76ers: learning end-of-game situations

76ers had everyone back at practice today, including Jason Kapono who missed the last week for personal reasons. Kapono will be with the team for tomorrow night's game against the Portland Trail Blazers. So all 14 players were present and healthy for today's practice. One bit of news: rookie big man Craig Brackins will leave for the D-League's Springfield Armor, possibly as soon as tonight. Brackins, who has appeared in only one game for the Sixers, will be down there for about a 10-say stretch that includes five games. After today's practice, Doug Collins said the team is allowed to send Brackins down a total of three times and that the team has pinpointed three different occasions where the Armor have a cluster of games. Collins said the three trips will allow Brackins to play 16 games down there. Collins said assistant coach Quin Snyder would travel with Brackins for the first few days to give Brackins the lay of the land and to continue working him out.

"We’re hoping he can go get some game time and see how much he’s improved," Collins said. "We’re excited that he can go play."

Brackins didn't seem concerned with the move, actually seemed anxious to get some game minutes, and said he would be focusing on his rebounding and defense because the team "already knows I can score."

When the curtain was lifted on today's practice session at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Sixers were in the last 5 minutes of a team scrimmage. It was the traditional blue team (first team) vs. white team (second team) and in the final 25 seconds, the white team was holding onto a 28-24 lead. The white team had the ball under the opposing basket, shot clock turned off, and blue team was pressing to force a turnover. The white team guards broke the pressure and got the ball to Marreese Speights near halfcourt. Since the blue team had committed most of their defenders to the backcourt, Speights turned and had basically a 3 on 1 against blue-team defender Spencer Hawes. Let's keep in mind that the shot clock was turned off and all the white team needed to do was hold onto the ball until either the clock expired or the blue team fouled. Instead, Speights attacked the basket and ran over Hawes. It was clearly an offensive foul. Collins immediately stopped the scrimmage. He was not pleased. He was impassioned in pointing out how Speights' decision was the 100 percent incorrect decision to make in that situation.

It was good to see Collins so adamant about the possession and the poor decision, because these are the types of plays the Sixers have made down the stretch of games, contributing to their 4-13 record.

"It's the little things and that’s what I told our guys," Collins explained. "I reiterated that we have not won a game yet in single digits. Every game we’ve won has been in double digits … that’s why we’ve been doing some situational stuff at the end of practice."

You can check out the video of Collins explaining this, which should be embedded in this post.

"It is situational and that’s what we’re trying to teach these guys," Collins said of end-of-game moments. "A lot of these guys have never played with the understanding of a clock. I say, when you play AAU basketball, you play until the horn sounds. You just keep running and running until the horn sounds and you know the game is over. And guys become products of that a lot of time. Not understanding how valuable the ball is at critical times of the game."

We also asked Collins about the recent struggles of rookie guard Evan Turner. First, Collins said he "would rather not" remove Turner from the starting lineup. Collins said he wants the current starting group to gel and that if he needed to make an early substitution, he would solve the issue that way.

"I think he’s getting reacclimated to Dre being out there," Collins said of Turner. "Because when Dre is out there and Jrue is out there, both of those guys handle the ball. I think you see it on the break. One important thing also is that Evan’s rebounding is down. A big part of Evan’s game is rebounding the ball and then he has the ball to push it up the floor."


Continued Collins: "When Jrue and Evan were out together, they both shared the ball handling a little bit and Jrue knows how to play off the ball. And now all of a sudden with Dre back out there, it’s getting reacclimated to running the lanes for layups. And Evan has always been a guy who’s waited back for the ball, and got it, and been the one who’s made the play. We’re trying to teach him to be a lane runner and be ahead of the break."
Sixers (4-13) are back at it tomorrow night against the Trail Blazers (8-8), whose starting point guard is former Sixer Andre Miller. This season, Miller is averaging 13.6 points and 7.4 assists a game.


Each week, Kate will check in from the road and answer fan questions about the Sixers. Click here to ask Kate a question or e-mail her at kfagan@phillynews.com.