LEXINGTON, KY -- Doug Collins is always excited by another basketball season but the 76ers coach has even more enthusiasm going into this year.
The Sixers have revamped a unit that took the Boston Celtics to a seventh game in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Obviously the Sixers did get a break when Derrick Rose was injured in the first playoff game against the Chicago Bulls and then later center Joakim Noah was sidelined.
Still, the Sixers won that series and extended a Boston team to the limit. That's a Celtics squad that that took NBA champion Miami to a seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals.
The feeling around the NBA was that the Sixers probably got as far as they could with last year’s roster and apparently the team felt that way as well. That is why the Sixers made so many changes.
Just since that final game with the Celtics, the Sixers are bringing in veterans Andrew Bynum, Kwame Brown, Jason Richardson, Dorell Wright, Nick Young, and Royal Ivey, and rookie Arnett Moultrie.
Pair that with projected rotation players, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young and Lavoy Allen, and the Sixers appear to be a much deeper team than last year. In Bynum, they have a viable all-star capable of impacting the game at both ends of the court.
It’s not unrealistic to consider the Sixers a top-four team in the Eastern Conference. And Collins is raring to go.
“My mind is always going and I am a crossword puzzle guy, how to solve a puzzle,” Collins said last week during the 1972 U.S. Olympic team reunion in Lexington, Ky. “We have new pieces and I like our pieces.”
Of course Collins also wanted to praise a number of key players who have departed.
“Anytime you change your team you have to give up talent and we lost an incredible professional in Elton Brand,” Collins said. “We lost a tremendous all-star, Olympian and world champion Andre Iguodala. We lost one of the best sixth men in the NBA in Lou Williams and lost a guy who helped us win a lot of games in Jodie Meeks.”
Now the challenge is to mesh all these new players, which makes training camp that much more important this season.
“We think we have added size, we think we have added shooting,” Collins said. “If we have our health I think we can do a lot of things.”
It appears as if one of Collins' most difficult tasks will be to appropriate playing time.
“I like our versatility, I think we can play big, we can play small and I think we have the best low post player in the NBA,” he said obviously referring to Bynum. “The big thing is how quickly we can put it together.”
The season begins with the Oct. 31 opener at the Wells Fargo Center against Iguodala and the Denver Nuggets.
“We have to be ready when the season starts but I think our guys are committed to that,” Collins said. “I am looking forward to it.”
-- Marc Narducci