EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - This is not as much the responsibility of the point guard as you might think. The way Andre Miller looks at it, Elton Brand and Samuel Dalembert are going to have to figure each other out.
The way Brand, the new power forward, and Dalembert, the incumbent center, ultimately complement each other will be a key component in the 76ers' plans to climb in the NBA's Eastern Conference. The trouble is, they've had precious little time together on the court, in practices or in preseason games.
Brand missed some practice time while his wife, Shahara, was giving birth to their first child, son Elton Peace. Dalembert has been limited by sore knees and the flu. Both players missed Saturday night's game in Cleveland. Dalembert remained out of Tuesday night's game against the Cavaliers at the Wachovia Center and last night's 118-100 preseason win over the New Jersey Nets in the Izod Center.
"It's tough, but I think it's more the bigs' jobs to be able to play off each other," Miller was saying. "That allows me to be able to continue making plays, drawing and kicking. I think they have to get a thing between them where they can play off each other, knowing who's going to run to the rim, who's going to fall back and trail the play.
"It just depends on the way the game is going. We just don't want to get bogged down with slowing the ball down. We want to continue to run. At the same time, we want to take advantage of both of those guys."
Brand has said that he and Miller quickly found themselves on the same page, but that it's taking longer with Dalembert. Brand, the first legitimate low-post power forward during coach Maurice Cheeks' tenure, is unaccustomed to playing with a center who can dive to the rim, making remarkably athletic plays, catching lobs for dunks, but who also can step out and drain a 12-to-15 foot jump shot. Dalembert, in turn, hasn't played with a power forward who can consistently command a double-team. With that threat, the center must be consistently aware of rebounding from the weak side.
Here's the perspective of Theo Ratliff, who has played both positions during his long career:
"They have to avoid running into each other. Both are good shot-blockers, and might tend to go to the ball, and then you might leave a guy open. It's about thinking the game and they're both pretty good thinkers on the floor.
"Offensively, Elton knows how to pick and choose his spots, so Sam just has to play off him. Sam's a pretty good player off the ball. He's been doing it his whole career. It's a long season. It's just going to take some time."
Still, they will use the practice time between now and the Oct. 29 regular-season opener against the Toronto Raptors to speed up the process.
"We kind of have to make things happen faster than normal," Dalembert said.
"Time will tell, but we're not going to wait," Brand agreed. "We'll get time in practice. You get the time in when you can."
Both men have to play one-on-one defense. Brand isn't nearly the runner Dalembert is, but is excellent as an outlet passer and trailer on the fastbreak.
"You certainly would like to see them have time together, no question about it," Cheeks said. "It would have been ideal. But we have a week to practice to try to work that out."
The Sixers finished the preseason 4-3, their second winning record in the last eight seasons . . .
used a starting lineup of
at the point,
at 4 and
at 5 . . . Speights had 18 points, as did Williams, who made five of six three-pointers . . . Rush, who had been 2-for-10 from three-point distance, knocked down all three of his triples . . .
added 16 points off the bench . . . The Sixers, who were 0-for-9 from beyond the arc in Tuesday night's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, were 14-for-27 last night. "Between yesterday and today, we worked on the mental part of it,"
said, totally tongue-in-cheek . . .
remained in street clothes, while
dressed but did not play.
remained at home because of sore knees and the remnants of the flu . . . The Sixers will resume practice tomorrow, preparing for Wednesday night's regular-season opener against the Toronto Raptors . . .
had 16 points apiece for the Nets, who lost their fourth straight after opening the exhibition season with two wins over Miami in Europe . . .
had 13 points and
added 12 apiece for New Jersey, which trailed by double digits almost the entire second half. *