MINNEAPOLIS – The 76ers were struggling.
They headed into Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center with a season-worst four-game losing. Yet, none of that apparently matters.
Nor would it had mattered if the Sixers weren’t able to defeat the Timberwolves 118-112 in overtime like they did.
The squad that boasts Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and JJ Redick has become must-see television. Their matchup against the Timberwolves was televised by ESPN.
The network will also cover the team from morning to night across all ESPN properties on Friday. The coverage will conclude with the 7 p.m. matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Wells Fargo Center.
One could assume all this attention is a bit premature or perhaps even a distraction for a squad that didn’t appear focused in losses to subpar opponents, the Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns, and Los Angeles Lakers.
Brett Brown doesn’t see if that way.
“I think it’s fantastic for our young guys,” said the coach, whose squad improved to 14-13.
“I think it’s fantastic for the program to look back to where we were and judge where we are,” he added. “The fact that people have interest in us, we are proud of it.”
Just a picture of Joel Embiid and Jose Altuve standing side-by-side. pic.twitter.com/DcaEnhhEXk
— ESPN (@espn) December 6, 2017
The Sixers did have their best record through 26 games since going 18-8 during the 2011-12 season. But that has a lot to do with the team wanting it that way. The Sixers tanked for four consecutive seasons following the 2012-13 campaign.
So it’s hard to label this as legitimate improvement for a team that was focused on losing. Yet, Brown believes the added exposure is great. He said it allows the Sixers to display their state-of-the art practice facility and team culture on a national stage. They also will showcase their players and coaches.
“We are going to open up and let them in,” he said.
Not to the same extent, but the Sixers experienced the same thing leading up to a Nov. 9 road matchup with the Kings. It didn’t work out well for them.
Several players lacked their normal focus as ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated were among the media outlets on hand. During pregame, the scene inside the locker room had more of a post-practice vibe than of a typical game day.
So it wasn’t surprising to see the Sixers fall, 109-108, to the Kings.
Players typically have game-day routines. Altering those routines with distractions sometimes gets them off their games. Brown is aware of that. He realizes the newfound national attention could possibly affect his squad.
“I hope that we treat this experience maturely,” he said. “I believe we will.”
The former Spurs assistant compared this to the out-of-town media that flooded San Antonio to cover the Spurs during the postseason.
It “was overwhelming,” Brown said. “On the flip side of it, maybe it’s going to be something they just learn how to better handle and manage. Maybe, it’s an experience that can make us better down the road.”