Two coaches, franchises at different stages of the process


PHILADELPHIA – Technically, both conversations were on the same topic. Brett Brown was in the media room at Wells Fargo Center shortly before 5:30 pm. David Fizdale was in the hall a few minutes later, in front of a screen covered with Knicks logos. Brown spoke with a brogue that is still pure South Portland, Maine. Fizdale's was his usual cool Californian.

Technically, they both spoke of basketball.

Technically, they both talked about the ups and downs, the rigors and regrets of the long NBA season.

Technically, they spoke the same language.


Brown, who is in his sixth season as a 76ers coach, said, "I do not even want to think we're the third seed in the East." He has a new player Jimmy Butler, who may well be the final piece to deliver the Sixers to the East summit in June, said Brown: "What matters most is what we do and what he is doing now.

"Once the playoffs have arrived," said Brown, "we want to be at a certain place, a place where we are not yet."

Fizdale, who is in his sixth week as Knicks coach, has come up with a new way to describe what the Knicks are trying to do this season, explaining why it's not even possible to let Kevin Knox or Mitchell Robinson spend money. Short stints in the G-League to provide extra minutes of play that are not always available on campus.

"It takes a village, man," he laughs.

So, yes: even in this miniature spasm of Knick's prosperity, they are never far from reminding you – subtly or brutally, sometimes both in the same night – that they reside in a solar system different from that of the Sixers and others will spend the next four months fighting for a playoff position.

Then, of course, both teams went to the end and proved to the extreme that the 76ers defeated the 117-91 Knicks in a competitive match for about eight minutes and an unassailable train wreck for 40 minutes. For a reason.

"You have to go up the ladder and get back to work," said Fizdale, tapping into a certain ray of sunshine and boundless hope.

It was the perfect time to take a closer look at this disparity, a night when the Knicks and Sixers played on their end of the toll and met for the first time this year.

After all, the Sixers have spent four unsustainable years popularizing (and then using) the term "Process". Brown's first four years were an extraordinary study to maximize chess and they were extremely good at being bad: 75 wins against 253 losses.

They stored some choices, met a few (Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons) and a few (Markelle Fultz, Jahlil Okafor).

They sort of won 52 games and a playoff series last year, and now seem ready, with the addition of Butler, to abandon the process forever.

Brown is loquacious even in bad times. In good times, it seems that the public relations representatives of the 76ers must drag him with a cane. This layer of atmosphere is very fun.

In the corridor…

Fizdale conceded that there was something to glean about what the Sixers had endured and what they are doing. He also said it was comforting to see a team develop a plan, stick to it and carry it out.

But the Knicks – as difficult as it may seem on some nights – are not what Process Sixers were. They are not as poor as Philly from the point of view of talent.

"And," said Fizdale, "we have Kristaps [Porzingis] in the wings. It's different from what they had.

Fizdale has been quick to point out that "behind the scenes" does not mean "in a few weeks", nor in a calendar as precise as anyone would want. But that's not the only difference. He added that older men like Tim Hardaway Jr. – "Although I hesitate to call him old, he's 26!" – and Courtney Lee's mission is to help coaches bring the kids.

A village, as he said.

Go back up the ladder, he says.

The language was different from the other side of the hallway. Both men were talking about basketball. Technically.

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