Collins finding spaces for sharpshooters

Nick Young is just of the Sixers' new outside weapons.
Nick Young is just of the Sixers' new outside weapons. (AP)
Posted: October 19, 2012

WHEN DOUG Collins was drafted by the 76ers with the first overall pick in 1973, he brought with him a gaudy college career scoring average of 29.1 points from Illinois State. A couple of years into his NBA career, he found himself taking the court with the likes of Julius Erving, George McGinnis and Lloyd Free (now World B.). At that point, Collins as the primary offensive option became a thing of the past, so he had to adjust his game accordingly. He learned to move without the ball, to score on the move, to get to the foul line.

Now Collins, as head coach of the team that drafted him, must make a similar adjustment. In his first two seasons at the helm, Collins' team generated most of its offense out of transition, taking advantage of its speedy wing players. Outside shooters were mostly a rumor on his first two teams, so the coach had to draw up different ways to score.

When the team acquired Nick Young, Jason Richardson and Dorell Wright, the whole philosophy of scoring had to change. Now in charge of a roster with a plethora of outside shooters, Collins is adjusting to playing a style that fits their games and, pardon the phrase, puts his players in the best position.

In the team's four preseason games the team has made 34 of 72 (47.2 percent) from beyond the arc and has been able to get long open shots in a variety of ways.

"This offense is great for three-point shooters and I think with [Collins] - a lot of coaches don't like early transition threes - he encourages us to shoot those," Richardson said. "Myself, Dorell [Wright], Nick [Young], we all are capable of making transition threes. We're not just standing and shooting in the corners. He's got the guards moving around a lot so it's not just spot-up shooting."

What the team has done so successfully this preseason is rebound, which provides fastbreak opportunities where the three-point marksmen can spread out and find their spots. After starting the slower Kwame Brown and Spencer Hawes in the first two preseason games, Collins decided to go with a quicker, big tandem in Lavoy Allen and Thaddeus Young. That also helped players get open for long jumpers.

"I think we have good shooters and we've had really good spacing," said Collins after practice Wednesday at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. "I thought the threes in transition would be really good for us so we're looking for those. A lot of times it's tough [for a defense] to get to those shooters especially when you have a guy like Thad Young sprinting down the floor and he takes somebody with him to the basket. When that big guy is running and he's getting somebody to go back to that rim with him, it just opens up so much stuff.

"And I think the guys know when it's a good shot and when to take it. That's got to be a big part of our game this year. We had 36 points from the three-point line [Tuesday against Cleveland], which makes the game a lot easier. We didn't run much halfcourt offense, it was sort of an open-court game. It's an area [halfcourt] where we're going to have to get better. We really haven't shot a lot of threes in the halfcourt the way we have in transition.

"I think you have to play to your team's personality. In the first quarter Cleveland outplayed us then we hit back-to-back threes and won the quarter. All these guys shoot the ball in rhythm. We haven't really played through the post to get those kinds of shots yet so that will be a different kind of three for us if we're in the halfcourt and teams have to double the post or trap pick-and-rolls, and then you're playing four-on-three and hopefully that's going to encourage that even more."

The post position will certainly change once mammoth Andrew Bynum takes to the court with his ailing right knee fully recovered and his body in playing shape. Once that happens, Bynum will almost certainly draw the attention of multiple defenders, leaving players open on the perimeter. Then Richardson, Nick Young, Wright and Jrue Holiday may even find themselves with more open shots than they've been getting this preseason.

"It's great," said the always smiling Nick Young. "We've got great creators on this team. Jrue, Maalik [Wayns] going up and down full speed and putting a lot of pressure on the defense when he does that so that leaves us open and when Bynum comes back it will be double-team city, so we're going to be fighting for those threes. There are a lot of weapons on this team. He's going to take a lot of pressure off me, they won't be keying on me, they'll be keying on him, so I'm just going to hopefully be knocking down shots."

He might not be the only one.

Six shots

The team faces the Nets in Brooklyn on Friday before closing out the preseason with games at Boston on Sunday and in Syracuse against the New York Knicks on Monday . . . Doug Collins said he is going to give certain players a game off in the final three contests. Evan Turner will sit Friday. Kwame Brown will be out again with a calf injury. Collins said he will start Jrue Holiday, Jason Richardson, Dorell Wright, Thaddeus Young and Lavoy Allen . . . The team waived forward Dan Gadzuric, leaving the roster at 15.


Contact Bob Cooney at cooneyb@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @BobCooney76. For more Sixers coverage, read his blog at philly.com/Sixerville.

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