Not many of you are lucky enough to be spending this (actually quite chilly) last day of September in Happy Valley with the new-look Sixers.
So as I sit in this Starbucks surrounded by "We Are Penn State" t-shirts, let me pass along a few quotes from this morning's season-opening practice.
Power Forward Reggie Evans (asked about team chemistry, which is, obviously, a hot topic):
"You really can’t look at that right now, we gotta get used to Elton, Royal, Kareem, and they have to get used to us. It was a good first day."
Asked what Elton Brand is like:
"Cool, he two different people. What I mean by two different people, he an animal on the court and has a nice heart off the court. So it’s two different people. I can adjust to both. It’s great to have him here, I’m just trying to take advantage of it.
What can he learn from Brand?
"Keeping composure. Team leader. From a basketball court, you can always learn something, the jumper, the post up moves. Like I said, I’ll take advantage of it. I’ll learn so much. I’ll get him better, he’ll get me better. He’s been out a long time so now we’re going to get each other better for when game time comes.
Power Forward Elton Brand: (Asked out it feels to get back into the swing of things)
"Felt good, felt good last night, guys getting together and getting some camaraderie. And today on the court, everybody gave their all first half of practice ... preparing yourself for the preseason and training camp and getting there and knowing 'Ok, I did enough,' makes you feel good, feel comfortable out there. It’s pretty satisfying."
How's the Achilles?
"Yeah, we’ve been doing a lot of game-like situations. This is not the first time I’ve ran up and down. Achilles felt great, knee is back, everything felt great. I don’t have anything to complain about."
What did you learn about the team out there?
"It’s only the first few hours of practice in a season, but we have a lot of depth, I can see that already. I look at, they split us up to black and white and then you have another three or four players that have been starters or could be on an NBA team. That’s the first thing that really stands out. We’re going to get up and down the court and we’re going to run our post sets. It’s going to be a lot of fun."
His on-floor leadership?
"I like to lead by example and work hard at it. I’m not the fastest guy, especially with Thaddeus Young being 20 years old and Andre Iguodala flying up, but I’m going to exert my energy and show the guys, 'Hey, I’m worth it.' And if you’re a rookie or someone younger than me, you better be in front of me."
Could today be the first step to something special?
"That’s the hope. Hopefully it’s the baby steps of something great later on. We have a lot of goals and hopefully they can come to fruition. But it starts here in training camp working hard and that’s what we’ve done, so far. It’s only half a day, but we’ve worked really hard."
Swingman Andre Iguodala
On being out there for the first time:
"Felt good, put sets in and guys get used to each other. So, we got some good running in, if there was anything that was hard it was the running and getting guys in shape."
His new role:
"It’s a little bit different because I have to teach now, Marreese and some of the other guys, show them a few things about the offense and what we’re looking for, open shots and open teammates. Seems like we’re in shape. We have some more time to get in even better shape."
Head coach Maurice Cheeks:
On the first day of the season:
"The first day is always very enthusiastic. All our guys are out there, happy to be out there, have a lot of new additions. They were anxious, I thought they were pretty good."
On how to mesh all the new faces:
"Only time can tell, certainly we have some additions that make us capable of having a very good team. I think we have to wait and put all the pieces together and see how that plays out. But to add the people we’ve added, then it improves the team right away. But it improves the team on paper and you have to do all that on the court. But that’s what training camp is for."
Did he learn anything about the new guys?
"Not today, not right away. It’s gonna take a little time. Of course, with Elton, I know what he’s done throughout the years. Being here in my gym is a little different. And I think working with other guys is also a new thing. Tonight, we’ll have a little contact and we’ll see how guys play with one another. And I told them, we’re going to play a little bit more than normal. Where normally you do a lot of drills, we’re going to play more."
Were the teams during 5-on-0 drills any indication of starters?
"I’m sure you will take it as first team, second team, but there is no way we can have a first team, second team on the first day. Just not possible because training camp is about competing, about getting guys on the floor and trying to see who can fit in. The things they can bring. The second, third, fourth day, as teams play out, we’ll see how it goes."
On his team building chemistry:
"That’s what training camp is for. To learn about your teammates, to learn about your players. Training camp has always been about that. Years ago, not that long ago, we used to have roommates where we could learn about them even more. Now, we don’t have roommates, so the camaraderie, the breakfast, dinner, that’s where you learn about your players. Training camp is all about that, learn how they are as basketball players and as people."
Can he tell who is in shape?
"Not yet. Not the first day. The first day they play off emotion of wanting to be back. The second, third day, you’ll start seeing who’s in shape because their back will start hurting, little things here and there."