Considering that the Sixers are basically fielding a D-League team for the season’s stretch run, it’s pretty difficult to extract anything meaningful from Brett Brown’s coaching performance. They’re a very bad team, but that of course doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a bad coach.
One specific area where Brown has shown flashes of creativity is after timeouts. These situations, called “ATOs” for short, are where a coach can design a special (often intricate) play for his team to execute from the dead ball situation directly out of the timeout. Below are three recent examples of the Sixers executing an ATO.
1. Misdirection frees James Anderson. With the Sixers trailing by seven points and only 17.6 seconds left on the clock, the main goal of this play is to get a quick score, preferably a three.
In the first shot, recently departed Spencer Hawes starts to dive from the top of the key to the left block. As this is happening, Anderson simultaneously curls around a staggered screen toward the top of the key. In the second shot, Evan Turner inbounds the ball to Hawes and follows his pass to the corner.
Notice that the Jazz liberally switched on the weak side of the play. While the staggered screen was fairly straightforward as Anderson flowed right to left, the defense’s false sense of security is what Brown is preying on.
As you can see in the shot above, Thaddeus Young, the second member of the stagger, follows Anderson. And as soon he reaches the top of the key, Anderson instantly reverses course and floats left to right, using Young’s excellent back screen in the process. The Jazz defenders don’t switch fast enough, and after a nice pass from Hawes, Anderson’s catch-and-shoot three is cutting the lead to four points.
2. Anderson runs a version of “elevator doors.” Down 10 points with 20 seconds left, an extremely quick three is what the Sixers need in this spot.
In the first shot below, Michael Carter-Williams prepares to run off three screens and curl around the last one. He eventually curls toward the rim for a potential lob, which Derrick Favors has to help protect against.
After setting the initial screen for Carter-Williams on the block, Anderson follows him and curls around the two other screeners. Unlike Carter-Williams, though, Anderson isn’t heading for the rim. With Gordon Hayward trailing Anderson, the Sixers utilize Favors’ absence and have their small forward run through the elevator doors toward the sideline.
Enes Kanter does a nice job recovering and contesting, but Anderson gets a quality catch-and-shoot look instantaneously from the corner. The shot doesn’t fall, but it’s what Brown and the Sixers were looking for.
3. Henry Sims gets a dunk. With 13 seconds remaining in last night’s first half against the Knicks, Brown decided to call a 20-second timeout that he was going to lose anyway.
In the first two shots below, Carter-Williams frees himself with Young’s down screen and then dribbles the ball to the right side of the floor. This is where he’ll initiate the play.
After pitching the ball ahead to Hollis Thompson on the wing, Carter-Williams gets it right back on a dribble handoff as he’s moving toward the right corner. Thompson uses Young’s back screen to move toward the top of the key. Carter-Williams then gets his fellow rookie the basketball with a sharp pass.
Young’s screen is so effective (mostly because he’s moving) that it forces his defender, Iman Shumpert, to switch out onto Thompson late. Thompson blows by Shumpert, gets into the lane, draws three defenders, and drops the ball off to Sims for an easy dunk. The Sixers went into the half tied.
Notice some of the recurring elements here like Young’s back screens and two players mimicking each other’s cuts. Again, it will be interesting to see how Brown fares once he is equipped with NBA-level talent.
Bob Cooney has been at the Daily News for more than 20 years, working in the sports department for the past 15. This is his third season on the Sixers beat. He has covered just about everything, but mostly college basketball, where he was the La Salle beat writer for six seasons. E-mail Bob at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter.