MILWAUKEE - Brett Brown is very into comparisons. He wants to teach shooters on his current team the footwork on three-point shots he taught to the likes of Steve Kerr and Bruce Bowen in San Antonio. Despite the low-post presence of Jahlil Okafor, he expects his team to play with dizzying pace, much as the Spurs did so successfully with Tim Duncan.
So when he saw point guard T.J. McConnell in summer-league play in July, his thoughts went back to another rugged point guard he had a past with.
Brown and Matthew Dellavedova have a history from when Brown coached the Australian national team and Dellavedova was one of his final cuts. Brown calls it one of the toughest cuts he's had to make in all his years of coaching, because of how hard the underskilled point guard played.
With such a shortage of point guards on his team this season and McConnell's fiery play in the preseason, Brown didn't have to go the same route as with Dellavedova, now a backup point guard with the Cleveland Cavaliers. And he's probably quite happy he didn't.
McConnell had the best game of his short pro career on Monday, collecting 12 assists, six points and seven rebounds in only 23 minutes in a 107-100 loss to the Cavs. During a short period of time in the third quarter, the rookie had three straight assists to Nerlens Noel. The offense just seemed so much more fluid when he was at the point.
"I think T.J. is getting better every game," Noel said. "He's getting a better feel for the NBA point guard, especially offensively. He's taking good shots and doing his best to run the team. He's only progressing."
It's no wonder Noel is happy with McConnell at the point. He had some of his best moments at the offensive end of the floor a year ago when pass-first point guard Ish Smith ran the show.
"He's a spark. He plays with great heart, he plays with great pace," Brown said of McConnell. "We have to run with him. He forces the game's tempo on everyone else.
"I think their stories are similar," Brown continued, referring to McConnell and Dellavedova. "There's a difference to their bodies. Dellavedova is 4 inches taller, about 20 pounds heavier. T.J. is more of an A-to-B guy, more of a waterbug-type player. But their stories are similar, in that not many gave them a chance to play on an NBA court."
And perhaps McConnell is pressing to be a starter for Brown.
"There's nothing promised in our group," the coach said. "Everybody in every practice and every game will be earning a spot, and especially at that point guard spot."
After three games of the season, the undermanned Sixers were able to apply for a hardship roster spot. Because Joel Embiid is out for the season with foot issues, the club can ask for, and probably will receive, a 16th roster spot.
While one source said the Sixers want to bring back forward/center Furkan Aldemir to fill that spot, another source said he has decided to return to his native Turkey to play.
He joined the Sixers last season and was guaranteed $2.7 million in salary this season.
In 41 games with the team last season, Aldemir averaged 2.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 13.2 minutes of action. He was waived before the season after struggling mightily in the preseason.
Forward Robert Covington tweaked his knee in practice Tuesday and is questionable Wednesday in Milwaukee. Covington missed the first two games of the season with a knee sprain after a collision in the team's final preseason contest . . . Through the Bucks' first four games, former Sixer Michael Carter-Williams is averaging 12.8 points, 6.8 assists and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 40.5 percent from the floor. He also is averaging 3.8 turnovers. He is questionable for the game against the Sixers after spraining his left ankle in Brooklyn on Monday.