The most talked about moment of the 76ers' off-season came not when the club signed an important free agent but when another team signed theirs.
At the end of July, free-agent point guard Andre Miller signed with the Portland Trail Blazers, ending his 21/2-year stretch in Philadelphia.
Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski did not seem desperate to retain Miller's services, offering only a one-year, $6 million deal. In part, that was because he believes combo guard Lou Williams, 22, can effectively slip into Miller's position.
Yesterday at a Sixers summer camp in Southampton, Bucks County, Williams talked about his promotion, the pressure, how he feels about Miller's move, and what he's focused on this summer. He acknowledged the spotlight has shifted to him but doesn't think he's the only Sixer with unanswered questions.
"It's a show-and-prove year for a lot of guys," he said. "You look at the Elton [Brand] situation. People are antsy to see what he's going to do this year. Sammy [Dalembert] caused a stir last year, and he's still with us, so we're anxious to see how he's going to come back to camp. This is another year for Andre Iguodala to be the leader of this basketball team . . . so not all the pressure is on me."
Williams and rookie Jrue Holiday, the Sixers' 17th pick in the 2009 draft, are the only point guards on the roster. Williams said this shouldn't become a problem because new coach Eddie Jordan's offense does not require a "dribble-dribble" point guard, focusing instead on cutting and ball movement.
Williams implied Miller's return was always in doubt.
"I think we had a pretty good idea that Andre wasn't coming back," Williams said. "At my exit interview, Ed basically said, 'This is a huge summer, go home, do what you have to do, take some time off, then get ready.' "
Williams said he had mixed feelings about Miller's departure.
"Obviously, I liked to play with Andre," Williams said. "He was a likable guy, and, not only that, he knew how to run a basketball team. He knew how to make guys play hard for him, and he knew how to make guys comfortable. But at the same time, it's a huge opportunity for me to showcase my talents at running a basketball team."
This season is Williams' fifth in the NBA. His game has improved steadily since he was drafted in the second round in 2005. His career average is 9.0 points a game; last season, he averaged 12.8. But he acknowledged that if this opportunity had arisen last season, it would not have been ideal.
"Last year, I'd have been prepared for it, but I think I'm better prepared this summer," he said.
Williams split this off-season between Philadelphia and Atlanta, focusing on three aspects of his game: improving his overall shot, raising his three-point percentage (it's 31.5 percent for his career), and improving his conditioning.
"I always thought I was a good shooter," he said. "But making a thousand in a day until your arm hurts and you can't sleep on your shoulder because it hurts so much from shooting, those are things I was working on. I wanted to be a knock-down shooter for this team."
Williams shrugged at the notion that some believed he might not be ready for his new role at point guard.
"I'm getting mixed reviews," Williams said. "A lot of people are saying, 'Finally.' And some people are saying 'I'm not sure yet.' "
Fans will get some answers soon enough: Training camp opens Sept. 29 at St. Joseph's University.