The Philadelphia 76ers have lost 12 straight games and 22 of their past 25 overall, which is beginning to test head coach Brett Brown’s patience.
The first-year head coach—who previously spent six seasons as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs—ripped into sophomore guard Tony Wroten for uninspired defensive play following a 101-90 loss against the Orlando Magic on Feb. 26.
“I told Tony Wroten today, ‘You’ve been AAU, and that’s not a good thing,’ ” Coach Brown said, according to Christopher Vito of the Delaware County Daily Times.
AAU stands for Amateur Athletic Union. The line seems to imply that Wroten's skills cater more toward open pickup games with few fundamentals, rather than the professional ranks of the NBA.
The criticism stemmed from a play in the third quarter of Philly’s loss against the lowly Magic. Vito broke it down as follows:
“There was a point in the third quarter when Tony Wroten failed to run out on Orlando’s Tobias Harris on a 16-footer from the baseline. Harris took the shot, made it, and Wroten still was six feet away.”
The Sixers’ defensive woes aren’t solely tied to the 20-year-old youngster—the team ranks 29th in defensive efficiency by surrendering 107 points per 100 possessions. That’s a tragic recipe, considering that Philadelphia also ranks No. 1 in pace at 102.5 (the number of possessions a team uses per game).
“I don’t see him having that foundation, and it’s up to me to create that,” Brown said of Wroten’s defensive prowess (or lack thereof). “I feel a great responsibility to do my job and give him that. He’s only 20 years old.”
Perhaps it was harsh of Brown to tell Wroten he’s been “AAU” out on the court, but his job has become increasingly difficult in recent weeks.
Philly’s front office was busy at the trade deadline, sending trigger-happy center Spencer Hawes to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Henry Sims, Earl Clark and two second-round picks. Clark was eventually bought out and signed a 10-day contract with the New York Knicks.
Management also acquired Eric Maynor and two second-round picks in the three-teamer that sent veteran point guard Andre Miller to the Washington Wizards, as well as Byron Mullens from the Los Angeles Clippers.
The real blockbuster, however, was sending Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen to the Indiana Pacers for injury-prone veteran Danny Granger and a 2015 second-round pick. Like Clark, Granger eventually agreed to a buyout.
Coach Brown has been put in an extremely difficult situation because higher-ups are putting the roster in a position to tank for better draft status. He’s trying to keep the team competitive, but consistent losing is clearly challenging his resolve.
It’s been a long season for Philly, but the silver lining may be finding a franchise-changing star in the 2014 draft.