Intense ‘chippy’ practices mark Sixers stay in bubble

WORKING HARD: Josh Richardson #0 of the Philadelphia 76ers takes a shot against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on Jan. 11, in Dallas. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images/Tribune News Service

There are various stories out of Florida about the 76ers’ Ben Simmons fishing and Matisse Thybulle producing hugely popular videos, but a line by guard Josh Richardson on Saturday and one that has been echoed by coach Brett Brown, seems to illustrate how seriously the 76ers are taking practice as they prepare for the NBA’s restart.

The Sixers began practicing in Walt Disney World near Orlando on July 11. They will have three scrimmages before they begin their eight “seed” game schedule Aug. 1 against the Indiana Pacers.

In a media Zoom interview before Saturday’s practice, Richardson discussed the intensity inside the gym.

“It’s been hard competition every day and a few practices, you know like (Friday), got a little chippy, but you know I like when practices get like that because it shows that people care, shows that people are competing,” Richardson said.

Every team will say it is working hard, but the fact that Richardson allowed that things got a little more intense than usual appears to show that the Sixers mean business.

Before departing for Orlando, Brown didn’t know what to expect concerning the intensity of his players. Prior to the Sixers’ arrival, Joel Embiid and Shake Milton were both quoted as saying they had reservations about the NBA’s restart, which consists of 22 teams.

“You really don’t know what’s going on with the person individually and it would be quite naïve to think everybody was just thrilled to arrive in Orlando,” Brown said on Saturday. “Now that we are here, when you look at anything that’s just crazy competitive, maniacal competitiveness, that stands out to me the most and I applaud our guys for doing that.”

Sixers forward Al Horford was with Head Coach Brett Brown against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, February 7, 2020 in Philadelphia.

One reason things could be so intense is that there are players battling for minutes. Brown has suggested that he would probably have a 10-man rotation to start but likely cut it to nine by the postseason.

Brown has plenty of decisions to make with his rotation.

Since camp began, Milton has moved to the starting point guard spot, with Simmons playing power forward and “all over the court,” according to Brown.

It’s assumed that this move will stick and Al Horford will become a reserve. If this materializes, Horford should still get his share of minutes. Deciding the other minutes for reserves will be challenging.

Brown could choose among scorers such as Alec Burks and Furkan Korkmaz, a top defender such as Thybulle, or players like Mike Scott and Glenn Robinson III, who do a little bit of both.

There aren’t enough minutes and that could be a reason for the intense practices that Richardson was alluding to.

Plus, it could be that the Sixers are looking at this as a second season, ready to put their disappointing 39-26 mark behind them and attempt to move up from their No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.

They are healthy now and so apparently is the competition, which leads to intensity in practice.

“At the end of the day, we’re all brothers who when we walk off the court, we’re back to being friends like we were before, but I’m just glad that we know what it is between that 94 (feet),” Richardson said.

The Sixers did not practice on Sunday. They have their first scrimmage Friday against the Memphis Grizzlies. Between now and then, it wouldn’t be surprising if there are a few more chippy moments in practice.