Inside the Sixers: 76ers' future looking brighter

New coach Doug Collins leads a team that shows promise at each position, and he has the ability to get the most out of that talent.
New coach Doug Collins leads a team that shows promise at each position, and he has the ability to get the most out of that talent.
Posted: September 26, 2010

A peculiar mood is surrounding the 76ers this fall.

It's called optimism.

And it appeared rather quickly.

A few months ago, the city's NBA franchise seemed trapped inside a falling elevator - no effort could prevent the descent.

Back in February, when the Phillies were just pitchers and catchers - all light workouts and easy stretching - the local basketball team was losing games, losing fans, and losing control.

Now the Phillies are streaking toward the playoffs - all packed stadiums and stacked victories - and the Sixers have reinvented themselves.

From down and out, divided and disastrous, to collected and ready.

On Tuesday at St. Joseph's University, the Sixers will open training camp for the 2010-11 NBA season. It will be the team's first official practice since mid-April, although perhaps its first productive practice in a year.

Since careening out of the playoffs and finishing the 2009-10 season with a record of 27-55, the Sixers have a new head coach, three new assistant coaches, six new players, and a new decision-maker in the front office.

While former president and general manager Ed Stefanski has retained the latter part of his title, the reality is that newly hired president Rod Thorn is now making calls about the franchise's personnel. Thursday's news release announcing the trade of Willie Green and Jason Smith to the New Orleans Hornets for Craig Brackins and Daruis Songaila came filled with Thorn's assessment, not Stefanski's.

That means both the guy making the moves and the guy coaching those moves, Doug Collins, were miles away during last year's embarrassment.

While an entire Sunday article could be devoted to Collins' passion and speaking ability, which would bring the franchise an NBA title if those were the only qualifications, it's the promise at each position - and Collins' ability to squeeze out each ounce of talent - that should excite local basketball fans. (And maybe even have them considering wandering over to the Wells Fargo Center for a game, something very few people did last season.)

1 Jrue Holiday, point guard.

At the beginning of last season, the rookie was getting cups of water for starting point guard Lou Williams. That was a mistake - like not wearing your shiny new sneakers because you're worried they'll get dirty. No use protecting something with that much sparkle. By season's end, Holiday was throwing down a lefthanded slam on the break, dishing to Marreese Speights for a three-point play, and defending like it was the 1970s.

At Thursday's media luncheon, Collins said that by next season Holiday would be a top 5 NBA point guard.

That might be far-fetched, but his ability to pace this team is not.

2 Evan Turner, shooting guard

He might not be the team's starter on opening night, but he is the future of the position. With only pickup games as evidence, Turner must expand his off-ball capabilities before he earns the backcourt spot alongside Holiday. But the refreshing thought surrounding a Holiday-Turner backcourt is the youth. Sure, Green provided a viable, stable option, but there was no promise of greatness there.

Turner is hope. At least there's that.

3 Andre Iguodala, small forward

It's one thing to swallow your go-to scoring pride for Mike Krzyzewski, USA Basketball, and a gold medal at the World Championships. It's another to return to the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, tucked away off City Avenue, and decide your lower-tier NBA team needs your defense, rebounding, and slashing more than your outside jumper and all-star hopes.

But - and let's place this bet publicly, in newsprint - that's what will happen this season. Iguodala has earned Collins' respect, and in return the swingman will do what he does well, without forced jumpers and too many three-point attempts.

4/5 Frontcourt

A year ago, starting center Samuel Dalembert was about as distracting as a scratched CD. Nothing runs smoothly when a starter is missing practice, arriving late, and working sparingly.

Now, with Dalembert traded to the Sacramento Kings, this frontcourt revolves around power forward Elton Brand, who spent last season persona non grata to coach Eddie Jordan, and a handful of skilled, versatile big men. Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, Brackins, and Speights average 22.3 years of age. All can shoot from outside, and all can venture from the lane without looking befuddled.

There is no NBA championship at the end of this season's rainbow, but there is optimism.

That word was foreign to last season's Sixers.


Inside the Sixers: Sixers Training Camp Guide

Where: St Joseph's University.

When: Sept. 28 to Oct. 2

New faces: head coach Doug Collins, rookie guard Evan Turner, rookie forward Craig Brackins, forward Andres Nocioni, center Spencer Hawes, forward Darius Songaila, and forward Tony Battie.

Returning players: guard Jrue Holiday, guard Lou Williams, guard Jodie Meeks, forward Jason Kapono, forward Andre Iguodala, forward Thaddeus Young, forward Elton Brand, forward Marreese Speights.

First preseason game: Oct. 5 vs. New Jersey Nets at Roanoke Civic Center in Roanoke, Va.

Preseason home games:

Oct. 12: Boston at Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m.); Oct. 20:

New York at Wells Fargo Center

(7 p.m.)

First regular-season game:

Oct. 27 vs. Miami Heat at Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m.).


Contact staff writer Kate Fagan

at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.

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