PHILADELPHIA — Because the Philadelphia 76ers lastly roared to life within the second half of Monday evening’s sport at Wells Fargo Middle towards the hapless Phoenix Suns, reserve guard T.J. McConnell appeared to be proper in the course of all of it.
His stat line — 2 factors, 1 rebound, 1 help and a couple of steals in eight minutes, 31 seconds — was nothing particular. However the Sixers outscored the Suns by six factors in his time on the court docket, and anytime McConnell did something, the sellout crowd showered him with love.
As they did, nevertheless, Markelle Fultz watched from the bench, having been benched in favor of McConnell as head coach Brett Brown tried to give his workforce an injection of life. And after McConnell did simply that, serving to elevate Philadelphia to a 119-114 victory — its third straight win — Brown would not commit to both participant as his backup point guard transferring ahead.
“I do not know,” Brown stated after Monday’s win.
When requested what would inform his resolution, Brown stated, “Simply once I suppose it by deeper and have a look at tape and see who we’re taking part in, the subsequent opponent, all these issues I ought to do.”
For his half, Fultz — who missed each pictures he took and went scoreless in seven minutes — downplayed the scenario, saying he helps the workforce, together with Brown and McConnell, regardless of how a lot he is taking part in.
“Our relationship is greater than teammates,” Fultz stated. “We each need to see one another do effectively, and we wish to see the workforce win, so anytime one among us step on the court docket, we’re in all probability rooting for one another greater than most individuals. That is how it’s.
“You undoubtedly need to go on the market and compete … I am a competitor. However, on the finish of the day, coach decided to try this, so I’ve to dwell with it. My mindset is simply, once I step on the court docket, go on the market and play. However whereas T.J. is on the market, I am rooting for him.
“It isn’t like I am sitting on the bench pouting or something. I need to be on the market, however I am going to root for my teammates.”
The very fact Brown would not commit to minutes for Fultz, the No. 1 decide within the draft lower than 18 months in the past, shows simply how a lot issues have modified in Philadelphia, and the way tough a spot each he and the Sixers discover themselves in. The group has gone to nice lengths to attempt to put Fultz within the strongest doable place to succeed.
Earlier than the season started, he declared Fultz would be within the beginning lineup — regardless of Philadelphia’s authentic beginning 5 of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid being among the many NBA’s greatest final season.
Quickly after, Brown stated Redick would start beginning the second halves of video games, whereas Fultz would stay within the beginning 5 for the primary. As soon as the Jimmy Butler commerce was consummated final week, although, and the Sixers had a roster with three ball-dominant stars (Simmons, Butler and Embiid) and an absence of spacing, Brown pulled the plug on that experiment and returned Redick to the beginning unit to give Philadelphia some much-needed taking pictures.
After Fultz double-clutched a free throw in Miami every week in the past, Sixers head coach Brett Brown informed ESPN that he discovered himself torn between wanting to do what’s greatest for Fultz, and likewise having to be sure that he’s truthful to the remainder of his workforce.
“It’s [difficult],” Brown informed ESPN after final Monday’s 124-114 win in Miami. “Since you’ve acquired a human aspect, and a accountability to the person, however largely you’ve got acquired a accountability to the workforce, and someplace in that pyramid of layers I’ve acquired to determine it out.
“There is not any ebook that tells you ways to try this. I exploit my intestine really feel and greatest judgement and simply preserve it very candid. After I really feel one thing, or see one thing, and you may convey it to you, or the workforce, or no matter, that is once I really feel comfy.
“And so Jimmy goes to are available in, we’re going to decide on what that appears like, and we’ll roll.”
On the time, the choice Brown was referring to was one other resolution he did not need to discuss publicly simply but: whether or not to preserve Fultz within the beginning lineup, as he had been, or to exchange him with Redick.
The selection appeared apparent. And, two days later, Redick was working with the beginning group throughout Philadelphia’s morning shootaround in Orlando, and Brown introduced his resolution to begin him afterward.
This example may play out in comparable vogue.
McConnell does not have wherever close to the uncooked expertise or pedigree that Fultz does. However he’s a gradual hand on the tiller, and a robust backup point guard — one which confirmed, each down the stretch of the common season and through Philadelphia’s run to the second spherical of the playoffs, that he is able to acting on massive phases.
Extra importantly, he does not have to play with the ball in his palms. The identical cannot be stated of Fultz, who due to his taking pictures points would be a tough match for any workforce to make work, not to mention one with so many awkward suits when it comes to each ball dominance and spacing.
But, on the identical time, the Sixers want to attempt to proceed to foster Fultz’s confidence within the hopes he can grow to be one thing shut to the participant he was throughout his lone season at Washington — or, on the very least, can have some semblance of commerce worth so as to permit Philadelphia to complement its roster that means.
“It’s a piece of it,” Brown stated, referring to the necessity to develop Fultz, and the way it may issue into his resolution. “How massive? I do not know.
“I hear your query. The accountability to develop him, the accountability to coach the workforce to win, it is all on the desk. It is a part of what I weigh up, and we’ll decide on what that appears like.
“But it surely actually is a part of it.”
It undoubtedly is. However by buying and selling for Butler, the Sixers moved previous being a workforce straddling the road between the current and the longer term. Buying a 30-year-old star within the stroll 12 months of his contract means Philadelphia now has each ft firmly planted in win-now mode.
Fultz, although, is just not a win-now participant. And as Brown’s resolution to play McConnell over him shows, that inner tug-of-war between attempting to develop him for the longer term and successful video games within the current is not going away.