Sixers rookie Brackins remains a developing story

Posted: March 07, 2011

After the first 17 games of the season, rookie Craig Brackins had seen action in just one game, scoring six points in 10 minutes during a blowout loss in Toronto. A few days later, he was sent down to the NBA Development League.

It was the best thing that could have happened for Brackins.

The 6-10 forward knew coming into the season, after the Sixers acquired him from New Orleans in a preseason trade, that his minutes would be limited. Coach Doug Collins said that while he loved Brackins' game and attitude, this would be more like a redshirt season for the Iowa State product. Still, the grind of practices and shootarounds and traveling were not being rewarded with playing time for Brackins, and it was admittedly tough.

"At the beginning of the season, it was difficult,'' he said before being deactivated again last night but after putting in a strong pregame workout on the Wells Fargo Center floor. "But I went to the D-League [and] I had all the support of my teammates that reassured me that everything was fine. They know I can play, they know it's nothing I can control.''

The always-upbeat Brackins never has shown a sign of discontent during the long season. He is well-liked by all of his teammates and when the media is allowed to watch the players scrimmage, Brackins certainly shows he can hang with the big boys.

So as not to completely lose the feel of game action and to work on his defense and rebounding, the 76ers have twice sent Brackins to the Springfield Armor, of the D-League, for a total of 14 games. While there, he has averaged 19.9 points and 9.1 rebounds.

He last returned to the Sixers on Feb. 8, has been with them ever since but has been deactivated for each game.

"It's all been a good experience,'' Brackins said. "I'm learning a lot, getting stronger. I've got a new lifting plan, where I lift 6 days a week and am lifting heavier weights to try and add 10 to 15 pounds of muscle. I'm still staying ready, getting in my basketball work at the same time, running, keeping my agility up.

"The biggest thing for me to learn in this league is basically understanding what my strengths are against other players. I need to do a good job of seeing who's guarding me and take advantage of that. I've learned more about rebounding, about using my quickness and athleticism against other players.''

For the most part, Brackins has had only his teammates against whom to measure his game. Certainly he'd like to see where he stands against others in the league, but in this "redshirt'' season, he'll have to take what he can get.

"In practice, it's good because I get to go against a lot of different type players,'' Brackins said. "I go up against Elton [Brand], Mo [Marreese Speights], Spencer [Hawes], Andres Nocioni. Then there are times when I'm matched up against Thad [Young] or Andre [Iguodala]. I need to learn to play against both the bigger guys and the smaller guys.''

So for those in Philly who didn't exactly see a ton of Iowa State games during Brackins' 3 years, he provided a hint of what they might see next season.

"I'm a face-up four man who can shoot the ball all the way out to the three-point line,'' he said. "I can play the wing. I'm athletic, can get to the rim and dunk. I can do a lot of different things.''

While it is normal practice for a coach to shorten his bench during the last part of the season and in the playoffs, Collins has found another body he can go to.

Speights, mired on the bench for much of the season though still one of the team's best cheerleaders, has found himself more involved of late. Speights played just under 12 minutes in last night's overtime win against Golden State, as Collins went predominantly with a small lineup, but contributed eight points. He has played just over 100 minutes in the past seven games.

"He's been hard-working, he's done all the little things,'' Collins said of Speights. "I think he knows his focus. I know he can score, I know that. He's defending much better and rebounding much better and playing with a high energy. I love what he's doing. He helped us win that [Minnesota] game the other night. We would not have won that game without him.''

What has hurt Speights defensively is his penchant to get caught flatfooted at times, which leaves him in poor position.

"He has a tendency sometimes to be a step behind, especially on a pick and roll,'' Collins said. "What we're really working on him with is when his big guy runs up to set the screen, Mo would have a tendency to lag back a little bit, then he tries to catch up, then he comes up and he's standing up straight. And now as that guy starts to come at him, he's got to bend over, and that's when he starts getting split on those pick and rolls. So what we're really working on with him is when his man comes up, come up with him and get down low, where he can move a little bit better. He's done a much better job at that.''

Stat of the season

Sixers stat man extraordinaire Sean McCloskey was passing this tidbit around the press room last night: When the Miami Heat is trailing by three or fewer points in the fourth quarter or overtime, and there are 10 or fewer seconds on the clock, they are shooting 1-for-18 this season.

Interesting tidbit, as Miami and the Sixers just might meet in the first round of the playoffs.

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