The Case For Speights

Marreese Speights, bless his rookie heart, is making Maurice Cheeks make a decision.

Could Speights, the 6-0 forward/center from Florida, the No. 16 pick in the June draft, force his way into the 76ers' regular season rotation?

Could be.

Statistics aside, the Sixers' coach has liked the way Speights has handled himself on the court, from summer league to training camp to preseason games to practice. That includes the way he is able to play through mistakes, looking ahead rather than over his shoulder.

''In New Jersey (Wednesday night), he missed an assignment defensively, then missed a dunk,'' Cheeks said. ''Elton (Brand) talked to him, and he was intent on making up for that. He made like like three straight plays after that.''

At the same time, Cheeks said Speights has a tendency to run hard for a while, then stop, then start again. He wants to see more consistency in that area. If Speights continues to develop as rapidly as he has so far, he could take some minutes from Reggie Evans at the 4 and Theo Ratliff at the 5.

Just remember, Thaddeus Young--as the No. 12 overall pick in 2007--didn't blossom until the final 38 games of last season. Speights, in part because Samuel Dalembert has been limited by sore knees, has had a window of opportunity much earlier in the process.

And remember this, too: Cheeks, talking to reporters before this morning's practice, wasn't making any commitments to anyone. I'm guessing we'll know his rotation as it unfolds Wednesday night, and not before.

Some End Of The Preseason Stuff:

That's not a misprint, Allen Iverson--a 27.7 points per game career scorer--was averaging 4.5 for the Denver Nuggets going into tonight's finale. A sore knee and sprained ankle helped make that happen.

Old friend Kevin Ollie made the Minnesota Timberwolves' roster, beating out D-Leaguer Blake Ahearn for the final backcourt spot. There was speculation that Larry Brown was hoping to bring him to the Charlotte Bobcats as the veteran backup his team desperately needs.

Another ex-Sixer, Shavlik Randolph, survived the last cut with the Portland Trail  Blazers. But Bobby Jones was dropped by the Sacramento Kings. Louis Amundson has landed with the Phoenix Suns.

Not Exactly Currying Favor:

Newsday colleague Alan passes this along from New York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni about hefty center Eddy Curry falling out of the rotation: ''It didn't take one day to get out of the rotation, it isn't going to take one day to get in, either.''

And this: During a New York preseason game with Boston, Knicks guard Stephon Marbury talked a little trash to Celtics guard Eddie House.

So House pointed to his finger, as if to say ''I've got a ring.''

So Marbury said ''You're too caught up in basketball. You need to get caught up in life.''

So the Celtics' Ray Allen knocked down a few jump shots, and House said ''Don't worry about me, you need to worry about Ray Allen.''