Philadelphia 76ers

Sixers Notes: Wright finally finds role under Collins

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Sixers Notes: Wright finally finds role under Collins

WASHINGTON -- All season long, Doug Collins has tried to figure out what to do with his wing players. Though he has guys who can shoot well, the Sixers lack speed on the wings.

Collins thought veteran Jason Richardson was the answer, but he went out with a season-ending knee injury. Nick Young stepped up for a tiny bit, but he too went down with an injury and was slow to rejoin the rotation.

It wasn’t until Collins turned to Damien Wilkins as his starter on the wing with Dorell Wright coming off the bench that it got straightened out. No, it’s not the second coming of Joe Dumars and Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson from the champion Detroit Pistons teams in the 1980s, but the duo has solved a problem for Collins.

The key has been Wright coming off the bench. He scored 13 points in 25 minutes during Friday night’s win over the Wizards at the Verizon Center with a pair of three-pointers (see game recap). In his last 10 games, Wright has averaged nearly 13 points and has hit 22 three-pointers. Wright also has led the Sixers in scoring twice during that stretch, providing the punch off the bench the Sixers have needed.

“Dorell has been great,” Collins said. “We have had an issue all season long with our wings, how do we get it settled in? We need guys to settle into that mold a little bit and through injury it kind of found itself. J-Rich was a huge loss for us and then we tried Nick Young out there and then he got hurt. Then I moved Damien there and when Dorell thrived in that role off the bench.”

Providing scoring off the bench is not something veterans like Wright can do easily. The key to it, Collins says, is to come in ready to go, which is difficult for some players. As a starter a player can find the flow of the game, get his body warmed up and ease into things.

“The one thing you have to do is come in and get yourself into the rhythm of the game,” Collins said. “The one thing I’ve always said is that sometimes it’s harder for an older player who has been in the league for a while and maybe they have a lot of miles on them and maybe some injuries and it’s tough to warm up. When you come off that bench you have to be ready to roll.”

Wright has come into games firing.

“We’ve needed scoring from off the bench, so when I go in there I try to be aggressive as possible and look for my shot and take my shots in rhythm,” Wright said.

It’s not a completely foreign role for Wright even though he spent the last two seasons with Golden State as a starter. In six seasons with the Miami Heat, Wright started sporadically, but was never a main guy in the rotation.

However, in his first season with the Warriors, Wright led the NBA in three-pointers and three-pointers attempted. He also started all 82 games, averaged 38 minutes and was ninth in the NBA in steals with 124.

So if his shot isn’t going down, Wright says he has something he can fall back on. He even admits that he has enjoyed his new role off the bench.

“Yeah, it’s cool with me. As long as I’m out there being productive,” Wright said. “If I’m not scoring I can get rebounds and get the ball and make some plays. I’m happy with it.”

Brown out … again
Kwame Brown took his 27th straight DNP-CD on Friday night. He hasn’t appeared in a game since Feb. 20 in the Sixers’ loss at Minnesota.

Headed back to Washington, where Brown began his NBA career as the No. 1 overall pick -- with Collins as his coach -- one had to wonder if the veteran would see some action.

No such luck.

“Kwame hasn’t had a chance to play much and it’s been unfortunate,” Collins said. “When we signed Andrew Bynum, it set Kwame back. He saw that his role was going to be different. He came into training camp and he was hurt. He hurt some ribs before we got started and then started some exhibition games and hurt his calf. He was nicked up most of the year. I feel badly he hasn’t played -- I thought he was going to play more.”

Last July, Brown was signed to a one-year contract with a player option for a second season. Brown hasn’t told reporters if he planned on exercising his option, though it would be hard to imagine someone leaving $2.9 million on the table.

NBA Notes: Bulls bring back Doug Collins as special adviser

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NBA Notes: Bulls bring back Doug Collins as special adviser

CHICAGO -- Doug Collins has returned to the Chicago Bulls. Just not on the sideline this time around.

The rebuilding Bulls hired Collins on Tuesday to serve senior adviser of basketball operations, providing "an expert resource" for the front office and coaching staff.

Collins will report directly to executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson. General manager Gar Forman and coach Fred Hoiberg remain in their jobs.

"Doug will not be coaching," Paxson said. "Doug will not be a decision maker. None of the roles have changed."

While no one is getting fired at this point, Collins becomes another set of eyes for an organization that finally committed to a full rebuild after taking a patchwork approach in recent years (see full story).

Pelicans: Cunningham agrees to contract
A person familiar with the situation says the New Orleans Pelicans and forward Dante Cunningham have agreed on a one-year contract worth $2.3 million.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the agreement, which was first reported by Yahoo, has not been announced.

