Sixers may have bonded, but did they improve?

Posted: October 10, 2013

THE TALK before the 76ers trekked over to Spain and England for a pair of friendlies was of players getting to know one another, almost as important off the court as on it. As of now, only four players are able to see action who were on the team a year ago. Three of them are starters, but running the machine is a rookie point guard, and his backcourt mate has been used very little during his three NBA seasons. So as much as players and coach Brett Brown, also new to the organization, wanted to get to know one another, finding out what kind of basketball team they might be was also high on the list.

While team meals and sightseeing tours probably did go a long way into building some sort of unity, the play on the court no doubt gave Brown a tremendous clue as to what he has inherited.

Michael Carter-Williams showed positive signs at the point during the 1-1 trip, dealing 10 assists total while turning the ball over only once. Evan Turner scored 19 points in a 103-99 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Manchester, England, yesterday, 2 days after he dumped 25 on the Bilbao team of the European League. For a team that is going to struggle to score, Turner's showing some punch is a reason for optimism. Tony Wroten scored a team-high 20 yesterday, and it appears - so far - that he can be a capable player for this team. Thaddeus Young shows no signs of being anything different from what everyone expects - a player who will give everything he has each and every game, no matter which position he plays, and provide somewhere around 16 points and seven rebounds.

"The trip was a good thing, having gotten on the court and been able to spend so much time with each other," general manager Sam Hinkie said via phone as the team was getting ready to board its flight home. "It didn't really interrupt the training-camp atmosphere of practicing, as getting somewhere that is 6 hours away isn't all that much of a problem, fortunately. The two games revealed just what we had seen in the open gyms that we had before training camp and what we did in training camp. We were aggressive, which is something that we're going to have to be throughout the season."

Aggressiveness will help mask some of the many problems that will plague this team, especially early in the season.

That's the good news that came out of the European excursion. The concerns, though, still far outweigh any rays of light that the two games and 6 days together brought.

The front line is still painfully thin both in numbers and talent. After starters Spencer Hawes and Young, it's a mystery as to who can provide formidable relief. Lavoy Allen is hurting, though he did get through 19 minutes yesterday, snaring only three rebounds. Gani Lawal was signed over the weekend, but he appears to be more suited for the NBA Development League right now.

If someone on the squad is capable of consistently making open jump shots, he'll have to show himself in the remaining preseason games, as that hole certainly wasn't patched in the opening two preseason games.

And the defense is also suspect.

"We have a lot to improve upon at the defensive end, as all teams do this early in the preseason," Hinkie said. "That's not a surprise. There are specific areas and overall areas that need to get better - not unlike most other teams. This trip was a really good experience for us. It is something that can help us in our building process."

Though it was an exhibition game, both the Sixers and Thunder played it as though it were a midseason contest. Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks played four of his starters more than 33 minutes, including Kevin Durant. Durant went for 21 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds to lead the Thunder.

The Sixers got outscored by 35-23 in the third quarter and couldn't overcome a nine-point deficit entering the fourth quarter. The team shot 41 percent from the floor, including 12-for-30 (40 percent) from three-point range. They got outrebounded by 51-42 and turned the ball over 20 times.

Tony Wroten came off the bench to score 20 points, including hitting four of his eight threes, to lead five players in double figures. Evan Turner had 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists, but made only half of his 10 foul shots. The Sixers shot only 19-for-31 (61.3 percent) from the line. Thaddeus Young added 12 points, while Spencer Hawes and Michael Carter-Williams added 11 each. Hawes added a team-high nine rebounds.

Temple guard Khalif Wyatt got his first action of the preseason, scoring five points in 13 minutes.

The Sixers flew home immediately following the game in Manchester . . . They'll practice tomorrow before playing the Boston Celtics at the University of Delaware on Friday . . . The Delaware 87ers, the Sixers' NBA Development League affiliate, will hold open tryouts over the next couple of weekends: 8 a.m. Saturday at Community College of Philadelphia and 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Hockessin (Del.) Police Athletic League. Registration for both tryouts is 7 a.m.


On Twitter: @BobCooney76

Blog: ph.ly/Sixerville

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