For the first time since the NBA lockout began on July 1, 76ers coach Doug Collins and team president Rod Thorn were able to speak about their team. Although there were still some topics off limits -- the tentative settlement agreement has yet to be ratified into the league's next collective bargaining agreement -- most basketball topics were on-limits. We were Tweeting live from their press conference. If, for next time, you want to follow instantly, you can click here: Deep Sixer.
Collins and Thorn spoke inside the team's practice facility at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Collins said the team will play two exhibition games and the Sixers' partner for the two games will be the Washington Wizards. Here's a selection from the rest of the press conference.
The first question was about the players that went overseas to play during the lockout: Nikola Vucevic, Lavoy Allen, and Craig Brackins.
Rod Thorn: "They are all coming back. Lavoy has a game Friday that he's going to play in in France and then he'll be back. Brackins is already back. And then with Nikola, we hope to have him here as quickly as possible. Obviously we have to get a visa in order in order to get him here and we have to have some sort of a contract in order to do that. But all of them will be here. Everybody will be on time -- we hope Nikola will be. It may be an extra day for him."
What is the team's priority list?
Rod Thorn: "Well, I don't want to say there is any strict order. Obviously we have a couple of free agents. We have 11 players under contract, which is a lot more than most ... As we see how free agency plays out -- you never know what's going to happen in free agency. There are so many teams that have a lot of money so you never know what's going to happen. We have plans."
Will players be working out at PCOM?
Doug Collins: "We received a little memo that PCOM's doors could open for our players tomorrow morning. But we as a coaching staff can do nothing more than say 'Hi' to them. But they can work out with our strength and conditioning coaches and they can be with our trainers. But as a coaching staff we can't watch them workout or have discussions with them ... it gives us a little time before Dec. 9 rolls around so these guys can spend some time together ... I was excited when we got that memo."
How many guys do you expect here?
Doug Collins: "I don't know because we're not allowed to talk to them. I would have to think ... from all of the things I'm getting, these players are so excited to start playing again. They miss playing basketball. I know we miss coaching them. I miss being around them. I miss my players and I can't wait to see them and get back on the floor with them. I would expect them to start trickling in."
Are you confident they'll come back in good condition?
Doug Collins: "I am. And the reason I am is because we have young guys who love to play. Our guys love to play and they like being around each other ... I'd have to think that our youth could be a positive for us."
What will the process be with restricted free agents Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes?
Rod Thorn: "You try to negotiate. You start out by trying to negotiate. Then, depending upon how close you are or you aren't, most free agents look elsewhere. That's something that we'll just have to see. I've had conversations with many different agents to date and we'll just have to see where this goes."
How do you feel about someone emerging as a go-to guy?
Doug Collins: "When you have young players, the one thing you really hope for is what I call 'internal growth.' The players that come back this year and they've gotten a lot better, they've improved. Evan spent a lot of time this summer working on his shooting ... Where [Evan Turner] is mentally this year, at this point [is so much improved] from this time last year.
"For us, we have to have our guys continue to get better."
On a shortened season ...
Doug Collins: "We're going to have to play those two exhibition games with the idea we have to be ready to play on the 26th. It's not like that period of time where you're trying to figure out what your team is. You better know pretty quickly."
Who could be that end-of-game player for you?
Doug Collins: "I have to believe Jrue Holiday's game is going to be even better than it was last year. Jodie is going to be better. Dre is going to be healthier. Evan, I mean Evan is so confident right now; he's on fire. He feels so good about himself. We know Lou feels good about himself."
"Evan, I think right now feels like he's our best player. Which is great. I want him to keep that confidence level."
"I don't know that this team coming up, that we're ever going to have that guy at this point in time where it's, 'That's the guy we're going to every night' ... I think that's going to be a night-to-night thing."
(Collins also added that he thinks he'll feel comfortable playing Evan Turner and Andre Iguodala at the same time. He also said he's going to play around with Craig Brackins at the small forward.)
Has the NBA given any indication about when they'll get you the schedule?
Rod Thorn: "They're going to try to get the schedule out as quickly as possible. I know from our perspective, two days ago, they were still asking for dates in our arena. I know we're not the only one. I'm sure they were asking for 20 other teams for the same thing. The NBA understands that it's very, very important to get the schedule out as quickly as possible. I see they've added two games on Christmas Day. I don't know who those games are, but I see they added two games. It's a very compact period of time to play and obviously because we'll be out of our arena at the end of December, chances are we'll be starting out on the road. But they'll get it out as quickly as possible. I hope that it would be some time this week."
Were you able to keep an eye on Vucevic overseas?
Doug Collins: "I watched his games on synergy. I loved him. He was smart, loves to play, has a really good feel for the game. Really can shoot the ball. He has a nice face-up game, can use both hands, has a good feel out of the post ... what we're going to have to work with him on is getting out on those screens (defensively)."
What's the game plan on re-signing Thad?
Rod Thorn: "As far as we're concerned, Thad is a key player for us. He's a player that I think really took advantage of the coaching he got from Doug and the other coaches and really came back to where he was two years ago and built on that. We love Thad. All things being [equal] ... let's say we don't sign him but somebody else does. As long as it's reasonable, we'll definitely match it. He's a key guy for us. We need him. And we definitely want to have him back."
Added Thorn: "Anytime there is money to be spent, you're worried. And there were so many teams under the cap and a lot of them substantially and particularly when you factor in the ability to amnesty a player -- that brings even more teams into play. I've been through this too many times. You like to say that a player is going to get between here and here (salary-wise), but it only takes one team. So you never know. You never say, 'We're going to sign this particular guy for this.' Because you never know."
Added Collins: "You get some of these teams that will be well below the cap. You get some of these teams that might be well below the cap and they might need to overpay a guy to get up to 85 percent (of the cap)."
What goes into the thinking of using the amnesty?
Rod Thorn: "I think most teams, you have plans, but you always have contingencies. You try to have as many contingencies as you can. Because it is so fluid many times. You don't know what's going to happen. And sometimes things happen that you never considered happening."
Added Collins: "Sometimes what gets lost with that amnesty is that you're still spending the money ... give him $35 million just to go bye bye. You're still paying him the cash."
Sixers said that tomorrow the doors to PCOM will be open for players who want to workout. It's possible that power forward Elton Brand could be available tomorrow.
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