With television cameras lining the back wall of a Center City restaurant and photographers leaning over appetizers to catch Brett Brown’s preseason statements about the Sixers, what was billed as a casual luncheon felt just like any other staged media event.
The difference Wednesday was that while the cameras were rolling as the health of a basketball player was being discussed, reporters were also spitting out olive pits and gnawing on bread.
Although the lunch-time media session was just that, Brown brought a light and jovial mood to the room. He beamed with pride over his current roster and couldn’t wait gush like a proud father after a little league victory.
In between bites of salmon Brown glowed as he talked at length about Ben Simmons’ work ethic and his ability to get out in transition at a speed that has the coach calling the move ‘Bolt’ — as in Usain Bolt.
Brown smiled from ear to ear when talking about Markelle Fultz’s wingspan, dropping his napkin to illustrate with his own arms. He recounted watching Fultz working with one of the assistant coaches recently, and as the coach was talking, Fultz reached up and held onto the basketball net.
“I haven’t seen a guard do that,” Brown remarked with a laugh of amazement. “I look at his wingspan, look at what he can be… and wow that’s a really well designed basketball body.”
Between dessert and coffee (with cream, no sugar) Brown bragged about how lucky he is with veteran players J.J. Redick, Amir Johnson, and Jerryd Bayless because not only can they help guide his younger stars, but also play valuable minutes.
This season is going to differ drastically from the previous four with Brown at the helm of the Sixers because he finally has a team he thinks can be great.
And Brown is in. He’s all in.
“We want to play with a chip, we’ve got a swagger that I like, and I encourage it,” Brown said.
With hard questions needing answers and expectations looming, a talented wait staff set beautiful food and garnished dishes in front of everyone. At the head of the table Brown sat with a twinkle in his eye and denim on his legs. To Brown’s right was Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo in a tailored suit.
The scene was much like the 2017-18 season promises to be.
The struggles of the season will present themselves as they have in the past.
There will no doubt be minute restrictions, growing pains, and bumps along the way with high tension situations and high expectations. The bad and ugly will sit parallel to the good — a young team with untapped potential and all the beauty and flourishing touches of a carefully crafted dish.
Expectations will need to be tempered — that’s where Colangelo comes in with his suit and his front office power — but Brown will not be the one to do it.
“I’m with it. I will share in the excitement of trying to move this program forward,” Brown said. “…But dampening down any hopes that these guys have, that won’t come from me.”
Brown said the goal is clearly to bring a championship to Philadelphia and follow that with another and another and so on.
Right now, the Sixers record is 0-0 and Brown has every reason to be hopeful and happy. From his proud perspective the talent is there and the sky is the limit. So, while he can, he’ll ignore any dropped plates or olive pits and enjoy a beautiful meal.