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January 27, 2017

What they’re saying about the Sixers: Brett Brown’s perseverance is paying off

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On this week’s Sixers Beat, Derek Bodner and I talked a little about how Brett Brown might be the biggest winner from the Sixers’ hot start. Tasked with overseeing a tanking team over the past three years, there was a natural speculation that Brown could be on the hot seat with a new front office that didn’t pick him as coach if the Sixers continued to rack up losses.

Then in December, a funny thing happened. The Sixers started to win some games, a lot of them as of late.

And with Joel Embiid finally on the court (and only suiting up in about 2/3 of the games), Brown has the Sixers playing together. The truth is that has always been the case over the past three years, but it’s just now that he has the talent requisite to win games.

The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski put a nice video essay together about the adversity that Brown has faced:

“In every way, Brown has emerged The Process unbent and undeterred,” Woj said. “Around the NBA, people long wondered whether Brown could get through the tanking to the other side, survive the darkness of losing to reach the warmth beneath the light of victory. And slowly, surely, he is getting there. Brown probably won’t be the NBA’s coach of the year, but he’s one of the season’s best stories and perhaps owner of the league’s most steely sideline resolve.”

That is very well said.

In case you missed it at PhillyVoice

1. Don't trust the voting process: Joel Embiid falls up short in all-star bid.

2. Sixers Beat Podcast: Why exactly do we think Embiid fell short? (It's the minutes, stupid.)

3. Sixers Mailbag: Rapid fire edition, including a ranking of the Sixers' seasons since 2001 from a fun standpoint.

4. Rising Stars: Embiid, Okafor, and Saric headed to New Orleans.

Other Sixers news, notes and analysis from around the web:

Ten things I like and don't like, including LeBron's perfect pass: Zach Lowe, ESPN

Lowe likes Brett Brown separating Ersan Ilyasova and Dario Saric’s minutes:

Saric hasn't shot well overall, but he has hit a ghastly 32 percent with Ilyasova also on the floor, per Saric is at his best facing up and making plays off the bounce, and it's easier for him to do that against slower bigs. He also has more space to launch 3s that way. Saric hasn't been shy from deep, and his 34.7 percent mark on 3s so far -- a hair below league average -- is encouraging given how some international guys struggle adjusting to the longer NBA triple.

How can the Sixers build a contender around Embiid? Kevin Pelton and Chad Ford, ESPN Insider

Pelton is Team Nerlens:

At this point, it's hard to pass off how poorly Philadelphia has played with Okafor as a fluke. He's not helping the Sixers win games. Maybe that will change somewhere else, but I would probably keep Noel as a backup to Embiid (and, crucially, insurance policy for his foot) while getting whatever I could for Okafor. I just don't see his value rebounding. Do you have any more hope?

Joel Embiid Is Single-Handedly Changing the Sixers’ Outlook: Derek Bodner, Philly Mag

The Process is playing defense at a super high level:

Calling Embiid’s defense great, regardless of the benefit or hindrance of age and experience, is the most important takeaway. Whether Embiid’s layoff helps or hurts his immediate impact is noise, a distraction over what is happening in that 94-by-50 foot rectangle where legends are ultimately made.

Embiid’s defensive impact isn’t just great among young big men, where the age/experience debate might hold more merit, but great overall. The Sixers give up 98.5 points per 100 possessions when Embiid is on the court, less than the Jazz with all-world defender Rudy Gobert (99.9), or the Spurs with Kawhi Leonard (105.5). It’s better than the Pelicans with a 23-year-old Anthony Davis on the court (102.4), the Pacers with second year center Myles Turner (104.0), and certainly far better than the Heat with Hassan Whiteside (105.2), despite Whiteside’s gaudy rebounding (14.2 per game) and block (2.0 per game) output.

How Many Centers Are Better Than Joel Embiid Right Now? Jonathan Tjarks, The Ringer

Embiid’s two-way play puts him in a category of his own:

For the most part, even the most physically gifted 7-footers need time to adjust to the demands of the center position in the NBA, particularly on defense. Just look at how much Towns and Davis, who started their careers playing at power forward, have struggled with interior defense. Gasol was a late bloomer who didn’t hit his stride until his mid-20s. That hasn’t happened to Joel Embiid. When he has been healthy, he hasn’t had to adjust to the NBA. The NBA has had to adjust to him.

And finally, here’s a cool video from Coach Nick at BBall Breakdown, mostly examining the new starting five:

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann