Collins feels Sixers' core is strong for future

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Collins feels Sixers' core is strong for future

INDIANAPOLIS -- Doug Collins didn’t need to explain how disappointing the 2012-13 season was for the 76ers. 

He did anyway.

Prior to the regular-season finale against the Central Division champion Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Collins talked briefly about how things haven’t worked out for the Sixers this season but added there is a strong nucleus for next season.

Then again, it’s not like Collins will be around to see it. Sources say he is coaching his last game with the Sixers on Wednesday night, ending his tenure after just three years. The team has made no official announcement, and the players still haven’t been updated on their coach’s future.

They will hear it soon enough.

In the meantime, Collins reflected on a season of “great expectations” that just didn’t work out.

“It was exciting to come to training camp, and then right before training camp we got the news that Andrew [Bynum] had bruised his kneecap,” Collins said.

“We had a lot of pieces that we thought we’re going to fit in nicely with what we had. Then all of sudden the group that we had, we saw that we didn’t have. All of a sudden we had to figure things differently.”

It didn’t come together until late in the season. By then it didn’t matter.

“The last six weeks we’ve probably played as well as we have all season long,” Collins said. “We’ve had some very good wins and been really cohesive as a team. I think we enjoyed playing and I’m proud of that.”

The Sixers could have played out the string, and the players working on the last year of contracts could have played to pad their stats. Instead, Collins said the team remained focused on staying competitive.

It doesn’t always work that way, the coach said.

“It’s easy when you go through a season where you expected a lot and you go through the injuries and all and you’re losing to mail it in,” Collins said. “Our guys never, ever mailed it in.”

The future remains unclear. With Collins on his way out and six players on the last year of their contracts and another with a player option, there is sure to be another major roster overhaul this summer.

A coaching search, the draft lottery and draft workouts and then free agency is going to keep the front office busy. In the meantime, Collins says the Sixers’ core is strong. Jrue Holiday will be back and Evan Turner, Thad Young and Spencer Hawes are under contract for next year. If that’s the Sixers’ base, it’s young.

“When you look at the team now, I think you have a nice nucleus to build,” Collins said. “You have Evan for three years and Jrue for four. Spencer has really developed and proud of what he’s done. You know what you have with Thad. I’m excited watching Justin Holiday play here. Arnett [Moultrie] has played well and he goes into the summer knowing exactly what he has to do.”

Then there is Bynum, whose future is unclear, and until it gets figured out, the Sixers’ prospects remain just as murky.

Sergio Rodriguez ready for 'opportunity' of 2nd NBA stint

Sergio Rodriguez ready for 'opportunity' of 2nd NBA stint

GALLOWAY, N.J. — It’s Round 2 for Sergio Rodriguez.

Ten years after beginning his first stint in the NBA, he is back as a veteran point guard on the Sixers. The green 20-year-old is now 30, with European and Olympic experience behind him. Rodriguez is looking to build upon his previous four NBA seasons, which culminated in 2010, in a leadership role in Philadelphia.

“It feels great,” Rodriguez said Thursday after the training camp morning session at Stockton University. “It’s a second opportunity for me.”

Rodriguez played three seasons for the Trail Blazers from 2009-10 and split his fourth year with the Kings and Knicks. He averaged a quiet 4.3 points, 2.9 assists and 1.3 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game. Rodriguez returned to his native Spain and found a higher level of success, including winning the EuroLeague title with Real Madrid, being named EuroLeague MVP, and competing in the Olympics. Last season Rodriguez averaged 10.9 points (40.9 percent from three), 6.2 assists and 2.2 rebounds in 24 minutes for Real Madrid. 

Head coach Brett Brown considers Rodriguez one of the top point guards that had played in Europe. 

“He just has a real gift for understanding, especially offensive tempo,” Brown said. “I think that his ability to run a pick-and-roll and figure out how teams are playing it and where they’re rotating from about a pass sooner, one dribble sooner so he can pick off rotations. He’s very gifted in that environment. I think he’s got a bounce to his game and a pace to his game that he will be absorbed in how I want to play well.”

Both Brown and Rodriguez anticipate challenges on the defensive end as Rodriguez re-acclimates himself in the NBA. He will be tasked with guarding some of the league’s toughest point guards, and will also be involved in numerous pick-and-rolls each game. 

After years of playing in Spain, Rodriguez has to get to know a new group of players. He considers the responsibility of a point guard to be getting his entire team involved, particularly with all the youth on the SIxers.

“I will try to feel comfortable for my teammates. For a point guard, you need to have the confidence that everybody is happy playing with you,” Rodriguez said, also noting, “Always the point guard has to run the show. Especially for this team, we have so many young players that need to develop and need to know how to win.” 

So far that is working.

“Sergio’s great,” Nerlens Noel said. “He’s a real vocal leader, even with that little accent he’s got. He makes it work. I think as the season goes along, we’ll continue to get on the same page and really start to mesh a little better.” 

Rodriguez left the NBA as a young guard and is now ready to make a comeback with years of experience. 

"I’m very excited to have this upcoming season and to be successful for my team, my teammates, the organization," he said.

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens [Noel]-Jahlil [Okafor] thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist.