CAMDEN, N.J. - A big smile grew across Brett Brown's face Tuesday as a reporter carefully posed to him the question of whether he'd take an opponent saying "we hate those guys" as a compliment.
The question was alluding to comments by longtime Pacers assistant coach Dan Burke shown Monday during the Fox Sports Indiana broadcast of the Pacers' game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Burke, who oversees the Pacers' defense, did not hide his distaste for the Sixers after his team's 119-116 loss in Philadelphia on Saturday night.
"I hate that team," Burke said. "I really wanted to win that game. I think [Joel] Embiid gets away with a bunch of crap the league ignores. It would have been a good one to just walk away from."
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Embiid had 32 points and 11 rebounds in the Sixers' win over Indiana. He also received a Flagrant 1 foul for "unnecessary contact made to the head" of Domantas Sabonis.
Replay Review (Game Crew): if foul committed by Embiid met criteria for a flagrant foul in Q2 of #INDatPHI. Ruling: Flagrant foul penalty 1 assessed to Embiid for unnecessary contact made to the head of Sabonis. pic.twitter.com/D588FILK9C— NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) December 1, 2019
Embiid later fouled out Sabonis and made all 15 of his free throws.
Brown knew all of that context, but he didn't appear familiar with Burke's comments. He wants his team to be difficult to play against and he doesn't mind if the byproduct of that is sometimes an … intense dislike.
Absolutely. One of the questions that comes up from me to them sometimes as a group, sometimes as individuals, is your exact thing: What would you want them to say? What would it look like? Who are we? Whether it's style of play, whether it's character, whether it's deep, whatever it is, it is. It's an interesting question to ask - how do you want to be judged? What would you want an opposition player, team coach, whatever, to say about you? What would you like to feature on a scout tape? ... You better box Ben Simmons out, because here it is. You better take away Joel Embiid's deep catches - whatever it is, it is. And to your question, it would be received as a compliment.
Embiid posts up more than any other player in the league, while the Sixers as a team already have 313 post-up possessions in 21 games - 115 more than the Spurs, the next highest team. They're an atypical team, and opponents need to come up with specific strategies to counter.
Brown then learned that it was a Pacers assistant who'd said he hated his team. Still, he didn't mind.
"I would bring him to my house for Christmas and he could share in the Christmas dinner," he said.
He asked whether the hatred stemmed from the Sixers' physical play, and was then informed that Burke had targeted Embiid.
That led Brown to change his tune a bit.
"Well, he would not be able to have dessert, because I don't agree with him," he said. "But he could still eat at the house if it was delivered the way you just said. If it was offered as a compliment to bully ball and tough and physical and yes, we have a post-up team - dinner. If he's hitting Joel, no dessert. That's how it works."
Christmas will have come and gone by the next time the Sixers see the Pacers on Dec. 31, but perhaps Brown will still extend an invitation.
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