Collins impresses Richardson by giving Sixers a break
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One week has passed since the Sixers started training camp. They have had one day off and three days when they’ve held two practice sessions.
There came a time on Tuesday when one of the veterans, Jason Richardson, approached head coach Doug Collins to share a thought about the team.
“He came over and he said, ‘Coach, guys are getting a little beat up. Just want to make you aware of that.’ And so I shut practice down an hour early,” Collins said.
The fact that Collins had a listening ear came as a true surprise to Richardson. He is entering his 12th NBA season, and he couldn’t recall being able to do that with his past coaches.
“That was a first in my career where I can talk to a coach and he can relate to us because he was a player,” Richardson said. “He understands this and the grind of the season, how long the season is and how guys need some legs and need some energy. I think that is going to help us a lot.”
Collins is a person big on keeping the lines of communication open. It makes for a friendlier working environment, even when the labor itself is difficult.
“I think that is what you do as a coach, and I think they become appreciative of understanding that they can talk to me,” Collins said. “I am going to listen and we are all going to work together. There are going to be days when I might say 'Guys, we need to get a little more work done.' Now it may be in a different way, but we have to get the work done.”
Plenty of work is being done on the defensive end of the floor. The offense has been more fun to watch with the Sixers’ transition game and three-point shooting, but everyone on the roster knows this team will be one of the better defensive clubs in the league. The coaching staff won’t have it any other way.
“I think our defense is coming along,” Richardson said. “It is a work in progress, pretty much. We have new guys that have been used to playing on a defensive team. I went through that coming from Phoenix when I went to Orlando and getting used to Stan Van Gundy’s defensive schemes. But it will take guys a while if they have never been a part of something like that before.”
“This morning, we really had two, tough, 10-minute, half-court defensive segments,” Collins explained. “That is very taxing. Then, we did 10 minutes of practicing transition defense where you are low in numbers. You are 5-on-4 and all the sudden a guy is chasing back into the play. Or you are 5-on-3 and two guys are chasing back into the play, which takes a lot of energy.”
Defense has always been hard work, no matter what team or what level of play. The Sixers worked hard the last two years to become an upper-echelon team at the defensive end and they accomplished that. Collins is confident that trend will continue this season.
“I think we have a chance to be a really good defensive team,” Collins said. “We’ll be a different defensive team. We’ll be a little bit bigger. I think we will defend the rim a little better if we can keep our bigs out of foul trouble. And then we will have a team that comes off the bench that can be speed and quickness, and maybe you do a little different defensively.”
Last year, the Sixers took great care of the ball by averaging the fewest turnovers in the league (11.2 per game). However, they did not force many turnovers (13.9), 21st in the league. With longer arms on the wings and a speedy reserve group, forced turnovers should increase in 2012-13.
With the NBA's third-leading rebounder last season (11.8 per game) in Andrew Bynum, expectations should go up for the Sixers in that category. On the flip side, expect that steals (eight per game) could drop off. The Sixers had the eighth-highest average in that department.
“The discipline, the coverages, knowing where everyone is going to be out on the floor,” Richardson said of what will lead to solid defense. “Knowing your rotation, knowing where you have to be in pick-and-roll coverages. It is just a whole bunch of schemes you have to get used to.”
The Sixers will get a gauge of where they are defensively on Thursday night in Orlando when they play the first of seven preseason games.