On a recent visit to Minneapolis, Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown looked across the court at the Timberwolves roster and couldn’t help but be a little envious.
The Timberwolves and the 76ers are both in the initial rebuilding stages, focused on developing a young core for success down the road much more so than today.
To that end, Flip Saunders and Milt Newton brought in veterans Kevin Garnett, Tayshaun Prince and Andre Miller to serve as mentors in the locker room to an impressionable Wolves roster that includes Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad. The old guys supplement Sam Mitchell’s teaching, setting an example for how to carry themselves both in the games and on the days in between.
The Sixers have no such presence. General manager Sam Hinkie has instead loaded the roster around promising youngsters Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor with more youth in hopes of uncovering another tradable asset and keeping the losing going until they land another big fish in the lottery.
“It’s my role to act as a veteran on the team,” Brown said. “We don’t have Tayshaun or KG or Andre. And that’s just how the design of our team (goes). On most nights I enjoy the responsibility. On other nights you wish you had a veteran voice behind me in that locker room.”
In Brown’s third year at the helm, the “Trust the Process” mantra uttered over and over again by Hinkie’s devotees is being tested like never before. Only one player on the team — Carl Landry — has more than three years of experience. Landry has not played because of injury.
The Sixers are 1-20 heading into a home game on Monday night against San Antonio, when Okafor will return from a two-game suspension for his conduct off the court. Okafor was cited for reckless driving on Oct. 19 for speeding on the Ben Franklin Bridge and then drew further scrutiny when two videos surfaced of him brawling on the streets of Boston after a loss.
When Okafor returns, he will not have a veteran to lean on to help him through it. That responsibility will fall to Brown.
The Orlando Magic strung together five straight wins — their longest win streak since 2012 — after coach Scott Skiles made a key change to his rotation. He moved guard Victor Oladipo from the starting lineup to the bench to bolster the second unit, and it’s made all the difference. Oladipo is averaging 18.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists coming off of the bench, and the Magic (11-9) are 5-1 in that stretch.
“He’s been really, really good,” Skiles said. “He’s not hanging his head or pouting or anything like that.”
THE WEEK AHEAD
A look at some things to watch this week.
WARRIORS ROLL: Golden State’s destruction tour continues this week with games at Indiana on Tuesday, at Boston on Friday and at Milwaukee on Saturday. They are 22-0 and a win over the Pacers would make them 13-0 on the road, which would move them past the 1969-70 New York Knicks for the best road start in NBA history.
PORZINGIS VS. DIRK: Like many Europeans to come before him, Knicks rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis has drawn comparisons to Mavericks great Dirk Nowitzki. Their games have some big-time differences, but they will meet on the court for the first time on Monday when Dallas comes to New York.
COLLEGE STARS: When the Bulls meet the Celtics in Boston on Wednesday, both teams will be led by big shots from college. No, not the players. The coaches. Chicago’s Fred Hoiberg and Boston’s Brad Stevens both made the leap from college to the pros, and their success will likely lead to more.
NO HOME COOKING: At 6-3, the Timberwolves have the second-best road winning percentage in the NBA behind Golden State. At 2-8 at Target Center, only the Lakers and 76ers have won fewer games on their home court. The Wolves host the Clippers on Monday and the Lakers on Wednesday.
STAT LINE OF THE WEEK
Quick, guess who leads the NBA in 3-point percentage. It’s not Stephen Curry. J.J. Redick? Try again. San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard is shooting a cool 50 percent from long range, on 82 attempts no less. He hit 7 of 9 in a win over Memphis on Thursday.
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