Nurse, Sixers work to restore foundation: ‘I just don't accept the effort'

Nurse, Sixers work to restore foundation: ‘I just don't accept the effort' originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

CAMDEN, N.J. — Nick Nurse didn’t like much of what he saw over the Sixers’ weekend back-to-back.

Following home losses to the Knicks and Jazz, the Sixers’ head coach ran his team through a more intense regular-season practice than usual.

“We had a training camp-style practice today — competition and all that kind of stuff,” Nurse said Monday. “And I think there were bits of everything to prioritize, from transition defense to guarding the ball to shot challenges. So we started on it.”

The Sixers were down five players against Utah, including Joel Embiid, but Nurse clearly didn’t think those absences were worth highlighting.

“You’re certainly going to have ups and downs over any season,” he said. “Obviously the easy way out is to say, ‘Oh, we’re beat up and we don’t have enough people’ and all that kind of stuff, but I can’t accept that as the coach. There is a way we want to play, regardless of who’s out there, and that’s what I’ve got to make sure to do.”

Nurse said Embiid (left knee swelling) didn't practice, though he’s “hoping” the superstar big man will take part on Tuesday. After missing the Jazz game, Tobias Harris, De’Anthony Melton and Furkan Korkmaz did participate Monday. Robert Covington put up post-practice jumpers as well.

While the Sixers remain third in the Eastern Conference at 23-12, Saturday’s defeat dropped them to 2-6 this season without Embiid.

Nurse wasn’t inclined to lean on any potential excuses for the Sixers’ recent slippage in fundamental areas.

“Whatever it is, I just don’t accept the effort, I don’t accept the lack of defense in transition, the lack of shot challenges — all that kind of stuff,” he said. “I can accept shots not going in. I think it all works together. Regardless of whether the ball’s going in or not, you’ve got to still be able to put some type of style of play together that you’re going to be consistent with — and some type of fight that you’re going to be consistent with.”

The specific problems Nurse identified are easy to find on the film.

The Sixers are willing to tolerate some damage to their transition defense that stems from offensive rebounding aggression. However, players dropping their heads, jogging, and letting opponents coast to the rim indeed can’t become an acceptable norm.

In the half court, the Sixers had multiple miscommunications and belated rotations against Utah's stack pick-and-rolls.

So, although Tyrese Maxey had mentioned postgame that Utah’s box-and-one defense was an unfamiliar coverage, Nurse had no desire to dwell on anything about the Sixers’ offense.

“Overall, I didn’t think that shot creation, or his touches, or the shots we got or anything were the problem,” Nurse said. “I think overall, as a team, we handled it just fine.”

He also doesn’t feel the Sixers are at a place where it make sense to implement additional defensive schemes.

“You guys keep asking me where I’m at and I keep saying, ’60 percent.’ And what’s holding some of that up is our foundational stuff has gotten rocked here a little bit,” Nurse said. “We’ve got to get that foundation solidified. And again, that’s basic stuff with getting back, guarding the ball and challenging shots.”

Despite Nurse’s obvious dissatisfaction, KJ Martin called Monday's practice “fun.”

The Sixers have one more on deck before they’ll face the Hawks on Wednesday night in Atlanta.

“We got to go out and compete, play against each other,” Martin said. “It’s always fun playing 5-on-5. Obviously some practice days are more calm but today, after we lost two in a row, I figured he’d want to pick the intensity up. So it was fun.”