Collins settles on lineup for Sixers' opener

Evan Turner (left) and Jason Kapono shined as the Sixers scored a preseason-high 118 points in the final exhibition.
Evan Turner (left) and Jason Kapono shined as the Sixers scored a preseason-high 118 points in the final exhibition.
Posted: October 27, 2010

Up until Tuesday, 76ers coach Doug Collins had not decided on a starting lineup for Wednesday's opener against the Miami Heat. He had a few combinations in mind, he said, but ultimately, a lot hinged on his players' health.

Over the last couple of days, Andre Iguodala's participation in practice has been limited because of a sore right wrist. And center Spencer Hawes, who sat out most of the preseason with a lower back sprain, has been coming along slowly since returning to practice on Friday.

For better or for worse, both will start Wednesday. Point guard Jrue Holiday will join Iguodala in the backcourt. Jason Kapono and Elton Brand will be the forwards. And rookie Evan Turner, taken No. 2 overall in June's draft, will come off the bench.

As Collins explained it, Holiday will match up against Dwyane Wade, Iguodala will guard LeBron James, and Kapono will guard the Heat's point guard (presumably Carlos Arroyo).

While noting that the lineup makes the Sixers vulnerable on defense, Collins reasoned that it was the best move for the team, at least offensively.

"One of the things you lose in that [lineup] is some ball pressure," Collins said. "But it's really the best mix of guys we have starting games right now. So we've just got to have [Kapono] do his best to try not to get broken down off the dribble. . . . I played with all the pieces all fall. And we've got to have somebody out there that can make a shot. We just have to."

Iguodala, the team's leading scorer last season, would seem to fill that role, along with the sharpshooting Kapono. However, after aggravating his sprained wrist last week, Iguodala sat out practice on Saturday and Sunday and went through noncontact drills on Monday. On Tuesday, Collins said, Iguodala "ran through all of our stuff [in practice], but he's not really doing anything with that wrist right now."

"It's getting a little better day by day," said Iguodala, who played through the injury this summer with USA Basketball. "It's taking a long time, longer than I expected. We'll see where we're at tomorrow."

With Kapono in the starting lineup, the Sixers scored a preseason-high 118 points in the final exhibition game last week against the New York Knicks. Kapono and Iguodala each scored 20 points. Kapono, who won the NBA's all-star three-point contest in 2007 and 2008, drilled 4 of 7 from long range.

"Kapono brings an element to that group that we really need, and that's making some shots," Collins said. "We feel coming off the bench, we have some guys that will blend well together."

The young reserves feature Turner, Lou Williams, Craig Brackins, Jody Meeks, Marreese Speights, and Thaddeus Young. Turner and Williams in particular come with higher expectations. (Both also share birthdays Wednesday, with Turner turning 22 and Williams 24.)

Williams was the team's most consistent scorer in the preseason. He was the only Sixer to score in double figures in all seven games.

Turner, the Associated Press player of the year at Ohio State, failed to make at least 50 percent of his shots in seven preseason games.

Asked what he would have to improve to become a starter, Turner paused briefly and said, "With the lineup that we have, probably become a better shooter.

"I think Kapono would complement either set very well. [Starting him is] just the most realistic thing. Kapono's definitely been shooting well, and I think he complemented that lineup and that first team better.

"It is what it is," Turner said. "It's not about me. It's about the team and the unit. If I'm not good enough to start, and [if] it's better for the team - we won the last game - I can't really complain."


Contact staff writer Mario Aguirre or 215-854-4550 or maguirre@phillynews.com.

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