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Not to press the panic button, but this feels a little like the 2008-09 season when Thaddeus Young sprained his ankle toward the end of the regular season and could never quite get back to form during the postseason against the Orlando Magic. That year, Young was electric for the Sixers, kind of like Lou Williams has been this season (as Young has been, too). Now, today at practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, things didn't look all that great for Williams. The notion of Williams bouncing right back from his recent hamstring strain died a quick death when Lou said, almost immediately, that he knows he's out for the rest of the regular season. No one's words today at practice -- neither Lou's nor Doug Collins' -- sounded especially promising.
There was even a foray down the "silver lining" road, as both Lou and Collins said it might be a "bit of a blessing," allowing Lou a few days of rest so perhaps he'd be "fresher" come playoff time. "A couple of days off for my legs could be a good thing," said Lou, whose right leg looked like it was wrapped from ankle to hip in tan athletic wrapping. That was a nice, optimistic gesture from Lou, but the rest of the words seemed more ominous. I'll let you judge for yourself.
A sampling from Lou: "I got a dead leg, but I’m good ... Hamstring sprain. Not sure about a timetable. I know I’m out for the regular season, but we’re eyeing the playoffs."
And then this: "I just have a golf-ball sized knot back there and it’s just a matter of getting rest and staying off of it."
When asked what he could have done today, if he'd had to do something: "Nothing, I can do nothing. But that’s the treatment for this type of injury, is just staying off of it."
And then the kicker, when asked if he'd be back for the playoffs: "I would hope so. I would hope so. I’ll do everything in my power to be ready for the start. But for these types of things there’s really not a timetable. I can come back and re-injure it. The best thing is to stay off of it. Like I said, I’ll just be ready whenever I can come back."
Collins wasn't any more reassuring when first asked about having Lou back in time for the playoffs: "I hope so. The one thing I never do is put a timetable on injuries, especially soft-tissue injuries. Everyone heals differently ... If we do get him back for the playoffs, it could be a little bit of a blessing. Maybe his legs will be a little bit fresher. Maybe it’ll give him that little juice if he is able to get back and play."
If you want Lou's offensive firepower for the playoffs, the news coming from today's practice threw a wrench into that plan. Nothing is for sure, he could be fine come April 15, but this has to be one of the trickier injuries out there. At least with Young's sprained ankle, it could be tender and sore, but you could have a definitive game plan on when he could get himself back on the floor. A hamstring sprain? Even if he's still feeling the tiniest of pulls, his game will be severely limited. Because you just can't play through something like that, it'd be like trying to play with a clothespin clamped to the back of your leg. It would affect every movement.
There's your official Lou Williams update. He says he's done for the regular season. No official timetable for his return. Both he and the team are eyeing a return for the playoffs -- if all goes according to plan. Also, swingman Andre Iguodala did not practice today because of his right knee tendinitis. No change in his game status as Iguodala is expected to play tomorrow night against the Boston Celtics.
There's even more news. And all of it, of course, reflected back on just how inconvenient Lou's injury is: The Sixers are meeting with veteran guard Antonio Daniels tonight in Boston, at which time he is expected to sign a 10-day contract that would take him through the end of the regular season. Collins said he expects Daniels to play minutes in these final five games. Collins even said it's possible Daniels could see some time tomorrow night against the Celtics. If you want more background on Daniels, you can find that in this earlier post: Daniels.
All of this brings us to, perhaps, the question on everyone's mind: what the heck is going on with rookie Evan Turner? In the past two-plus weeks he's completely fallen out of the rotation. When he does play a few mintues, he does very little with it. And now, with an opportunity for playing time, the Sixers decide to bring in a 36-year-old guard currently playing in the NBA's D-League? How is it possible that the No. 2 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft is so unprepared for this opportunity that the team would rather sign Antonio Daniels to a 10-day contract than have Turner as their primary backup option?
All valid questions.
We can't assume this signing means Daniels will receive all of Lou's backup minutes. In fact, it sounded today as if Turner will get his opportunity. It's not a great vote of confidence that the team hired Daniels in case Turner turns this opportunity into a failure, but Turner won't be bypassed. If Turner wants to pull himself out of whatever bad (basketball) place he's recently entered, he will see the court in order to do that.
"I think today was Evan’s practice," Lou said. "I think everybody rallied around him and getting his mind right. When you’re dealing with a guy who’s had some success and then not playing, it’s always an adjustment. Evan, coming to the end of his first season, has delt with some of that. I think this will be a great opportunity for him to get his wheels going again and get his confidence going ... We’re a team, guys get along great, it’s no secret about that. We love Evan as one of our own and hopefully he can get it together."
Collins said Turner will get a chance to play "a lot of minutes."
"I hope Evan is going to take these few games and really get back to where he was playing good basketball for us for a little while," Collins said.
Added Collins: "It’s not like I’m not playing him because I don’t like him. I’m trying to win games. My thing is, the minutes are going to be there. So be prepared and play well. The most important thing is that your teammates and your coaches can trust that you’re going to play well. That’s all we’ve asked him to do."
That's a little bit of insight right there: clearly Turner has been an unknown quanitity for much of the season. Occasionally great, generally mediocre, there was very little consistency in his game. As for the Daniels signing, Collins explained it this way: "If you’re going to bring somebody in, there’s no need to bring in a younger player. We have enough youth on our team right now. If we’re going to bring somebody in, it’s somebody that we think can pick things up quickly."
We've written all season that Turner needs the confidence of those around him before he excels. Well, right now that's just a convenient excuse that's allowing Turner to bury himself on the bench and wait for next season. It's game time for him. It seems unlikely that a guy can make himself the Naismith Player of the Year and No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft without some ego, flash, and confidence. Where is all of that buried? Where is that belief that must have previously propelled him?
Sixers fans need some of that -- right now. Because Lou's injury has left a gaping hole that needs filling, and I don't think many of those fans want Antonio Daniels doing the filling.
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