NEWS: Andre Iguodala did not practice this morning due to a sprained left ankle. He suffered the sprain during last night's session when he went up for a jump shot and came down on someone's foot. The sprain happened with plenty of practice left last night and he finished the session. This morning, the trainer held him out of practice, and he is day-to-day (aren't we all). After the morning session, which he spent with his ankle elevated, Iguodala said he was "cool, cool," and that he might be practicing tonight. He said it was a low ankle sprain -- not that dreaded high ankle sprain -- and it was just slightly bruised.
I'm aware it's a privilege to be able to watch the Sixers here at Penn State, and I'm sure a lot of you would love to sneak into the gym and see how this team looks. With that in mind, let me give you a breakdown of the 15-20 minutes of practice we were allowed to watch. I wish those minutes had included scrimmaging, but, alas, it didn't.
When we first stepped into the gym (by the way, the Sixers aren't practicing on the actual arena floor in the Bryce Jordan Center, but in the practice gym about 50 yards down the hall from the arena floor) the team was split on two ends, guards on one end, posts on the other. The guards, to whom I paid more attention, were working on moves off the dribble. This included Lou Williams, Andre Miller, Willie Green, Kareem Rush, Royal Ivey, Maureece Rice, Andre Emmett. I can't say for sure that's the complete list, those are the guys I distinctly remember. They were catching the ball on the wing and making a move -- behind the back, spin, between the legs, etc -- then taking one or two dribbles and shooting jumpers on the baseline after a step back or another move. I know Mo Cheeks loves that mid-range game.
I did glance down to the far end where assistant coach Jeff Ruland was working with the big men. Yup, that's the extent of my detail about that end! (Can you tell I played guard?)
After a few minutes, post and guards mingled in a shooting drill that involved a guard on the wing and a post player on the block. The guard would penetrate baseline towards the post player who would roll off the block and to the elbow. The guard would hit the post player for an elbow jumper and then receive a pass from a coach for a jumper of their own along the baseline. It was a pretty standard penetrate and pitch drill.
That was the extent of the drill work the Sixers engaged in while the practice was open. After this, Cheeks had them on the sideline for a set of "17s" (17 widths of the court with a goal time of a minute). Thaddeus Young finished first. Not too many of the guys made the goal time. Cheeks had a few guys shoot free throws: Sam Dalembert made 1 of 2, Andre Miller made 1 of 2, Elton Brand missed both. Heck, it's difficult after that running drill to make free throws, especially this early in the season when players don't have their "basketball" legs. (That's kind of like "sea legs.")
Then they ran another set of 17. Maybe a third of the way through this one, Cheeks stopped them because they weren't touching the line. They restarted the running drill. When it was over -- and I don't believe anyone made the time on the second go 'round -- Cheeks ended practice and called everyone to center court.
(Of note: Kareem Rush did not run the 17s, but was being stretched by a trainer. He then had ice wrapped on his right hamstring with an ace bandage. Theo Ratliff did not run, either, but nothing appeared to be wrong with him. That doesn't mean nothing was, just nothing visible I can relay.)
The Sixers then spent about 8 to 10 minutes stretching with those wonderful green stretchy bands. Afterwards, the majority headed back onto the court to work on free throws, jumpers, etc.
Let me include some quotes from the various post-practice interviews:
On Iguodala's ankle:
"It happened toward the end of practice yesterday, I didn’t know he was going to have to sit out. Maybe he will be able to go tonight, we’ll see how it goes. If he is able to go tonight, fine, if not, we’ll give him a few more days."
On injuries and conditioning.
"We did a lot of running today. And a couple of guys had hamstrings and what not, but that’s what training camp is about. It's just to see how guys did in the summer, see how their conditioning is."
"You’re going to hurt a little bit, you’re back is going to hurt, your hamstring is going to hurt. So the more we keep running, the stiffness will pan out and it will get better. It’s part of training camp, it’s the reason why I’m coaching, because I can’t do that anymore."
(This was funny. Cheeks smiled after he said this. You can tell, when he shoots after practice, that he just loves being in a gym.)
On how the addition of Elton Brand will affect Reggie Evans:
"Well the way he plays is not going to change. Obviously having Elton Brand is changing a little bit because we have a guy coming in, a free agent coming in, taking a lot of minutes that other guys used to play. But the way he is going to play, he’s still going to play, and the way he plays is still going to be a benefit to us. Because we like to press, play a little bit more kamikaze-type game. So the way he plays is not going to change."
On Marreese Speights:
"We haven’t really seen a lot of him. We haven’t had a lot of playing just yet. In terms of scrimmaging, haven’t had a lot of that. And the fact that we’re doing a lot of running, probably he is not used to doing as much running. It’s going to take a toll a little bit, but at it pans out, he’ll feel a little bit better ... so like tonight, when we play more and the next upcoming days the skills that he possessed in the summer probably will come out."
Last year, at this time, would Cheeks have anticipated the year Thad Young would have? What does that mean, maybe, for Speights?
"All rookies at this stage look like rookies. I think because of the amount of running we do, the amount of things we put in that they have to get used to doing, and the terminology that we put in that they have to get used to hearing. They all seem like rookies at that time. But as time plays out, they get more practice in and they watch the games, things get a little easier for them. But, no, I had no idea that Thad would be able to play the way he played last year. And be as effective as he was last year. Marreesee has a lot of skills, as does Thad. He has offensive skills, he has defensive skills. The wear and tear of an NBA season can wear on [those skills], and the wear and tear of a camp can wear on [those skills] as well."
On Reggie Evans as a leader:
"I don’t think that anything that Reggie did before will change. I think Reggie is the way he is and the way he plays is an indication of his personality, and the way he conducts himself in the locker room as a leader. Now he may have never been a captain or anything of that sort, but the way he plays, how hard he plays, is an exhibition of who he is. I don’t think in any way shape or form that will change."
Who will run on the first team tonight?
"I don’t know. We’ll see how Andre [Iguodala] feels. He may not play so we’ll have to plug him in with someone so we’ll figure that out tonight."
How important is it to have a dead-eye shooter?
"I don’t subscribe to that "you have to have shooters all spread around" because we’re one of the teams that like to get to the paint and get to the foul line so I like that."
Swingman Andre Iguodala:
On how the ankle injury happened, if he will practice tonight, etc.:
"We were playing a little bit, I shot a shot and come down on someone’s foot. I’m cool, I’m cool. It’s very, very, very sore, but I’m not patient so I’m ready to get back to practice. I don’t think I’m playing tonight, but we’ll see what happens.
"Right now I shouldn’t be, but I want to play. It’s kinda of hard watching, I don’t like watching."
"It’s just bruised, a little black bruise, it’ll be alright."
"Trainer held me out. I’m gonna go tonight, I’m gonna try and go."
On center Samuel Dalembert saying he wants to be an All-Star this season:
"It’s a very good thing. That means he’s going to have to work hard. He understands what he has to do to get there. Night in and night out he has a goal. ‘I gotta go out here and put out numbers and most important we have to win.’
Center Samuel Dalembert:
On training camp thus far:
"Amazing. It’s been one of the best training camps I’ve ever been. Second year in a row we have a great group of guys who come in and can talk to each other without taking anything sensitive and can tell each other when we’re doing something wrong. Guys coming in like Theo and Donyell coming in, guys like that, veterans, to keep the chemistry going."
How is it different than last season?
"We still keep the core players from last year. We keep the core guys. We make addition of veterans coming in. Now we keep it balanced. Having Elton Brand now is going to make my job even easier. And then we’re going to be a force. And having Theo as my backup, now I don’t have to be afraid to be in foul trouble. It makes you feel loose, confident to go out there and get the job done as a team."
On how Theo Ratliff can help him grow as a player:
"Even though I’m a shot blocker, he’s a shot blocker, there are certain things he is going to tell me on the court. It’s not something you can teach, but having somebody who does the same things as you."
(Sam then mentioned that he is more of a weak-side shot blocker, the kind of guy that comes over and swats it out of the air, while someone like Dikembe was an "on-body" shot blocker ... this I thought was interesting because I'd never thought of the distinction before. Sam said he thought Theo was also a weak-side shot blocker. Still, Sam said he can improve as a shot blocker by trying to block more shots on body.)
On teaming up with Theo
"Having Theo around, we have the tools, now it’s up to us as a team to go out there and figure out, find each other’s strength and utilize it and find each other’s weaknesses and cover up for that. So other teams don’t realize it as much.
On lowering his goaltending count:
"[Theo] was telling me, ‘sometimes you have to let it go.’ That’s something we’re really going to work on."
Center Jared Reiner
On being at a training camp when the odds are long to make the team:
"It was a great opportunity to come here. There’s a lot of things out of your control, but you can come in and have a good attitude. There’s nothing to lose. If I come in and play well, then that’s all I can do."
How has this camp compared to other camps?
"It’s great. Everybody is positive, coaching staff has been great getting everyone on the same page with plays and what’s expected of them. It’s been a great feel and positive energy."
On playing again with Reggie Evans (they are both Iowa guys):
"I have lots of old bruises from Reggie. Reggie has this drive in him. He’s always been a guy you want on your team."
Forward Thaddeus Young
On what position he thinks the coaches want him to play:
"Pretty much the 3/4."
At this point I told him that was super helpful (which was sarcasm). He smiled and added:
"Last year it was the 4/3."
I actually think this is the perfect way to describe the change in his situation from last season to this season.
We'll be back after the night session with an update ...
p.s. Phillies looking good ...