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.

Are we there yet? Philly Sports Talk examines the state of the Sixers

Are we there yet? Philly Sports Talk examines the state of the Sixers

All week on Philly Sports Talk on CSN, we examine how our teams got to this point and where they are in the rebuilding process. 

On Tuesday, Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato takes a look at the state of the Sixers

How did we get here?
By now, you all know about “The Process.” The Sixers' last competitive season was five years ago when they reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals. 

Then came the disastrous Andrew Bynum trade. The Sixers, as part of a blockbuster four-team deal, lost Andre Iguodala, Nik Vucevic and a first-round pick, and they received Bynum, who because of knee problems never played for them. But he did, lest you have forgotten, bowl.

In the meantime, the Sixers went 34-48 in Doug Collins' final season as head coach.

Enter Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown and start The Process.

The Sixers entered a three-year period of dismal basketball with a revolving door of players coached by Brett Brown that culminated in a 47-199 record. During that time, they stockpiled injured players, draft-and-stash prospects and a handful of future picks through transactions made by Hinkie.

Hinkie stepped down from his role with a memorable 13-page resignation letter last April. The Sixers hired Bryan Colangelo as president of basketball operations, marking a new chapter in the organization. 

The 2016-17 season was the first glimpse into the potential of The Process. They finished 28-54, including a 10-5 month of January. Joel Embiid made his NBA debut after two years. While he was limited to 31 games because of (another) injury, he quickly proved he can dominate when healthy. Dario Saric came to the NBA two years after being drafted in 2014 and emerged as a Rookie of the Year candidate after Embiid was shut down for the season. The Sixers landed the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft and are waiting on the debut of Ben Simmons, who suffered a Jones fracture in training camp. This season, the Sixers established legitimate pieces for their future, rather than players who could be on the summer league team. 

Are the Sixers on the right path back to prosperity?
The Sixers are on the right path back to prosperity, and it starts this offseason. They have the third pick in the 2017 draft, with the possibilities of adding another young talent or packaging the pick to land a more established player. The Sixers have flexibility with plenty of cap space — which they could use to acquire a key free agent. The team has maintained they will not rush into making a trade just for the sake of it  — Jahlil Okafor’s future with the Sixers is still uncertain — or spend money just because it’s available. The Sixers showed flashes of potential last season. If they gather the right pieces this summer and — a big “and” — they stay healthy, they will continue to move toward an upward trend of rebuilding with the longer-term goals (this isn't happening overnight) of becoming a contender again. 

Coming Wednesday: A look at the Phillies' rebuild

NBA Playoffs: Warriors sweep their way to 3rd straight NBA Finals

NBA Playoffs: Warriors sweep their way to 3rd straight NBA Finals

BOX SCORE

SAN ANTONIO -- Stephen Curry scored 36 points as the Golden State Warriors closed out the Western Conference Final against the injury-ravaged San Antonio Spurs with a 129-115 victory Monday night, becoming the first team in league history to start the playoffs 12-0.

Golden State led by as many as 22 points in cruising to its third straight NBA Finals. The Warriors await a possible third straight championship matchup with Cleveland, which leads Boston 2-1 in the East finals.

"It's great to be one of the last two teams standing, we'll see how it goes," said Kevin Durant, who had 29 points and 12 rebounds.

San Antonio's only lead came on the opening possession when Manu Ginobili tossed in a left-handed scoop shot. The Spurs started Ginobili in what could be his final game with the team. The 39-year-old had maintained he will not ponder whether to retire or return until after the season.

Unsure if the beloved veteran will return, the crowd serenaded Ginobili with "Manu, Manu" chants as the game came to a close.

"An amazing competitor, even more fun playing against him," Durant said of Ginobili. "He was phenomenal this series."

Kyle Anderson scored 20 points to lead the Spurs, who were without Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and David Lee. San Antonio didn't go down without a fight despite the injuries.

Anderson dove on the court for a loose ball that the Spurs had tipped away defensively, pushing the ball upcourt to Patty Mills who fed Ginobili for a 3-pointer that pulled San Antonio to 108-94 with 7 minutes remaining.

The effort made Spurs coach Gregg Popovich smile and clap at times, but the Warriors' depth and talent proved too much for short-handed San Antonio.

Golden State shot 56 percent and were 14 for 39 on 3-pointers.

Draymond Green had 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Warriors.

Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge closed out a disappointing series with his second eight-point effort against the Warriors.

Ginobili finished with 15 points in 32 minutes.