Rookie Moultrie flying under radar with Sixers
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When the Sixers lace 'em up to take on the Orlando Magic in the preseason opener on Thursday night, don’t be surprised to see big man Arnett Moultrie in the starting lineup.
With Andrew Bynum out for another week and a half and veteran Kwame Brown battling a touch of back stiffness, head coach Doug Collins could turn to the first-round draft pick out of Mississippi State for an extended look.
But then again, don’t look too deeply into Moultrie’s minutes, either.
The learning curve will seemingly be long for the rookie power forward, who was selected with the Heat’s No. 27 overall pick and acquired by the Sixers in a draft-night trade. Bynum and Brown, along with Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen and Thad Young will get the majority of the minutes for Collins in the low post this season while the rookie is given some time to blossom.
“It’s a learning process,” Moultrie said after Wednesday’s practice at the Philadelphia College for Osteopathic Medicine. “It’s a big adjustment taking all the quick information in.”
Of course when the information is digested, anything can happen. Just look at what happened with Allen last season. Selected with the 50th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Allen wasn’t even guaranteed a spot on the roster out of training camp. In fact, when ESPN ranked all the players in the NBA they placed Allen at No. 500 -- dead last.
Yet after not appearing in any of the first six games of the season while seeing action in just 41 regular-season games, Allen played so well during the playoffs that he earned himself a two-year contract.
Better yet, he’s a cog in the Sixers’ rotation.
As a first-round pick, Moultrie has a guaranteed deal for three years. But when it comes to playing time, Moultrie is going to have to go and get that himself.
“He’s been great so far,” Young said. “He can shoot the mid-range jumper, he’s athletic and he can play with his back to the basket. He just moves a little too fast right now. But that’s the same thing that all rookies do. I did the same thing when I came through -- I was faster than my feet were.”
Then again, the fact that Moultrie has his feet moving fast at all is a pretty good thing. That’s because during the pre-draft workout with Sacramento, Moultrie sprained his ankle pretty badly. At first it was anticipated that he would be back in time to participate in the Orlando summer league, but as it turned out, the injury sidelined Moultrie for three months.
From that point Moultrie went from the first-round pick with top-10 talent before the Sixers acquired Brown and Bynum. After that, the 6-foot-11 rookie was much lower on the team’s depth chart.
Nevertheless, Collins and the coaching staff has been pretty impressed with what they’ve seen during the first two weeks of workouts.
“I’m really happy,” Collins said. “He missed three months. He had a horrible ankle injury and I wasn’t sure how much we’d get out of him during training camp. So he’s responded well – energy and he’s rebounded well.”
Added assistant coach Brian James: “You can see what he does and he’s really going to help us. He’s relentless on the boards and he’s a pretty good shooter from 15-feet in, and he’s picking up things very quickly in terms of the offense.”
It’s still a lot of work though. Collins and Young pointed out that Moultire’s shot is a little flat and assistant coach Jeff Capel spent time after Wednesday’s practice working with the rookie on his shooting. Meanwhile, Moultrie admitted that while he knew the NBA was going to be much faster than college ball, he often finds himself lost when it comes to slowing things down.
“Sometimes I don’t know when to play slow and sometimes I don’t know when to speed it up,” Moultrie said. “That’s another big adjustment I need to make.”
Regardless, it seems as if Moutlrie has taken Collins’ draft-day advice to heart. After his stock seemed to plummet from a potential lottery pick to the edge of the first round, Collins told Moultrie that he could find a lot of motivation in being passed over by so many teams.
There were also whispers that Moultrie had discipline and maturity issues in college, but after an exhaustive pre-draft background checks and interviews, the Sixers said those claims were unfounded. In fact, if there was anything to that talk, Moultire appears to have made the proper adjustments to NBA life.
“A lot comes with this,” Moultrie said. “You have to be on time, you can’t come late. So me being a rookie means I have to get there an hour earlier than we’re supposed to. That’s the biggest adjustment for me.”