Last week, 76ers coach Doug Collins swore he would not give in to temptation when asked about moving forward Thad Young from small forward to the big forward position. Necessity has usurped temptation.
Originally, Collins envisioned his starting lineup to include Spencer Hawes at center, with Young at the small forward. But Hawes became sidelined last week with a strained lower back, and Collins inserted Evan Turner at the shooting guard, moved Andre Iguodala from "two" to "three" and slid Young over to the "four," with Elton Brand holding down Hawes' spot.
The new lineup played to what the team's strength is supposed to be this season - speed. But it also gave up something monumental in the NBA - size. Running out on a break is impossible unless you can rebound the basketball, and with a lineup without Hawes, rebounding just wasn't happening. So Collins is tinkering yet again.
Yesterday, during another long practice at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Collins had Young running with the second team, while trying different players, including rookie Craig Brackins, at power forward.
For Young, now entering his fourth year, it's yet another shuffle in a career full of them.
"It's pretty much been like that since I came into the league," Young said. "I'm kind of used to it now. It doesn't really matter to me. As long as I'm out there on the court helping the team win games, as long as I'm there to finish games and I'm healthy, I'm going to be fine."
Collins has a tough puzzle to put together. He wants to play to the strength, obviously, but will have to sacrifice elsewhere. And this team doesn't have enough horses to be able to make up for glaring weaknesses.
And for every step forward he wants to make in his coaching schemes, there seems to be a need to halt it to reinforce a fundamental of the game.
"We watched film, and the session today was turnovers," the coach said. "We had a little category with the turnover - risk/reward or home run. So we would stop them and ask them if they thought the play they made was risk/reward or did we try to hit a home run. We're just trying to make them aware.
"I'm still trying to figure out who I'm going to start out games with. I don't know yet. It's hard for me right now, because I haven't seen Spencer out there. Hopefully, I'm going to get him back next week and look at him. I sort of feel comfortable with two or three guys right now, and the guys coming off the bench, but I'm just not sure about the other guys right now. Today, I was just mixing and matching to see if I could get a couple of big guys together out there."
One sure thing is that Jrue Holiday will start at point guard. Andre Iguodala also will be in the starting lineup, either at shooting guard or small forward. Lou Williams will be the top guard off the bench and Marreese Speights, who is nursing a sore right hamstring, will be the top big man off the bench.
Which leaves a ton of questions for Collins to try to answer before the season opens Oct. 27 against Miami.
But this isn't a sprint, the coach has hinted again and again since his May hiring. And tinkering will be the norm.
Some might not agree with or like it. Thad Young, however, understands.
"I'm just practicing and playing," Young said. If he decides to take me out of the starting lineup, I'm cool with that. It's happened before. I'll play my way back up into a starting role and do whatever it takes, as long as it's for the team." *
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