By Mary Cunningham

For Sixers coach Brett Brown, the start of training camp next week is a welcome benchmark because:

He is anxious to discover who his starting point guard will be, not to mention tinker with the Nerlens Noel-Jahlil Okafor chemistry down low; and

He can stop fielding questions about the remaining two years of his four-year contract.

The Sixers won 19 and 18 games during Brown’s first two years here, and with Joel Embiid out for a second straight season due to foot surgery and rookie center Okafor and Noel, most NBA experts expect them to win more — but how much more?

“I signed a four-year contract and my intention is to see it through,” Brown said. “For whatever reason, I personally feel connected to this city and enjoy the people of this city.”

But Brown doesn’t plan on addressing his contract status during the season, which begins Oct. 28 against the Celtics in Boston. If he doesn’t get an extension, he’d go into 2016-17 with lame-duck status.

“I just don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “I’ve said what I have to say. I’m just really excited to coach the group and I’d be disappointed in myself it I commented many sentences beyond what I’ve just done as it relates to my contract.”

Among the many other topics he covered yesterday at a media luncheon:

• He plans on giving Robert Covington the first shot to be the starting small forward;

• He understands it’ll be “a tremendous challenge” pairing Okafor and Noel down low due to their preferences to play inside at both ends of the floor and that the duo has yet to play 5-on-5 together;

• Point guards Tony Wroten and Kendall Marshall, who are each recovering from torn ACLs, won’t be ready for the beginning of camp but could be back toward the end of October;

• If the season started today, Noel would be the backup center as well as the starting power forward;

• The team’s state-of-the-art practice facility in Camden should be ready by the 2016-17 season.

Brown seems intrigued by what could be a six-man battle for the starting point guard spot. Wroten, Marshall, Isaiah Canaan, Pierre Jackson, Scott Wilbekin and T.J. McConell are all in the mix. He figures three of them will make the 15-man roster.

“Our greatest mystery still is who’s going to be our point guard,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a fistfight in Stockton.”

Brown praised Marshall, who has three years of NBA experience, for his ability to “pass the hell out of the ball. The pass is king.”

Brown also said that while Nik Stauskas, who seems likely to get a long look with the first group at shooting guard, has a lot of potential, the second-year pro “has a long ways to go.”

With the additions of the offensive-minded players already here and the additions of Okafor and Stauskas, Brown admitted the Sixers “are going to focus a lot more on defense” and that both guys “need work, defensively.”

As for Embiid, Brown said, “I still have faith that Joel is going to (play). He realizes it’s serious. It’s a big year for Joel.”


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