STATE COLLEGE--Willie Green knows exactly what Jason Smith is going through: What it's like to feel totally alone, to feel unsure about your future, to wonder how long it's going to take before you again feel confident and comfortable on the basketball court.
Green missed the first 72 games of the 76ers' 2005-06 season after undergoing arhtroscopic surgery on his left knee. He appeared in the final 10 games of that season, and appeared in 74 games of '06-07. But it wasn't until last season that he forced himself through any lingering mental and physical barriers. He started all 74 games in which he played, averaging a career-best 12.4 points, shooting a career-best 43.6 percent from the floor.
During last season, Green reached out to the Boston Celtics' Tony Allen, who was coming back from a knee surgery, offering support, letting him know what to expect, making suggestions of how to cope. Now, Green has been reaching out to teammate Jason Smith, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a freak incident during an NBA-sanctioned skills camp in Las Vegas in the summer.
''I told him he'll be able to come back and be his old self, but it really takes 1 1/2-2 years before you really feel normal again, where you're not thinking about anything, where you're just going out and playing,'' Green said. ''It's funny looking at myself 3 years after my injury. I'm happy to have another opportunity.
''Originally, (Smith) was a little nervous, a little scared. He's never had anything like that. Those are the emotions that you go through. He started doing exactly what he needed to do, working on his pre-hab, strengthening the muscles around the knee. The surgery was successful, and now he's on the road to recovery.
''I can talk to him, Elton Brand (coming back from surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon) can talk to him. (We can say) recovery is not only physically but mentally. You have to tell yourself 'I can, I can, I can.' Even when you feel you can't.''
Andre Iguodala sat out both sessions yesterday with a mildly sprained left ankle, but did some shooting after the evening workout. Maurice Cheeks mentioned some drill work in which he used Donyell Marshall and Kareem Rush to spread the floor, saying Rush ''made a ton of shots.'' The coach scheduled a single practice for Thursday, leading up to two sessions Friday, the latter open to the public.
A Call To Arms:
Lou Williams couldn't believe the grief he had to take after throwing the ceremonial first pitch before the Phillies faced the atlanta Braves in their late-season series. Of course, the 'pitch' turned out to be a semi-shot-put toss that bounced to the Phanatic, who was serving as the catcher.
''I was back there (beforehand), and they were all telling me, whatever you do, don't try and bomb it down there,'' Williams said, laughing. ''They said if you try and throw a fastball, it's going to go straight in the dirt. So we were working on me just throwing it nice and easy. I told the Phanatic, 'I'm going to need you to move up.' If I could get that pitch back, I guarantee you it'd be good.''
Not that Williams has much of a baseball background.
''I played until they started pitching too fast,'' he said. "That was right off the tee.''
More Mascot Stuff:
You can't interview Hip-Hop, the Sixers' mascot, because he's a rabbit and rabbits, after all, can't talk. But he was able to make himself sufficiently understood the other day to explain that he is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament (wow, I didn't know know rabbits had ACLs) but that he expects to be ready for the regular-season opener Oct. 29 against the Toronto Raptors.