There comes a point in the journey of any team with championship aspirations where the path to success reaches a crossroads. The decision the team makes ultimately defines whether or not their ultimate goal will be realized. For the 2019-2020 Philadelphia 76ers, that time may have come a little earlier than expected.
Fans will remember that Head Coach Brett Brown, after a disappointing November loss to the Orlando Magic, claimed he thinks “It’s going to take until past Christmas to find a rhythm beat to what we’re doing.” Well, with Christmas, and now New Year’s Day come and gone, the Sixers are in the midst of a brutal 3-6 stretch over their past 9 games. While that stretch did contain a dismantling of the 1st place Milwaukee Bucks on Christmas Day, it also saw the end of the team’s undefeated record at home, as well as 3 straight losses to Eastern Conference opponents. So as we as fans await the Sixers first game of a new decade, questions swirl about the direction of this team going forward, and the majority of them seem to be directed at the coach who originally set the Christmas deadline.
There has always been dissention surrounding Brett Brown, but now those voices are louder than ever. And those who choose to take that side of the argument are compiling more evidence by the day. Look no further than the Sixers’ vaunted starting 5. Ben Simmons still refuses to shoot anything further than 15 feet from the basket, despite Coach Brown claiming on December 7th that he wants “A 3-point shot a game minimum” from his all-star point guard. Shooting guard Josh Richardson recently griped to Keith Pompey of the Inquirer that the team is a long way away from their championship aspirations, and that the locker room “Has some growing to do.” Small forward Tobias Harris, who was a fringe all-star in a stacked Western Conference before coming to Philadelphia, had been shooting 43.4% from 3 and 49.6% from the floor with the Clippers in 2018. Since coming to the Sixers, Harris has managed only 33.3% from 3 and 47.8% from the floor. Power forward Al Harris, who was signed to a $109 million contract this offseason has looked awful at points this year, and recently claimed via the Philadelphia Inquirer that he is lacking opportunity to show his full offensive skill set. Finally, all world center Joel Embiid just came out yesterday saying that the team as a whole needs to buy more into the idea of shooting open shots when they’re available.
Whether these problems are the result of coaching, player relationships, or just mismatched play styles, there is one thing that seems more obvious every day: the evidence is pointing the Sixers in a dangerous direction. If this team does not make a clear change in philosophy going forward, their season may go down the wrong road at the turn.