It was another day of class for 76ers coach Brett Brown and his staff at the practice gym on Monday, just two days before the start of the team's NBA season, and, not surprisingly, there was another new kid in school.
Many things are uncertain about those who will wear the Sixers uniform this season, but one sure thing is that there will be a bunch of them. The line figures to move quickly as general manager Sam Hinkie searches for undervalued role players and hidden gems who merely need the polish a good coach can apply.
Usually, it won't work out quite that easily, but the Sixers have a full year to throw players against the wall and see which ones stick. There is little risk and some potential reward in the parade of entrances and exits, which has already included Rodney Williams, Vander Blue, Khalif Wyatt, Royce White, Mac Koshwal, Gani Lawal, and Solomon Alabi.
Coming in the door on Monday was Brandon Davies, a 6-foot-10 center-forward from Brigham Young University who went undrafted and then spent the summer and training camp with the Los Angeles Clippers.
"Worth reaching out to, bringing into the program, giving minutes, and seeing what we might be able to uncover," Brown said of Davies. What they will probably uncover is the reason he was undrafted, but that's all part of the process and the Sixers don't mind giving Davies the opportunity to prove everyone wrong. It won't cost much to find out and they have nothing but time on their hands.
It made sense that someone had to join the roster before Wednesday's opener against the Heat. The Sixers had just 10 healthy bodies and very few of them occupied by players with something approaching true NBA talent. Brown's roster is a mishmash of skill and experience levels, and there is no sense yet of what the rotation will be, so he has found it necessary to install very basic offensive and defensive systems because of the ever-changing cast.
"You need to go slow when you get a revolving type of door coming in. It's really important that the system isn't overcomplicated," Brown said, asked about getting Davies to blend in as quickly as possible. "This may happen a lot this year. It's hard, but it's not like we're trying to reteach a really complicated system."
In terms of wins and losses, it is not breaking news that the Sixers will not be a successful team this season. That is by design, and everyone agrees Hinkie is taking a logical path to contention. It will be a painful path, though, for the fans and for the players who will not enjoy the embarrassment of getting their lunch eaten on a regular basis.
Of all the difficult tasks ahead for Brown - who has been up-front about the reality of the process - the toughest might be keeping his team headed in the same direction. If the Sixers practice well and play hard, they will still lose a lot of games, but some of them will become better players. In that regard, Brown is really more of a career counselor than a coach this season, because almost none of these guys will make it to the end of the process in Philadelphia.
"It's still about them getting better, no matter where they are," Brown said. "Talk is cheap, but they see what we've been doing. . . . There is a real emphasis and ethic to help these guys and, I said long ago, that it was going to be one of the areas that we need to go overboard in [to] keep the group together. Because everyone has different thoughts about their future with the club, [but] what they can't argue with is that you've got a coaching staff that is fully invested and is putting in the time to help them."
Brown believes it and thinks the players do, too, and that works perfectly until someone is sitting at the end of the bench and not getting minutes. And if you are at the end of the bench on this team, baby, that's a really long way from the scorer's table.
So, his biggest challenge will be maintaining the atmosphere of training camp through the long season and creating a practice environment in which, as Brown said, "We can mold the ones that we really want in the way we want."
Which are those? Nobody knows. It could turn out to be Davies, or one of the five other players who were ignored or cast off elsewhere before being gathered in by Hinkie. That group includes Hollis Thompson, Tony Wroten, Daniel Orton, Darius Morris, and James Anderson. Everyone else on the team is either a holdover, a draft pick, out with an injury, or some combination of those.
Is there an NBA player among those six guys, all between 20-24 years old, who could develop into being part of the regular rotation on a very good team? Believe or not, a lot of what this season is all about is answering that question and others equally mundane.
It's not much, but the season has to be about something, doesn't it?