.

“For whatever reason, it’s happened a lot lately and it’s strange you even ask,” Brett Brown said of the kudos. “I got 16 years in the league, and you’re bound to make some friends and I have many friends in the league, either GMs or coaches. And for whatever reason, there has been an abundance of people that just reach out and say, ‘Your guys play hard, your guys play unselfish.’ It’s really a compliment to our players to get those two qualities being said.”

Brown singled out those specific qualities that have drawn praise the Sixers’ way, their ball movement and effort level. And unprompted while answering a question about former Mavericks swingman (and current Sixer) Justin Anderson, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle complimented the Sixers before his team was taken to the woodshed by them on Friday night.

And Carlisle, who guided the Mavs to the 2011 title, mentioned those same two qualities.

“Philadelphia has been one of the funnest teams to watch this year for me,” Carlisle said. “I love the way they move the ball, I love how hard they play.

“They just move it, drive it, share it. [Justin] fits in well with them. Brett’s done an amazing job over this four-year period positioning this franchise to keep moving ahead. And it’s pretty clear next year they’re going to take an even bigger quantum leap.”

According to’s tracking stats, the Sixers far and away make the most passes in the NBA at 354.1 per game. That isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for good offense (in fact, it’s probably even be an indictment of the team’s one-on-one talent), but it’s absolutely true that they really move the ball.

Brown has a lot of respect around the league, some of which comes from his close relationship with Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. But now his players are also starting to earn some, which he often makes them aware of.

“Coach shares with us statements that other teams have shared with us throughout the season,” Robert Covington said. “That’s just a testament to how hard we play.”

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann