There were some bumps in the road at yesterday's first Sixers practice, said coach Eddie Jordan, but the road certainly was plenty busy.
Jordan has made it clear what he wants from this collection of players, and movement is a top priority - on both ends of the floor. And there was plenty of it during a double session as the team opened camp at Saint Joseph's University.
"It feels great, it really does," Jordan said following the nearly 3-hour morning practice. "It's good to have great assistants and a good group of guys with great character. They had great energy and are terrific professionals."
Ah, the first day of practice. Hope springs eternal and all is fresh, though Jordan did want to drive home some points.
"No question [our priority] was defense," he said. "It was the halfcourt defense, it was the individual defense. It was the help defense, talking on defense and getting out on them on defense. Aggressive defense. And then at the end of practice it was just initiating the fastbreak and getting out on the floor. That's how we like to play - get out and play."
And rebound. Last season, the Sixers were second in the league in offensive rebounds, with 12.7 a game. But they were second to last in defensive rebounds, at 28.5.
"Rebounding is also going to be very important to us," Jordan said. "We want them to be active on the glass at both ends. We were very good [last season] offensively, we were horrible defensively. So we want them to get used to playing the glass. We do a drill where they get used to the effort of going after the ball, and then we can get out and start our fastbreak. We really want to get out and get passes ahead and get scores in the open floor. There were some bumps in the road because they were first-time drills for them, but I thought they liked it and they really got after it. I'm really happy with their effort."
The days when the NBA game was an isolation contest between two superstars is long gone, in Jordan's mind. And for a team that has just one player ever named to an All-Star team (Elton Brand), the ingredients to make the Princeton offense and the high-energy defense work seem to be in place with long athletes like Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Marreese Speights and Samuel Dalembert.
It will take time, the coach warns, for the product to be assembled and running smoothly. It is a whole new way of playing basketball for many of these players and there will be a lot of "deprogramming to reprogram," according to the coach.
"We just went out there and he put his philosophies in," Iguodala said. "We just set the foundation and the ground rules. It took a lot of adjusting, but at the end we had a pretty good understanding of what he wants from us. There is no standing around on the offensive end. It's not hard to understand, there's repetition as far as what he wants. You're used to being in one mode and you've got to get broken of that mode. It's not that bad at all. It's going to take us some time. We want to push the ball ahead and read what's open, making the right decisions. We have to do a better job of reading each other."
Added Brand: "You have to know that guys are out of position and that they're not going to cut all the way through and things like that on the first day. But it makes a lot of sense. Because I'm cutting and this guy's cutting because this guy has an open shot out at the elbow. Or I'm pulling through so Lou Williams can do what he does great and penetrate.
"We have to deprogram ourselves. I'm going to stop at the block sometimes, and you've got to go through. The guards sometimes want to hold the ball, but they've got to kick it ahead to Andre Iguodala and guys like that. We're not used to cutting through and moving the ball the way we are."
When it didn't happen, Jordan quickly stopped practice and let it be known what he didn't like.
"There were some rather harsh words," the coach said. "You know who to pick on. You pick on the young guys and yell and curse at them so the older guys say, 'Well, I better run through.' So it works."
It didn't go unnoticed by the vets.
"Repetition brings perfection, so he doesn't mind stopping it and throwing around a few F-bombs," Brand said. "But that's what coaches do from time to time. I think the offense is coming along, just the basic stuff, step-by-step."