Seltzer's Notebook | Brown Values Henderson, Forecasts Embiid's Path

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Brown Hopes Season Leaves Fans Excited
With Monday’s 120-111 setback to the Indiana Pacers, the Sixers concluded their 2016-2017 home schedule with a mark of 17-24. Prior to this season, the team had won a total of 29 contests at The Center with Brett Brown as head coach.

In recent days, as much of the media talk surrounding the Sixers has shifted from the present to the future, Brown expressed his hope Monday that supporters of the club will be able to look back on this year with appropriate perspective. He feels that between the progress the Sixers have already shown, and some possibilities that will become clearer in the coming weeks, there is plenty of cause for excitement.

“I think if you start playing that out, I think quite easily you can project where we’re going to be,” Brown said, when asked Monday about what he’d like fans to take away from the current campaign. “I hope that they are proud of the style of play. I hope that they’re proud they don’t see backdown in our group; that, despite this litany of injuries that we have, they play with a spirit, they’re proud to put on the uniform; and see some of those peripheral things.”

During his time with the Sixers, Brown has constantly spoken with fondness about the fanbase. The loyalty and authenticity of the Delaware Valley always seem to resonate with the blue-collar New Englander, and were again on full display (really full) for him Monday.

A few hours before just about every game – home or away, sunshine or snow – Brown goes for a run. During Monday’s iteration of the activity, as he rounded Broad Street to jog east on Pattison Avenue, the 56-year old found himself being slowly pursued by a car.

“I have this guy in a car that’s sort of like slowly driving, and we’re in a dialogue going back and forth,” Brown shared Monday with an amused group of reporters.

“I mean it,” said Brown, himself unable to contain a few chuckles of endearment. “[A] policeman put his siren on, right in front of XFINITY [Live!], and scooted him along.”

The driver, however, was undeterred. He wanted to keep the impromptu conversation going, so he continued to tail Brown until Brown reached the 11th Street ramp leading to the player parking lot adjacent to the loading dock of The Center.

Based on how the story was told, in no way did Brown give off the impression that he considered the incident invasive. If anything, he sounded like he enjoyed the banter, coming away from the incident further convinced of the intense enthusiasm the region has for his team.

“It’s so Philly,” said Brown. “He wants to know why did or didn’t I play two bigs together, and then he wants to know if Ben Simmons can really be a point guard, and Dario [Saric] is doing great, and I love the way the team plays so hard. It went from scolding me to praising me to questioning what direction we’re going. It’s just Philadelphia.”

Brown joked the guy still might be driving and talking.

“It was a pretty cool conversation,” he said. “It just reeks of Philadelphia, and I think that you’re just reminded all over the place of how good we can have it, the passion of the city.

“We’ve had some hard luck. Things happen for a reason, and we’re going to move on. I feel like we’ll all look back and forget quick, and be excited.”

Brown Believes Henderson Has Filled Valuable Role
If you chose to use statistics to evaluate the efforts of Gerald Henderson this season, you’d find that despite averaging 23.3 minutes, the eight-year veteran guard has not only been productive, but is wrapping up arguably the most efficient offensive season of his career.

On a per-36 minute basis, Henderson has scored at a rate of 14.5 points per game, while also producing 4.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists. His 61 3-pointers represent his highest mark ever, as does his 35.3 shooting percentage from beyond the arc.

Furthermore, the Episcopal Academy product has generated a 53.0 true shooting percentage (which accounts for scoring on 2-pointers and 3-pointers, as well as free throws), a figure that currently stands 0.1 percentage point shy of equaling his career-high.

Brett Brown, when reflecting Monday on Henderson’s first season with the Sixers, opted to go in a different direction. In the head coach’s eyes, the professional example the 29-year old has set for his less experienced teammates has been as meaningful as any of his other contributions.

“Think about the people that we could put him in the same bucket with,” Brown said, going on to reference players like Luc Mbah a Moute, Jason Richardson, and Elton Brand, all veterans who have passed through Philadelphia during Brown’s tenure that began in 2013.

“You learn entirely when you live the life that I have lived as a coach with a bunch of 20-year olds around it, that they count for something,” he said. “Their voice matters. That’s all I know.”

Brown has also admired Henderson’s willingness to tolerate persistent left hip soreness this season, which has limited Henderson’s availability, particularly in back-to-back sets.

“He fought through it, and I think over summer we can get it better,” said Brown. “I very much appreciate him, and I very much respect him, for the way he handled himself and how he conducted himself as a leader in a locker room and on a court.”

Circling Back to Embiid

With chatter about the 2017 Rookie of the Year race intensifying in these final days of the regular season, Brett Brown has recently had the chance to revisit on several occasions Joel Embiid’s brief, yet eye-poppingly dominant debut campaign.

“Where do I begin?,” Brown said over the weekend, when the subject of Embiid came up.

The rhetorical refrain was one the coach also invoked a handful of times months ago, while discussing the impact of the then-healthy big man.

“You can just go all over the place, but it comes quite quickly back to really excited,” said Brown on Saturday.

Most of all, even in the aftermath of Embiid putting up gargantuan numbers (20.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.5 bpg) in limited playing time (25.4 mpg), Brown himself gets fired up thinking about how much more the 23-year old might be able to do.

“He is just scratching the surface of what ultimately he’s going to be,” Brown said. “We’ve all said from day one, his mind works faster than his body, because he really hasn’t played much basketball, but he’s gifted intellectually, and he sees the game, and he understands the game at a far advanced rate than he is justified to do.”

Underlying the rare combination of Embiid’s skills and savviness is his committed work ethic.

“He’s prideful on studying, he pays attention, he understands schemes,” said Brown.

The mission moving forward, according to Brown, is to further refine and meld the whole package.

“He sees thing on a court that he kind of has no right to feel or see, given his limited experience, yet he does, but then telling his feet to do something, his hands to do something is a challenge. We saw it all the time at the end of close games – he thought fast, and his body couldn’t react at the same speed. Imagine when those two come together.”

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