With turnover, some Sixers become early veterans

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With turnover, some Sixers become early veterans

Thaddeus Young is just 25 years old. Yet, when the Sixers held 2013 media day at their practice facility on Friday, Young felt old.

Going into his seventh season -- all with the Sixers -- Young is playing for his fifth different coach, as well as seeing a fourth different person serve as the team’s general manager.

“I have been through a lot of coaches and a lot of players,” Young said. “It is a process that you try to get through -- another rebuilding process, so you have to have a lot of patience.”

Spencer Hawes spent his early NBA seasons playing for the Sacramento Kings, a team that was perpetually rebuilding.

“Going back to it (rebuilding), hopefully I have a different perspective,” Hawes said. “Everybody can talk about that but as players, that is not our mind set. If you listen to what people are saying, whether it is good or bad, it ends up being a distraction.”

In addition to patience, communication will be essential between head coach Brett Brown and his players, most of whom are very young and inexperienced.

“I think that was something Coach [Doug] Collins got away from his third year,” Young said. “His first and second year, he would listen to me, 'Dre ( Andre Iguodala), EB (Elton Brand), and let us dictate a lot of things on our own -- he was very good with that, and then for some reason went away from that and the communication wasn’t as good as it had been in the beginning. I am all about communication and you just telling me what is the plan, and Coach Brown has done that.”

The plan is to have a team that is the most fit and conditioned in the league (see story). Every team works on conditioning but the Sixers’ veteran players admit that Brown’s conditioning regimen is a notch above anything they have experienced in the past.

“I think the fitness is the biggest change of everything,” Young said. “Guys have never really worked this hard and haven’t seen how to work this hard and now they are putting in the time consistently. Guys are realizing what hard work and dedication to the game really is.”

“He is dead serious,” Evan Turner said when asked what he thought of Brown’s commitment to fitness. “Doug was dead serious too, but how he (Brown) plays, you have to be in shape because you are running, running, running. He is no different than any other old-school coach. Doug really preached conditioning and after you see what Brett does, you realize Doug wasn’t so crazy -- he knew what he was talking about.”

Each player had to pass a conditioning test prior to the team’s five-day training camp, which begins Saturday at Saint Joseph’s University.

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent — hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in — he’ll try to put me in — to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel is the only one among the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.