There aren’t too many secrets about the Sixers’ roster for when the team opens the season against the Miami Heat on Oct. 30. The starting lineup is basically set with Thad Young, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, Michael Carter-Williams and James Anderson.
Off the bench, coach Brett Brown has been going with Royce White, Lavoy Allen, Tony Wroten and Darius Morris. With big man Daniel Orton recently picked up from Oklahoma City, the Sixers have some size to help in the post.
That leaves a handful of battles for the last couple of spots. And as the exhibition season has progressed, Vander Blue has given Brown exactly what he wanted to see.
“I think Vander is an in-your-face, full-court athlete who’s ready to get out, go and jump people,” Brown said. “I like Vander because there is no back-down and he has some dog in him and he has some athleticism.”
Brown says Blue has a “spark” to his game that could help as he vies to make the team along with players like Khalif Wyatt and Hollis Thompson. In three exhibition games, Blue is 6-for-13 shooting, with two highlight-reel dunks to go with three steals and two turnovers in 14.7 minutes per game.
Often, Blue, a 6-foot-4 guard who played three seasons for Marquette, finds himself picking up the ball handler full-court.
“Coach likes me on the ball and to pick it up full-court and use my speed and length to bother the smaller guards,” Blue said. “I have a lot of experience playing off the ball as well. I can guard a one through a three.”
Blue smiled when he was told that Brown said he had “some dog in him.” He’s always been that way, Blue said, but maybe he became tougher when he went undrafted last June. He hooked up with the Rockets’ and Grizzlies’ summer league teams before signing a partially guaranteed deal with the Sixers just before the start of training camp.
“The whole draft process just gives me more fuel to add to the fire so I can prove that I can make a team and help a team,” Blue said.
Since then, Blue has given the Sixers some energy in practice and in exhibition games, something that has made him stand out with the coaches and the Sixers’ veteran players.
“Vander has had a great couple of practices,” Young said. “He’s done a really good job as far as coming out and paying attention and doing the things he needs to do and make plays to help his team. Vander has really showed a lot of poise in practice.”
As for earning one of the last spots on the team, Blue says he hasn’t thought about it too much. The idea, he explains, is to focus on the immediate future.
“I just wake up every day and think about coming to work, not thinking about the next day,” Blue said. “I’m just coming in every day and trying to get better and play as hard as possible.”