Ever since blockbuster free-agent Elton Brand put pen to paper in early July, the 76ers have been building momentum, adding four additional free agents, and bolstering their roster to what many people believe could be contender status.
At Penn State, Sixers head coach Maurice Cheeks will put that revamped roster through its first practice together as the team opens its six-day training camp with a two-hour morning session.
Here are five story lines from Happy Valley to keep an eye.
- Brand: On July 9, the Sixers committed nearly $80 million to this two-time All-Star power forward. Through his nine-year career, Brand has been a workhorse down low, averaging a double-double with 20.3 points and 10.3 rebounds a game. What should be interesting at training camp is seeing if Brand is fully recovered – as has been the mantra all off-season – from the ruptured left Achilles tendon that sidelined him for all but eight games last season with the Clippers.
- Chemistry: Six of the 13 healthy, contracted players wore a different jersey last season. Cheeks has said he plans to scrimmage more than usual at training camp in order to allow the players to build an on-court rapport with one another. Cheeks said he knows how important incorporating these new players will be.
- The wing spots: General consensus has been that second-year player Thaddeus Young will be the starting small forward with Andre Iguodala moving to shooting guard. Cheeks refused to pencil either player in at either position. While it is common for a coach to keep competition open during training camp, watching how Iguodala adapts to the two spot should prove intriguing.
- Odd man out? The NBA roster size is 12 active players and up to three on injured reserve. With big man Jason Smith, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in August, already claiming a spot on IR, the question now becomes, which of the remaining 13 contracted players will be left off the active roster? At first glance, it would seem the crunch could come in one of two places. Guards Kareem Rush, Royal Ivey, and Willie Green could be playing musical chairs for two roster spots. Or center Theo Ratliff and rookie center-forward Marreese Speights could be playing for one open roster spot behind starting center Samuel Dalembert.
- More on Speights: Since every other new face on the Sixers’ roster is a known NBA commodity, much should be learned during camp about the 6-foot-10 rookie from Florida. With his rebounding and eager play, Speights turned heads during the NBA Las Vegas Rookie League in July, but a week of grueling two-a-days should give a better impression of what to expect.
Underwood replaces Reed. The Sixers announced yesterday that they have signed free agent Cory Underwood to replace Justin Reed on the training camp roster. Underwood, a 6-foot-10 forward, played his collegiate career at Southern University of New Orleans, finishing in 2003. Last season, Underwood played for current Sixers assistant coach Jeff Ruland on the Albuquerque Thunderbirds of the NBA Development League. The Sixers training camp roster stands at 19.