After three years of sending an outmanned team to the court, 76ers coach Brett Brown can't wait for this season, knowing he has the opportunity to finally field a unit with legitimate NBA players throughout the roster.
Three seasons of tanking brought Brown and the Sixers a 47-199 record. While this year's squad won't have any reasonable prognosticator mentioning the postseason, the Sixers are expected to be vastly improved from last year's sorry 10-72 edition.
Brown spoke to the local media at a South Philadelphia restaurant on Thursday and his passion and enthusiasm were as strong as ever.
"Given our experience together, from where we were to where we are now, how can we all not feel a breath of fresh air, a new bounce, a higher level of hope and an excitement that together we haven't experienced for awhile?" Brown said.
Brown said there are several reasons for the optimism, beginning with the expected debut of center Joel Embiid after missing his first two NBA seasons following foot surgeries. There is the addition of No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons, the 6-foot-10 passing whiz from LSU who can play anywhere from power forward to point guard.
Forward Dario Saric, acquired in a 2014 draft-day trade, will be making his debut after playing in Turkey the last two years.
There are veteran additions in guards Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson, and Sergio Rodriquez, who is returning to the NBA after six years with Real Madrid.
Plus, there is the anticipated progression of young players Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Robert Covington, and Jerami Grant.
Still, there are many questions and for some of them Brown simply doesn't know the answers, such as whether Embiid will be in the starting lineup or what type of restrictions he will have. The 7-foot-2, 275-pound Embiid will have his comeback monitored closely.
"He will play and everybody understands there will be parameters, restrictions," said Brown, who added that the restrictions should be determined during the preseason.
With Embiid, Okafor and Noel, the Sixers have three centers, probably one too many. It's still possible that Noel or Okafor could be traded, but Brown would have nothing to do with any speculation.
"I will coach them until they are not [here]," Brown said.
As for the health of Okafor, who underwent season-ending arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on March 16, Brown says the knee is fine.
Okafor recently rolled his ankle, but Brown expects him to be ready when the team begins training camp Sept. 27 at Stockton University.
Brown praised Okafor for being in excellent physical condition.
The fourth-year Sixers coach also had high praise for Noel, although pairing him and Okafor together didn't bring favorable results last season.
"Nerlens has elite gifts," Brown said. "He is athletic, quick off the floor, and as quick to the rim as anybody I have coached, as any big man in the league."
Brown said he couldn't make a starting lineup at this point, although he did talk about the point guard position.
"If the season started today, you give Jerryd Bayless the ball and go from there," he said. "I feel there will be times you will see Ben Simmons with the ball as the traditional point guard."
Brown says many of the players, including Simmons and Embiid, have been working out together for about a week and a half. He added that guard Nik Stauskas, who averaged 8.5 points in his first season with the Sixers, worked hard in the weight room and should benefit from that.
Brown says he wants a team that can excel in transition and also wants to be strong defensively. Most of all, he is happy to have to make much tougher choices on playing time this year. He will enter the season with many more options than in the past.