Brett Brown usually watches the NBA Draft Lottery at home. This year, however, he had a front-row seat – not on his couch, but in studio in New York City’s Midtown Hilton.
“It’s a lot of anxiety,” the 76ers head coach said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “You’ve done this now for a while. Since I’ve been the coach, normally you’re sitting on the couch watching it play out, and I think to sort of sit on stage in real time, there’s just mixed emotions all over the place.”
Brown’s anxiety turned to elation when the Sixers, who went 10-72 this season, were rewarded with the No. 1 overall pick. The Sixers will almost certainly draft Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram, though Brown, it is worth noting, has emotional ties to the LSU product. Indeed, Brown coached Simmons’ father, David, in the late-1980s and has remained close to the Simmons family.
Either way, the Sixers will gladly welcome a talented prospect to their roster, especially Brown, who admitted Tuesday night that he isn’t enamored with all of his players.
“I think that when you look at our team, the people that have a legitimate chance to move forward with us – it isn’t everybody,” Brown said. “It’s the reality of our young roster. We won 10 games last year. When you sort of anoint the whole roster to move forward, I think it’s disingenuous. So I was very aware of what I said.”
Philadelphia has drafted or acquired several top picks in recent years, including Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel.
Brown expects Embiid, who is yet to step on an NBA floor, to be ready next season. The one-and-done Kansas product is still recovering from a broken navicular bone in his foot.
“Think of the world that he’s lived in over the past few years,” Brown said of the 2014 draft pick. “We thought he was coming along well, then he had the setback (and needed surgery last August). I think the setback really (showed his) discipline (and) professionalism. (He’s been) making sure that everything is just perfect with diet and rehab and prehab. I think he has been immaculate with his preparation. He had a scan a few days ago that showed that the bone is healing perfectly. I knock on wood every time I say that. We’re confident that we’re going to see him on a basketball court come September and October.”
Embiid’s debut, coupled with three 2016 first-round draft picks, should help a franchise that has gone 47-199 (.191) over the last three seasons. While the Sixers have been accused of tanking on purpose, Brown said he has never made a coaching move designed to lose a game.
“I get why people would ask the question,” he said. “I understand that. But when you go into a locker room and you see a bunch of 20-year-olds that work as hard as they work – you take pride in running a program that you hope is building a culture. You hope of building rules and standards and you hope that you are developing young guys. Our guys were A+ in their effort. You would never have known that (our) team, if you walked into a gym and saw them practice, had the record that they had. We were lacking in some experience and, at times, some talent. We get it. But (losing on purpose) was not ever a part of how I thought or how our players thought.”