The 76ers training camp at St. Joseph's is in its final day. This morning, the Sixers held their non-contact session, which was mostly running through plays, 5-on-0, shooting drills, etc. Tonight from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the Sixers will practice/scrimmage in a session that is open to the media and season ticket holders. It will be our first opportunity to assess a number of topics: Is Jrue Holiday really up to the hype? What role might Evan Turner play on this team? Where is Andre Iguodala's game? And how will all the new guys fit in?
If you want live updates from tonight's scrimmage, you can follow on Twitter: Deep Sixer. I'll also post some analysis by Sunday morning, so if you have time while prepping for the Eagles/Redskins game, that'll be online. From this morning, there should be two videos in the video player below (and hopefully one embedded in this post). One is Doug Collins talking about Thaddeus Young's play, the other is Jrue Holiday talking about his ambidexterity (yeah, he can even brush his teeth left-landed).
Before tonight's on-court session, here are three topics coming from camp today:
1.) Chris Quinn. The way the Sixers roster is right now, there are 14 players with guaranteed contracts and one open spot. In the past few seasons, the Sixers have elected to keep that spot open, probably for a number of reasons. Money being one reason, flexibility being another. But the way this current roster is built, having a backup point guard like Quinn could be a move Collins would lobby to make. Quinn, who attended Notre Dame, spent three seasons with the Miami Heat and last season with the New Jersey Nets. His game is simple: run the offense, don't commit turnovers, and make open shots. That's it. That's what you're getting.
But if you consider the trade the Sixers recently executed (and Collins mentioned this today), they traded their backup guard Willie Green, but didn't find a replacement for that spot.
"Absolutely," said Collins when asked if Quinn had a chance to make the roster. "We have the option of keeping a 15th guy. Before we made the trade to get Songaila and Brackins, we were looking at a possible 15th
guy being a young big guy we can develop. So now we’re looking at our roster and we lose Willie and we’re looking at a third point guard. If CG continues to do what he does, now you go and you fight and say, ‘Look, we need to keep this guy,' ... You have to have some insurance at that third backup position."
The way Collins explained it, he doesn't believe Lou Williams is best suited in the point guard role. That gives him Holiday as the starter and Turner as the backup, plus Williams and Jodie Meeks in that combo-guard role.
2.) Thaddeus Young as only a small forward. Collins said today he does not want to play Young at the power forward.
"I'm not going to do that right now because I want him to think as a three," Collins explained. "I told our big guys, 'I do not want to have to go to a small lineup right now so you have to rebound and defend your position so you don’t make me want to tinker around and do that.'"
"He’s playing in a spot," continued Collins. "And we’re putting him in a position where he’s going to be closer to the basket."
Right now, the big difference for Young is on the defensive end. In the few segments we've watched, we've seen Young guarding Evan Turner, Jason Kapono, even Jodie Meeks.
"I’ve been trying my best to think as a small forward," Young said. "Sometimes it’s hard when you’re out there guarding guards and that transition is hard. I’ve been guarding fours since I came into the league and now you’re chasing Kapono and Jodie and Lou and other guys off the screens. It’s hard. The good thing is I’m creating good habits ... It shows they have a lot of confidence in me. I’m going to prove everybody wrong about me playing the four and that I’m only a four. I thank those guys for giving me a chance to go out there and start at the small forward spot."
3.) Like Young said ... creating better habits. Last year, while watching practice, you saw guys jogging "sprints" and you saw them turning around before ever reaching the endline. When it came time for games, it wasn't surprising to see them setting lazy screens and talking to the refs instead of running back on defense.
"In the past, we’ve had bad habits," Young admitted. "We’re even stopping ourselves now. When something goes wrong we say, ‘Let’s start over and get it right.’ Until we get it to where it needs to be."
At the end of today's morning session, Collins twice stopped a drill to demand better screen-setting. Collins pointed out that because a lot of the Sixers big men are now solid perimeter shooters (Speights, Nocioni, Songaila, Hawes, Brackins) they have the tendency to want to slip the screen and slide back into open space for an outside J. Collins is trying to hold fast on demanding a strong screen. Last year, when we would watch the Utah Jazz (who set great screens), you could really see how beneficial that was within their offense.
"If I don’t worry about it now, it’s going to really get bad," Collins said. "The tendency is, it’ll be good and then as guys get tired, they slip. I’ve always said the biggest mistakes you make are when you’re tired or under pressure. If we’re running this drill and Mo Speights doesn’t pop his feet and I don’t stop him and all of a sudden we’re running a play to win a game and he gets a moving pick, it costs us. And it’s not just Mo. I’m using him as an example because he’s the guy I was teaching today."
The Sixers are at the end of their training camp and by all accounts they've developed and feel good about where they are. Of course, they haven't hit any obstacles yet, and just like Collins said before camp even started, what really matters is how this team reacts when things take a turn, when they get hit with a 10-0 run (even in a preseason game). At that point, what team will present itself? The one Collins is now building, or the 27-win team from last season?
We'll have scrimmage analysis up ASAP.