The 6-foot-8 Cunningham spent the past three seasons in New Orleans, where he averaged 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in about 25 minutes per game last season.

The 30-year-old Cunningham has spent eight seasons in the NBA, beginning with Portland, which selected him in the second round of the 2009 draft out of Villanova.

Cunningham could start for New Orleans at small forward in a lineup that would feature DeMarcus Cousins at center, Anthony Davis at power forward, Rajon Rondo at point guard and Jrue Holiday at shooting guard.

Heat: Dragic retiring from Slovenia team
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- NBA guard Goran Dragic has confirmed he is retiring from the Slovenia team that won the European basketball championship.

Dragic says on Tuesday, "I achieved what I wanted, the gold medal, and this is the right time to bid farewell."

The 31-year-old Dragic led Slovenia with 35 points to beat Serbia 93-85 in the final on Sunday in Istanbul, earning the MVP award.

He says Slovenia's qualifying campaign for the 2019 world championship will start in November, and it would be impossible for him to play due to his professional duties with the Miami Heat in the NBA.

Tens of thousands of jubilant Slovenes greeted the new European champions on Monday in the capital of Ljubljana.

Give and Go: Who will be the Sixers' sixth man?

Give and Go: Who will be the Sixers' sixth man?

With training camp starting next week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato and producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we discuss who should be the Sixers' sixth man going into the 2017-18 season.

Camerato
This role has become a hot topic since the Sixers finally have the pieces to put together a consistent starting five and establish a go-to sixth man. This summer I wrote an article on the starting lineup in which I projected Robert Covington to start and Dario Saric to come off the bench as the sixth man. The Sixers need Covington’s defensive presence at small forward and Ben Simmons likely will start at power forward while running the floor. Not every reader agreed in the comments section and the Saric-as-a-starter sentiment was echoed on social media. 

I still see Saric as the best fit for sixth man. This role is often filled by a starting-caliber player. Saric had 36 starts as a rookie, including all 25 games in which he played after the All-Star Break. Brett Brown wants the Sixers’ sixth man to be on the court to end games. Saric averaged more minutes (7.1) in the fourth than any other quarter last season. 

The key would be getting Saric to buy in to being the sixth man. Saric worked his entire career to be the best player he could be. He is his own toughest critic and became visibly disappointed when he had letdowns last season. There is a shift in mindset going from a starter to the first player off the bench. Saric can thrive in this role, but first he has to embrace it and not looking at it as a demotion. The sixth man can be just as valuable, if not more, than a starter. 

Haughton
With a widely projected starting lineup of Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, JJ Redick, Markelle Fultz and Simmons, the Sixers’ sixth man would appear to be a lock as Dario Saric. After all, Saric is a strong all-around player and coming off an impressive rookie season.

However, that starting five may force Brett Brown to go in a different direction with his first man off the bench.

Sure, Brown’s opening group may have a lot of firepower, but it lacks a necessity of legitimate NBA teams: a proven floor general. With Fultz and Simmons in the backcourt, the Sixers have two players that have yet to take part in an NBA regular-season game. They also will be trying to adjust to playing off the ball (Fultz) and running the team as a full-time point guard (Simmons).

That’s why I believe Brown may opt to go with Jerryd Bayless as his first reserve to combat the expected growing pains of his rookie backcourt. Bayless didn’t exactly wow Sixers fans by playing in just three contests a season ago because of torn ligaments in his wrist, but the veteran still has 513 career games under his belt (29 in the postseason) and knows how to play both guard positions.

It may not be the preferred pick, but Bayless may be the necessary choice as sixth man if the Sixers hope to achieve their goals in the upcoming campaign.

Hudrick
I know it doesn't please some Sixers fans that Saric seems destined to come off the bench, but really, it's a great sign.

Saric has proven to be a good NBA player after a strong rookie campaign, but think about it. This roster suddenly has talent. People are getting giddy and talking playoffs. Do you know what playoff teams have? Good players coming off the bench. It's not a knock on Saric as much as it's a testament to how talented this roster has become.

I will say that Matt's idea of using Bayless as the team's sixth man is interesting. Brown puts such a heavy emphasis on the point guard position. He's referred to it as the hardest position to play in the NBA. And now he's turning the keys over to a 6-foot-10 player that's never truly played the position. 

In the end, I'm going Saric. He should come in and dominate most team's second units offensively. Plus his grit and energy are perfect for the role. The Sixers just have to hope he embraces it.