Sixers Protect Their Assets

NBA coaches and general managers are fond of talking about the importance of protecting their assets. That's why invoking a third-year option on Marreese Speights and fourth-year options on Thaddeus Young and Jason Smith for 2010-11 were basically no-brainers.

Still, the one who should be the most grateful is Smith, the backup forward-center who missed all of last season after undergoing knee surgery.

''He's been with us through his whole rehab and was cleared to play in July,'' Sixers president/general manager Ed Stefanski said. ''He's played through the preseason and his level of energy has been off the charts. We've been told by the doctors that he'll get stronger as the season goes on. And he has a nice skill, in that he's a 'big' who can come in and make shots.''

Before Smith got hurt two summers ago, part of the plan was to use him as a change-up center because of his ability to score from the perimeter. We'll find out what new coach Eddie Jordan's plan is as we go along.

By the way, about the money . . .

Charts obtained by the Daily News show these numbers for 2010-11: Speights, $1,773,960; Young, $2,901,241; Smith, $2,187,913

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