Sixers Talk Accountability, Leadership Following Three-Game Slump
After a big win over the Bucks on Christmas Day, the Sixers were riding high. Unfortunately, that didn't last long as they have turned around to drop the first three games of their road trip in Orlando, Miami and Indiana. Following the team's deflating loss against the Pacers, Josh Richardson said that he's noticed a lack of accountability in the locker room.
"I don’t think that there’s enough accountability in our locker room right now, honestly. I think that we got some new guys, who don’t want to step on toes, including myself."
With the team back at practice on Thursday, the players and coaches addressed the issue head on.
"We’re good. We’ve been off for the last three games, but we’re good," Joel Embiid said following Thursday's practice. "I don’t really want to share what goes on inside but we’re good. I feel like everybody has a good spirit and we know we’re gonna get out of it.
Richardson's comments after the game in Indiana could be at any number of guys in the locker room. That would only be right since there are more than a handful of reasons as to why the team has had trouble finding their identity, especially on the road. One of the guys that has faced significant criticism this year is Ben Simmons. When asked whether or not the team has accountability issues, he agreed with Richardson's remarks.
“I agree. We sat down and talked about it this morning," Simmons told reporters. "We all know why we’re here and what we want to get out of being here and that’s a championship. We just have to hold each other accountable.”
For Simmons, as a franchise cornerstone, he needs to hold others accountable as one of the leaders while also holding himself accountable for the lack of development offensively. After tons of teasing videos over the summer, Simmons has yet to look even somewhat willing to shoot outside the paint.
"We just got to look at ourselves and see what we can do individually," Joel Embiid said about the team's offensive problems. "We've got to help each other even if it means being outside of your comfort zone for the greater good to help the team win. Meaning that, if you've got the space to shoot it, you've got to do it. We need everybody to buy into that and we'll be fine."
Accountability doesn't stop with Simmons either. Embiid is clearly the Sixers "crown jewel" as Brett Brown has said numerous times. The big man has had his production dip this year and there are games where he does not look interested or engaged. That's a problem, especially since he needs to continue to grow as a leader.
"I don't talk much," Embiid said with regard to speaking up in the locker room. "I lead by example, but if I feel the need to say something, I will. As a leader, you kind of have to do that."
If this is the case, Embiid needs to do a better job on both sides of that coin. He came out after the Bucks game and admitted that he plans to show up when his team needs him. That's great, but if you are the guy that people follow, stating on national television that you're more or less coasting unless the team needs you? That may not the best way to display leadership. Joel Embiid doesn't need to exert 100% of his energy every game, and yes he needs to be healthy for the playoffs, but he must do a better job of learning how to lead by example both on and off the court. That goes double for road games, when the Sixers team seems to lack energy.
In situations like this, you might want to look to a more veteran guy to help right the ship, but even Al Horford is going through his own issues. After posting strong numbers in October and November, December was a month to forget for the big man. Horford admitted that he's struggling to find his rhythm with the Sixers, but believes that in times like these, Joel Embiid is the guy the Sixers to need rely on to get things right.
"Yeah I think to be fair, even though they are younger, I’m looking at Joel as our leader and our guy we have to lean on. He’s the guy who has been here the longest," said Horford. "He understands, he knows what we need to do. I’m just trying to help in any way I can, to fit in and do whatever I need to do.
Any sort of accountability conversation involves the coach. Brett Brown has been with the Sixers since the beginning of the Process days. Now with a very talented roster, the same issues continue to plague the team. Whether it be careless turnovers, playing down to opponents or adjusting in-game, Brown needs to put his team and players in better positions to win games. Following two straight 50+ win seasons, Brown doesn't believe the team should be coasting into the playoffs.
"It’s not acceptable," Brown said. "I completely sort of coach and live life thinking that good things add up, and you don’t just click your heels and April 14th is here. That’s not how I see anything. We shared that notion today. They’re smart enough to agree."
In an 82-game season, there will be a lot of ups and downs. Still, we have not seen what we expected from this team offensively or defensively. 23-13 isn't good enough. The Eastern Conference looks deeper than previous years and if the Sixers plan to be a contender come playoff time, they'll need to play better because having home court advantage is huge for a team that has struggled so much away from the Wells Fargo Center.
"It’s one of those things where you have ups and downs," Ben Simmons told reporters. "You’re not gonna be 82-0. As long as we stay together and don’t lose our minds we’re gonna be good. I think we’re gonna be fine."
The Sixers look to start 2020 off in the right direction when they travel to Houston for a match-up with James Harden, Russell Westbrook and the Rockets on Friday night at 8:00 p.m.
Brandon Apter is a Sixers contributor to 97.3 ESPN. Follow him on Twitter @bapter23.