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With new coach Collins, Sixers have few age-old concerns

CHILDREN ARE often the most resilient people we will ever know. Adversity bounces off them as quickly as they grow up.

Thaddeus Young is one of several young players the Sixers will rely on for contributions. (Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)
Thaddeus Young is one of several young players the Sixers will rely on for contributions. (Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)Read more

CHILDREN ARE often the most resilient people we will ever know. Adversity bounces off them as quickly as they grow up.

Doug Collins is counting on his new, very youthful team to have the same quality. Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Marreese Speights, Lou Williams and Thad Young all were witness to, and part of, last season's disaster in which first-year coach Eddie Jordan seemed to alienate his players.

None of those players mentioned is older than 23. Add to the mix rookie Evan Turner (21) and Spencer Hawes (22), and you start to understand just how youthful a group Collins will oversee beginning today when training starts at Saint Joseph's University.

"I think last year was an eye-opener for everybody," said Williams, who will turn 24 next month and is entering his sixth NBA season. "It's good to have such a young group, where we can forget about bad things more easily. We came in last week [for workouts], and the only thing we've talked about is just winning, getting on the same page and listening to coach Collins. I think that's important for us. I'm ready to win. I know how it feels to lose, and it's an awful feeling from last year, and I don't want that again."

In Collins, the players know they are getting a person who will praise them for their good work, be a stickler for every last detail and let them know when something is not the way it should be.

"He's great, because he doesn't try and take away what we do," said Williams, who averaged a career-high 14 points last season. "He understands what kind of players he has and he tries to maximize that. He knows I'm a scorer, so since I've been with him, he's putting me in the right positions to score. During pickup games, he's telling me that he wants me to think about this and he wants me to think about that, but it's all stuff that's within our realm. It's not taking guys out of their comfort zones for the sake of saying he's a great coach for doing it. He's a great coach by utilizing the guys that he has and going to their strengths. That's what we all like about him."

What Collins likes about his team is its lack of years. He has praised Holiday since being hired, declaring he very soon will be one of the NBA's top point guards. Holiday is certainly a huge part of what this organization hopes is a turnaround year.

"I think since I got the chance to play last year after the All-Star break, I know my confidence built and it just kept on building," Holiday said. "When they say stuff like that, it definitely does feel good, but you have to stay humble and keep working."

At the ripe age of 20, Holiday is now thrust into a leadership role as the starting point guard.

"I think that just comes naturally to me, ever since I was little," he said. "It also helps having the guys on my team, beginning with Andre [Iguodala], who just came back from the USA team [which won gold in FIBA World Championships]; you have Elton Brand, who's been in the league. Even Lou, who's helped me out significantly last year and now this year. I guess on the court, it's not as hard because of our style of play. We are up and down and like to get the ball out and score like that. I think it's going to be pretty easy."

At the end of last season, Holiday made playing in the NBA look easy and has continued to do so during workouts with teammates.

"The first thing that jumps out at you is his size for his position," Hawes said of Holiday. "The way he's built [6-4, solid 190 pounds] is more and more becoming the standard for successful point guards in the league. The thing for him that stands out is his poise and the pace he plays at and his vision. All those things are well beyond his years. The things he can do with the ball and the mentality he has as a point guard is becoming rarer these days."

The Sixers hope the woes of last season are just as rare.

Trade talk

With sources telling the Daily News on Sunday that the Denver Nuggets and Sixers had talked about a trade that would involve Andre Iguodala and Carmelo Anthony, Iguodala was asked about it yesterday, and took the professional route.

"I don't really pay too much attention to it," he said. "I get friends and family, they ask me about it. That's about the only time I hear it. The reaction is it's a business, the NBA is a business. Those things are going to come up, no matter who the player is. You just feel honored that somebody else respects your game and your work ethic. My focus is, right now, along with the rest of the guys, to get this team where it needs to be and headed in the right direction."

General manager Ed Stefanski said he wouldn't comment on the trade rumors.

Six shots

Elton Brand looked fit and slim yesterday, saying he weighs 252 pounds, 3 pounds lighter than where Doug Collins wanted him to be at the start of training camp . . . New players Darius Songaila and Craig Brackins, acquired last week in a trade, were not at the Wells Fargo Center because they had not completed their physicals . . . All players ran a mile under the time that was set for them. Rumors had it that Evan Turner was the fastest, in a little more than 5 minutes . . . Turner said he has lost about 10 pounds since playing in the Orlando Summer League in early July . . . The team will have two workouts today to start training camp. The first preseason game is next Tuesday against the New Jersey Nets in Roanoke, Va. The next night, they will face the Boston Celtics in Manchester, N.H. *

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