Sixers' Speights looking strong on both ends of court

Posted: October 04, 2010

Offense is why coaches love to have 76ers center Marreese Speights on the basketball court. His defense is what usually necessitates his removal from the floor.

The third-year 6-10 Florida product knows the concerns about his ability to defend and he is trying (emphasis on trying) to get better at not allowing the other team to score - though it is still a work in progress.

"He is in better shape and he is a kid that wants to please and do well," head coach Doug Collins said after yesterday morning's practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. "He has a tendency when he gets tired that bad habits come back. He starts standing up on defense and not being in the right spots. The thing that was encouraging me today was he was the best player in the last 5 minutes after we'd been through a 2-hour practice. That's what was encouraging to me. Because normally that's when he would have broken down either tired physically or mentally. And today he came down the floor and he had four straight scores."

Speights missed 20 games last season due to injuries to both knees. During his time out, he put on a little weight, and when he returned it took a while for him to find his game again.

He worked hard this offseason and reported to camp in his best shape as a pro. He is running the floor extremely well in practice, showing that his scoring is still a strong part and working on his defense.

"[Getting in better shape] ties into everything," Speights said after yesterday's practice. "I'm just going to work hard every day that I'm on the court. [My shape] wasn't part of the problem. Defense is all mental, so I'm good. I'm going to work every day to get better on defense and help the team out."

He should be able to do that on the offensive end of the floor on a team that seems to be lacking a lot of inside scoring.

"Well, we've got Elton [Brand] who can score down low real good," Speights said. "All of us [big men] are really good shooters, good at scoring from the outside. We'll work it out."

Collins has continued to sing the praises of Speights throughout training camp. "I love him, he's been great."

"That means a lot that coach has confidence in me," Speights said. "He's got a lot of respect for me and trusts me. So I'm going to go out there and do the best I can to help him and the team out."

If his defense comes along, it will be a big help.

Six shots

Forward Andre Iguodala approached coach Doug Collins a couple of days ago about the time of yesterday's practice. Iguodala got a suite at Lincoln Financial Field for the Eagles-Redskins game and was joined by several teammates . . . Collins called yesterday's practice the best the team has had so far . . . Andres Nocioni (left ankle) participated in non-contact drills, while Tony Battie (right knee) and James Florence (hamstring) were out . . . Said Collins of Nocioni: "He's starting to work more and more and is getting better. I'm hoping by 2 weeks he'll be full speed." The season opener is at home on Oct. 27 . . . The second team of Evan Turner, Marreese Speights, Lou Williams, Craig Brackins, Jason Kapono, Trent Plaisted, and Jodie Meeks defeated the first team of Elton Brand, Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Spencer Hawes, Thad Young, and Chris Quinn, 29-25. Williams was pleased with the win because the first team "kicked our butts all day" . . . The first preseason game is tomorrow against the New Jersey Nets at Roanoke (Va.) Civic Center.

For more Sixers coverage, read the

Daily News' Sixers blog, Sixerville, at

http://go.philly.com/sixerville.

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