The gang is all back. Thaddeus Young, signed, sealed and delivered, was on the practice court Saturday while fellow restricted free agent Spencer Hawes was on a plane from Seattle to Philadelphia after accepting the one-year qualifying offer from the Sixers for 4.1 million.
By agreeing to the qualifying offer, Hawes will be an unrestricted free agent in July 2012.
He didnt show up today because Washington got beat by Duke. I want you to tweet that, Collins joked. Had it been the other way around it would have been an all day tweet from Spencer.
I sent him a text last night and he got back to me saying glad to be back. I said I am expecting big things from you and he said we have to take the next step. And I said I need you to play big and he said done deal.
This is the scenario the Sixers had hoped for returning 12 guys from a year ago when the team won 41 games but were also 38-28 in their final 66 games the very number of games they will play this season.
Saturday was the first opportunity to watch the guys scrimmage and what jumped out was that everyone appeared in shape.
It was fun just to get back up and down with some structure and coaching, Lou Williams said. And just to be back in the gym with the guys was a good time but we understand that we are five days away from going out and lacing up for the first time so guys were locked in. We are pretty focused right now trying to make a serious run this year and we realize our time is very short so we are trying to take advantage of every moment.
Even Young, who had not played much pick-up this off season, looked like he had never been away from his teammates. In an effort to avoid injury while waiting for his new contract Young worked out plenty, often twice a day, but stayed away from contact basketball. He felt out of sync Saturday but said that new contract has him ecstatic, which more then compensated for his timing being off.
I love this team. I love this city. I love being here, Young said after his first practice. I am definitely enthused about signing a new deal and being back.
Thad is so quick and so fast, Collins said. The speed element that he brings to the game is amazing.
Young averaged 13 points and five rebounds in 26 minutes a game last year. Collins knew he wouldnt be able to play much contact basketball this summer and therefore had just one request for one of his favorite players.
I really wasnt concerned about him playing any basketball this summer. I told him to work on his 15-foot jump shot so people cant play off you, Collins said. I want you to feel comfortable where you can jump up and shoot that ball.
Improvement across the board in each individual will be the way this team reaches its group goal, which is advancing to the second round of the playoffs, that along with accepting their given roles as they did a season ago.
Young and Williams are so important to this team, Collins said. I put a saying on the wall based on those two guys, based on the roles that they have accepted to play on this team and what they have done and how they have starred in their roles and how that just allows us to be a team that has a chance to be good.
Williams and Young both finished in the top six of the sixth man of the year voting. Williams has solidified his place in the rotation backing up either guard position. Young backs up Elton Brand at the power forward spot but he has started 139 of his 298 NBA career games. His time is coming as a bonafide starter but with this roster it cant be now.
I definitely would love to be a starter, Young said. But I am going to do whatever the team needs me to do and continue to do that. If they need me to continue coming off the bench and be that sixth man, that spark off the bench so be it; thats what I am going to have to do. I am all about winning and all about trying to bring home championships.
Who doesnt love that line of thinking?
Training camp resumes Sunday and shifts from PCOM to Saint Josephs University. Sunday will also be the first time the team practices twice in one day.
E-mail Dei Lynam at firstname.lastname@example.org