Sixers' Brackins adds tools in hopes of bigger role

Sixers' Brackins adds tools in hopes of bigger role
June 7, 2011, 5:23 am
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Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Posted: 11 a.m.

By John R. Finger
CSNPhilly.com

The college kids were long gone, having had an exit interview with the Sixers director of scouting Courtney Witte before talking with the press and exchanging information about the next stop on the pre-draft workout circuit. New Jersey was a popular stop for a few of the prospects. The same goes for New York and Cleveland.

But for Craig Brackins, just a year removed from the whole draftee rigmarole, the workouts are pretty standard. Actually, there are very few spots on the floor at the Sixers workout facility at the Philadelphia College for Osteopathic Medicine from which Brackins did not put up a shot.

Brackins raced around invisible screens to shoot baby hooks and caught passes on the low block for dunks. He ran pick-and-pops to fire up 20-footers and then ran from corner to corner to shoot baseline jumpers from each side of the floor.

In between the sets of drills, Brackins shot free throws so that he could emulate end-of-the-game conditions where his legs might feel like rubber and his arms like rocks. More importantly, Brackins could give assistant coach Brian James a breather from throwing all those passes.

Craig has done everything that our coaching staff has asked of him to become a better player, Witte said after a handful of potential draft selections worked out for the Sixers coaching and player personnel staffs.

Certainly Brackins, a 6-10 big man, isnt all that far removed from what those prospects are going through. Sure, he was one of them last year where after three years at Iowa State he was drafted in the first round by Oklahoma City. However, on draft day he was traded to New Orleans before landing in Philadelphia in another trade three months later.

When the season began, Brackins spent most of the year shuttling between Philly and the Sixers D-League affiliate in Springfield, Mass. where he was coached by former NBA veteran Dee Brown and was teammates with recent Villanova star, Scottie Reynolds.

So between being drafted, traded twice and then yo-yoing between the NBA and the D-League, Brackins had a unique rookie season. He even got into three games, averaging 11 minutes a pop with eight points.

It was a learning process. Im glad I went through it because there were a lot of things that opened my eyes and learned from talking to the guys and about understanding some of the struggles they went through because they went through struggles, too, Brackins said following his spirited workout on Monday. Its been fun with leaders like Andre Iguodala always in my ear and Tony Battie, too, he was a real big help for me.

The interesting part about seeing Brackins work out at PCOM was that it jibed with his repertoire. Certainly Brackins is looked at as a low-post player able to grab rebounds and defend the paint. That is the traditional role of a 6-foot-10 guy who averaged 20-plus points and 10 rebounds per game during his second year at Iowa State.

But a glance at the stats shows that Brackins isnt tethered to the low block.

Brackins took five three-pointers in his three NBA games and 77 in 18 D-League games, hitting them at a 25 percent clip. In college he took more than two three-pointers per game, converting on nearly 30 percent of them.

If anything, Brackins looks like a modern big man who is asked to stretch the floor offensively by facing up to the basket while working down low. Better yet, it seems as if the emphasis in the NBA is on developing big men with all-around skills. Its no longer necessary for players of a certain height to stand in only one area of the floor. Perhaps this started with 6-9 point guard Magic Johnson, who could bring the ball up the floor and then post up anyone on the block and evolved to Dirk Nowitski, the 7-footer who can shoot the three as well as create his own shot from any spot on the floor.

Back then it was more of a bruiser game, but now its about getting extended and faced up with more skill work, Brackins said about the shift in the game. So if you have everything in your arsenal, youll do well in this league. Thats something Im trying to keep tuned and show on the court.

Either way, with the Sixers looking to bolster their frontcourt this summer, Brackins could work his way into a more prominent role. But instead of his face-up game, Witte said the Sixers are still working with Brackins about developing a more polished bruiser style. So as part of his on-the-court workouts, the big man has been working out in the weight room and with developing his coordination and has added a different sport to help with his strength and agility

Boxing.

If anything can toughen up a guy its a few rounds in the ring twice a week.

Its a different workout and it helps with my conditioning. Thats been going great and it gives boxers a whole new perspective, Brackins said.

His trainer wont allow him much of a break, either, kind of how James was at PCOM on Monday with pass after pass.

If Im messing up or slacking, hell swing a punch, Brackins said about his boxing work.

Of course strength and toughness are mutually exclusive. At 6-10, Brackins checks in at a slender 230 pounds. Take away the broad shoulders and Brackins nearly has the same build as all-star Kevin Durant, who measures in at 6-foot-10 and 220 pounds.

Weight-wise, if you go by the scale, Im a pretty good size. Its just a matter of being stronger, Brackins said. If you look at a guy like Kevin Durant, he doesnt look physically strong but he goes against some of the toughest guys in the NBA.

No, lets not compare Brackins with Durant. One guy is a two-time scoring champion and the other has three NBA games under his belt. Better yet, Brackins is a year older than Durant. However, the process for which Brackins is charting is also pure in its own right. Not to get too over-the-top, but Brackins is hoping to achieve some sort of metamorphosis with his game, while players like Durant come to the league with the skills already at the surface with only experience as the missing ingredient.

Actually, Brackins isnt unlike the prospects the Sixers brought in to work out as the start off on their own unchartered path. Certainly last years first-round pick remembers what it was like a year ago.

I remember it well, Brackins said. It was tough for me I know exactly what they are going through.

In some sense hes still going through it.

E-mail John R. Finger at jfinger@comcastsportsnet.com

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