Should the 76ers and new coach Doug Collins have a problem with the frontcourt this season, it won't be because of a lack of depth. Yesterday, the team signed 6-11 center Tony Battie, a free agent who was the fifth overall pick in the 1997 draft.
Battie, who has career averages of 6.4 points and 5.3 rebounds, won't knock anyone's socks off with his numbers, but says he will lend other intangibles that a successful team will need during an 82-game season.
"I feel I can bring a veteran presence and leadership," he said during a conference call. "We have a young core, especially with the bigs with Marreese [Speights] and [Jason] Smith, and with E.B. [Elton Brand] being a vet himself. And there's Spencer Hawes. I'm looking forward to bringing what I can bring and show them my tricks of the trade that have allowed me to stay in the league so long.
"I've never been a guy to fill up the stat sheet. I'm a team guy, unselfish, who plays with a defensive presence, a hard-nosed rebounder, a guy who loves to do the dirty work - setting screens to get [Andre] Iguodala the open look, taking charges. Every game has a knack where you can get in there and find something to do. It doesn't have to be scoring, it can be vocally on the bench, vocally in the locker room."
That would be a nice addition to a team that is already loaded with centers. Maybe it could be a move that opens up another for the team.
According to a source, the deal is for 1 year. The Sixers will be on the hook for $850,000.
"We see Tony Battie as a player who can come in and give us additional depth in the frontcourt while also providing a valuable veteran presence for our younger players both on and off the court," said president and general manager Ed Stefanski.
Collins is also a fan of his newly acquired center.
"When we started assessing where we were, we knew we would like a veteran big guy, and one especially of Tony's character," he said. "He's a terrific role player and a great presence in the locker room. He's a terrific addition to our team. We've added Spencer Hawes, Tony, toughness with Andres Nocioni and we got [No. 2 pick] Evan Turner. We think Tony can guard bigger guys. We have a lot of flexibility. He could really be a guy who finishes games in the beginning of the year, allowing the young guys to find their way. I'm ecstatic."
Battie is familiar with Philadelphia - his brother, Derrick, played for John Chaney at Temple, from 1993-96.
"I just got off the phone with him," said Battie, who played 15 games with New Jersey last season. "For me, he was the blueprint. We were 2 years apart. When he signed his letter of intent, that kind of sparked a buzz for me because, as a younger brother, you think you're just as good. Then I approached the game a lot differently. A year after he left [high school] I started coming into my own. That blueprint led me through high school, and then me signing with Texas Tech. I just kind of followed his career through college. It was great to look up and see my brother move up the college ranks. He's the reason I'm here now. That's where I got my work ethic from.
"My fiancee is from Philly. I met her during working out with [the late] John [Hardnett]. There was a lot of hot days at Gustine Lake, a lot of basketball reps. I came up to Philly and ended up making this where I worked on my game because the talent that would flow through was so high."
Battie noted some of the local stars who competed at Gustine, like Allen Iverson, Rasheed Wallace, Mark Macon, Rick Brunson, Aaron McKie and Eddie Jones.
"I could go on and on," he said. "I couldn't find that type of pro-level players in Dallas [his hometown], so I had to bring my game elsewhere. I'm comfortable here. I can make my way around town. Philly's been great to me. I look forward to it being even better this season."
And why did he choose the Sixers?
"It came down to about five teams," he said. "OK, I'll give you the final two. It came down to Charlotte and the Sixers."
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