First things first, here's the news coming from today's first 76ers practice at St. Joseph's University: Darius Songaila and Craig Brackins, acquired in last week's trade with New Orleans for Willie Green and Jason Smith, sat out this morning's session because Green's physical was holding up the deal's completion. In the last few minutes of the morning session, the Sixers confirmed that the deal has been completed and said an "undisclosed amendment" seal the trade. Later, a source confirmed that the "amendment" was giving the Hornets the right to swap second-round picks in the 2011 NBA Draft. Songaila and Brackins will practice tonight.
Also on the injury front, veteran big man Tony Battie did not practice due to right knee synovitis. Sixers fans may remember that Allen Iverson suffered from the same injury during the middle of last season. No word on when Battie will get back on the court. In addition, forward Andres Nocioni, who sprained his ankle with the Argentinian national team this summer, participated in the first part of practice but was held out of the second half.
So, of the 17 players in training camp, 13 were available for the entire morning session. After this morning's session (which ran 10 a.m. to about 1 p.m.) coach Doug Collins said he was "adjusting on the fly."
"Last night we were having our team dinner and Eddie [Stefanski] came up to me and said there was a snag in the deal, a little concern with Willie Green’s physical ... I really wanted this deal to go through, just simply because it was good for both teams. And, more importantly, anytime you have to rescind a trade, that’s hard. When you send guys back to their teams, that’s hard."
Continued Collins: "We were going to have a really hard, contact practice this morning. I really wanted to get our guys going this morning and get some good work in where we could have some contact and do some scrimmaging, but it made no sense to do that because we were down on bodies."
Collins flipped today's practice schedule, so tonight will be more of a live, scrimmaging session. Collins said he would hold out swingman Andre Iguodala from tonight's practice because Iguodala is still resting after his tour with USA Basketball. This morning, media was allowed to watch about the last 25-30 minutes of practice. Here are some observations:
1.) Collins was running through some 5-on-0 drills and he initially used a "starting" lineup of PG Jrue Holiday, SG Iguodala, SF Thaddeus Young, PF Elton Brand, and C Spencer Hawes. His second unit was PG Lou Williams, SG Evan Turner, SF Jodie Meeks, PF Trent Plaisted, C Marreese Speights. A few minutes into that second unit's time, Collins substituted F Jason Kapono for Meeks and you got the impression he intended Kapono to run that spot all along. Obviously, the second unit is a little mismatched because Collins was without Battie, Nocioni, Songaila, and Brackins.
2.) Perhaps this is relative because we're used to Samuel Dalembert anchoring the middle, but Hawes can really pass the ball. As he was running through 5-on-0 drills with Iguodala, the pair connected on a lot of backdoor cuts, shuffle cuts, etc. Yes, there was no defense, but rest assured that Dalembert would not be capable of these rhythmic bounce passes even in a run-through drill. Without further delay, I offer this quote from Iguodala about Hawes:
"You can talk a lot of basketball with him, which is a lot of fun. I had a conversation with him about how the defense will be playing me and how he can make certain passes from the elbow. He has a lot of input so we can relate a whole lot, we can adjust. He's kind of like Peyton Manning. He's able to do some of the same things as far as being a big man who can deliver passes ... really had a great practice with Spencer and I can tell we're going to be connecting a whole lot."
So Iguodala compared Hawes' passing to Peyton Manning. We're not going that far here, but it's going to be a nice upgrade.
3.) At the end of practice, Collins had the team do a conditioning/shooting drill that lasts 4 minutes. The first time through, it was a little sloppy, a lot of missed jumpers, and the team didn't hit the correct number. Collins had them do it again and the reaction was much different than in past years. In the past, the team would certainly go through the drill again, but this time there was a level of communication and discussion that hasn't been seen. It's early, but there's some ownership already within this team. Considering how last year went down, this seems important.
4.) Collins has Iguodala at shooting guard and Young at small forward. That could be a scary thought for most Sixers' fans (Iguodala at shooting guard), but a lot of the offensive sets seem be built around running what Collins calls a "cluster" down around the mid-block. A lot of the options off the cluster have Iguodala slicing to the rim. There will be some two-man game with Iguodala and Hawes and you just have to assume Collins will be pushing Iguodala to attack the rim in those instances, rather than settling for an off-balance jumper. When asked about playing Iguodala at the shooting guard, Collins said he feels that's what's best for the team because of the roster. If he starts Iguodala at the small forward, that pushes both Thaddeus Young and Nocioni to the bench. Since Collins feels Young and Nocioni are two of the team's better players, he said it wouldn't make sense for the team to have both players on the bench at the start of the game.
Here are some updates on a few players that might (at this point) be less known.
“I hope he becomes a 20-minute a night guy for us," Collins said. "I told him today, 'We’re building.' I thought he had a good first part of practice, he was in much better shape than I thought he would be because he hasn’t been able to do much. He can space the floor and shoot the three and he’s going to be able to play multiple positions for us."
Is he full go?
"Not right now," Collins said. "I’d like to get him by the last three exhibition games where he can go full bore. Where we can really build going in, the last three or four games. This next two weeks or so for him is just going to be building. I don’t want him to go out there and roll that ankle again."
"It was a little crazy, something I wasn’t used to," Brackins said of being with his third team in his rookie season. "Now it’s official, now I’m here, and now I’m ready to go."
What does he bring?
"My game is a space four-man, so I can play inside and stretch the floor, being able to shoot the ball like I do. Bring some versatility to the team."
On why his NBA stock dropped at Iowa State ...
"I went back, I learned a lot my junior year, felt like I got better and stronger. I was comfortable with myself, with my game, so I think it helped a lot. When you do something one year and they expect a little more the next year when you come back and you go down a little bit, it puts a damper on things. But I felt I had to come out when I was ready."
“Darius is very hard-nosed player," Collins said. "He’s another guy that can shoot the ball that we’ve added to our roster. I looked at his numbers and I said, ‘Here’s a guy who can shoot 50 percent from the floor and 85 percent from the foul line.’ You get a lead late in the game, put a guy like that in, it’s nice to close out games with guys who can make free throws. With Nocioni and Darius, we’ve added toughness to our team coming off our bench.”
Songaila on Collins' instructions: "Pretty much what he told me, he said, ‘Just be you. Do what you do,' which is go out, play tough, make an open shot, be a professional."
"For Evan, his mind gets clouded," Collins said. "He starts thinking and he’s so hard on himself that he gets frustrated. For me, I have to limit the amount of frustration seeping into what he’s doing so he can be who we know he could be."
On building Turner's confidence ...
"I think yesterday, it might be a simple thing, but he won the mile run. I think that was huge. There was about 200 yards to go and he and Jrue were running neck and neck and Jrue tried to make a move on him and he won. I said to our coaches, ‘The best thing that happened was he won that mile.’ Because it gave him a feeling of accomplishment."
On where his game is right now ...
"He’s a facilitator, right now. He’s a guy who loves to get other guys involved. And that’s what I want him to be right now. And as he goes along, I want him and Jrue and Dre and those guys to play together and all of a sudden he gets more of a scoring mentality."
“He so much wants to please," Collins said. "He’s had a great summer. He’s so proud of how hard he’s worked, his body, how good of shape he’s in. He ran the mile on Monday in 6:23, I dare to mention there’s no way he could have ran 8 minutes last year. With Mo, everything with him is his conditioning. Because when he’s conditioned, his legs are strong, when his legs are strong, his offense is good, and when his offense is good, it helps the other phases of his game. Last year he tweaked his leg, got heavy, got out of shape. The guy can score in his sleep. I’m not worried about that. For us, he has to defend."
And here's my favorite quote from Speights himself, talking about the struggles last season: "I just took a lot from the whole season because we weren’t that good. It’s a business, so when I came back from injury my playing time was up and down and I didn’t understand what was going on. It happens, but that’s over with ... Nobody had a role out there last year. We were just out there playing Princeton. It was a disaster last year, so we’re not going to talk about that."
Sixers will be on the court tonight from 6-8 p.m. If you want to check out the video of Doug Collins, it should be embedded below or in the Deep Sixer player below on the right. Also, for instant updates from camp, follow on Twitter: Deep Sixer