Scrimmages stay hot as Sixers seek clear roles
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The Sixers have been together only a week this season, and already the practices have been incendiary. Monday afternoon’s scrimmage ended with a last-second shot by Jrue Holiday, and there has been at least one other game that ended with a shot at the buzzer.
According to coach Doug Collins, nearly every practice game has come down to the very last minute of action.
The action at the Sixers’ practices has been so hot that the handful of roster holdovers have noticed a marked difference. Evan Turner, headed into his third season with the team, says he has been a part of some of the best practices ever during the past week.
“These practices for the past week have been better than all of the other ones from my past two years, to tell the truth,” Turner said. “Everybody is going at each other and people are more hungry. I’m not saying people in the past weren’t, but the spots were more solidified.”
The reason, Turner says, is because of the roster upheaval. Last season, with so little turnover, roles were already defined. Some players didn’t work well with others, and since the Sixers had been together for a couple of seasons, it didn’t make much sense to shake things up.
This year, the roster has so many new faces that even the established players are fighting for playing time. It has made for some competitive action on the practice floor. Inject a veteran like Royal Ivey and a rookie like Maalik Wayns into the mix, and the tempo of action takes an uptick to match the tenacity.
“Everybody is making each other better,” Collins said. “What I like about the second unit is that we have two guys who really defend all the way up the floor. They really pressure the whole way up the floor, so everyday in practice our guards have to face Royal and Maalik going up the floor and pressuring the ball. That’s what we’re going to have to face.”
Turner says he was told by Ivey upon their first meeting to be ready. Royal was going to bring it, Turner related, and the benefits are clear.
“It’s going to make the game easier,” Turner said. “Royal is a great vet and he just wants to push you and make you better. He told me that when I first met him. He said, ‘I’m going to foul you and try to get the best out of you so when the games come it’s easier.’ And Maalik is just a humble young kid who is always about competing.”
Meanwhile, Collins has to cut through the frenzied action to determine his rotations as well as which roles his players are going to squeeze into. That’s going to be tricky, simply because the Sixers are much deeper this season than they have been in years. They have shooters, big men and quick guards.
All they are waiting for now is for the big man, Andrew Bynum, to practice.
To figure out where his players belong, Collins decided to go straight to the source by asking them. On Monday he handed each of his players an index card and asked them to write down what role they believe is their best fit.
That’s how the coach is going to start figuring out how to best use his players.
“It will be interesting to see how guys assess themselves after a week,” Collins said. “We need to make sure we know exactly what we need each other to do.”
For now, so far so good as training camp shifts gears to prepare for a pair of exhibition games this week. That’s when the coaches will learn a little more about the roster and where the players best fit. However, it seems as if Collins is going to have to juggle the playing time.
“If we keep 14 guys, I feel like we can play every one of them,” Collins said. “From what I’ve seen from our scrimmages so far from our 14 guys, I would feel comfortable putting them in the game. I feel good about that.”
Turner is looking forward to what the next day brings.
“These first five or six days of practice the competition has been unreal,” Turner said. “I think that’s the most important thing instead of looking at the roster, because the competition has been unreal.”E-mail John Finger at email@example.com