Archive: September, 2008
STATE COLLEGE -- The training-camp invitations the 76ers issued to Philadelphia native Maureece Rice and former Temple forward Antywane Robinson probably were for courtesy purposes only. Oh, sure, 17 players gathered here on the Penn State campus, but virtually all of the 12 active roster spots for the Oct. 29 season opener against the Toronto Raptors in the Wachovia Center not only have already been penciled in, they probably can be written in ink.
But Rice, a 6-1, 224-pound point guard who played at George Washington University, already has overcome one giant challenge on the basketball court, so why not dare to believe he can pull off another miracle?
“I’m a Philly guy. I always pull for the local teams, especially the Sixers,” Rice said. “I never thought the day would come when I went to camp with them. Hopefully, I can show them something and make the team. That would be like my dream come true.”
Sixers center Samuel Dalembert makes millions of dollars playing basketball in the United States. He recently became a citizen of Canada.
But a big part of his heart still resides in Haiti, the place he was born and spent the first 14 years of his life..
So it was with a heavy soul that Dalembert watch the devastation reaped as Hurricane Gustav, and Tropical Storms Fay and Hannah slammed the impoverished island nation during a two week period in September. More than 100 people were killed and thousands were left homeless and without food and fresh water.
The 76ers are heading for training camp at Penn State, where workouts begin Tuesday morning. I know coach Maurice Cheeks has a laundry list of things he'll be looking for. And I have mine.
I'm ready to see . . .
Elton Brand draw double-teams, even in scrimmages.
With the Sixers opening training camp at Penn State on Tuesday, I like the changes president/general manager Ed Stefanski has made to the roster.
Obviously, signing free-agent forward Elton Brand was the big move, but the bench is more solid with the additions of guard Kareem Rush, veteran forward Donyell Marshall and the return of center Theo Ratliff.
I do, however, see one glaring void in the "intangibles" category - playoff experience. Top to bottom, this squad simply does not have much playoff experience and has even less playoff success. That could be an issue in May if they are involved in a tight postseason series.
Well, there is nothing like the realism of a coach to knock you off a cloud of optimism. We had a media lunch with Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks and naturally, I asked his assessment of the Eastern Conference going into the upcoming season.
He told me what I already knew.
"Boston is still the team to beat," Cheeks said of the reigning NBA champion Celtics. "The players that they added last year (Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen) were All-Star players at their positions, and they didn't disappoint anyone the way they play.
Fact: Even with the addition of Elton Brand, the Sixers -- Donyell Marshall and Kareem Rush off the bench notwithstanding -- still aren't blessed with an array of knockdown shooters.
Fact: Despite that, the plan is to generate a significant portion of their offense from the perimeter.
In a lengthy conversation Wednesday, coach Maurice Cheeks said, ''You'd love to have knockdown shooters, but our game last year was to catch the ball, put it on the floor, get to the rim, get to the foul line. At times, they're going to have to make shots -- all of them, and with Elton some of those shots are going to be a little easier. That's not to say they're going to be easy, because sometimes the wide-open shots are the most difficult to make. But you don't have to stand out there and shoot, shoot, shoot; you can get to the rim; we did that as well as anybody in the league.''
I just finished reading Marty Burns' interesting take on the top 10 battles for starting spots in the NBA, and -- surprise -- none of those involved the Sixers.
But, at least from where I sit, only 60 percent of the Sixers' lineup is set in stone: Elton Brand at power forward, Andre Miller at point guard and Samuel Dalembert at center.
After that, though . . .
The 76ers have confirmed that Jason Smith is out for the entire season.
But, truthfully, didn't we already know that?
Isn't that how long it long it takes to fully recover from surgery to reconstruct a torn anterior cruciate ligament in a knee?
Welcome to Sixerville, a blue-collar community founded on fundamentals, integrity and a willingness to work and improve. Shooting is optional, but that's an issue for the town fathers. Has been for years.
The economy in the outside world is sliding disastrously. But the morale and the level of optimism are going in the opposite direction just as rapidly. And with just about all the other issues that were hanging precipitously at the end of last season already addressed in some fashion, it's finally time to speak directly about the future of Andre Miller.
In some ways, it's amazing that it could take this long to begin to focus on the guy who was easily the team's MVP last season, but not when you realize the earlier issues included the dramatic signing of elton Brand, the drafting of Marreese Speights, the re-signing of Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams, the re-signing of coach Maurice Cheeks and the bench-filling additions of Theo Ratliff, Donyell Marshall, Royal Ivey and Kareem Rush.