Ever since coach Doug Collins took over the 76ers and got a chance to look at the talent that was assembled, he noticed that there didn't seem to be much difference between the "firsts" and the "seconds."
In fact, many times at practice, it was the second unit that was winning the end-of-practice scrimmages.
In Sunday's win at New York, without injured Andre Iguodala, Collins watched his team earn its second win of the season mainly due to a lot of those "seconds."
Rookie Evan Turner made his first start of the season, in place of Iguodala, scoring 14 points while grabbing 10 rebounds. Veteran center Tony Battie contributed a solid 16 minutes, stabilizing a defense that was surrendering easy baskets that had put them in a nine-point hole.
Guard Jodie Meeks, activated for the first time this season, also provided a spark off the bench, collecting five points and three steals in 16 minutes.
"I used him as an example [Sunday] when I talked to [rookie] Craig Brackins about the one thing in this league is that you're always one ankle turn away from your opportunity to play," Collins said.
"Jodie's been our odd man out and not because of his own doing. It has nothing to do with anything that he has or has not done. It's just the numbers were out there and it's tough to get him time. He took advantage of his opportunity. He's a competitor, he's high energy, he's tough, he's not afraid to take big shots. I thought he helped turn the game around. He did, Tony Battie did, I thought Mo Speights gave us some good minutes. They were critical for us winning that game."
After putting up major numbers in three seasons at Kentucky, Meeks finds himself in a numbers crunch this year with the Sixers. When the Sixers were unable to draft him in last year's draft, they were happy to be able to pull off a trade at the deadline to land the 6-4 shooting guard. He is a relentless worker in practice and before games and seems always ready to go. His number just hasn't been called. Until Sunday.
"You always want to play," Meeks said, "but when I got my opportunity I have no complaints, I'm just ready to go. I'm pretty much comfortable whenever my number is called. I try not to get too excited, when I have an open shot, take it and play hard on defense.
"In the summertime [Collins] told me that [playing time would be limited]. I try to minimize as many mistakes as I can, cause I can't afford to do that. I thought we played pretty well when we were out there [against the Knicks]. We were down by nine at one point and came back and took the lead. Hopefully, whenever our number is called, we'll be ready again."
Iguodala's status for tomorrow's game in Oklahoma City still remains up in the air. He did not practice again yesterday due to a strained right Achilles' tendon, and didn't sound so sure that he'd be ready to go, though his coach sounded a little more optimistic.
"It's still a little stiff," Iguodala said the day after his streak of 252 consecutive starts was halted. "The one thing we don't want to have a problem with is coming back too fast and overcompensating and something else happens. We're just being cautious."
Asked whether tomorrow is a possibility, Iguodala said: "Not sure. I haven't practiced. I talked about that with our trainer as well, about not practicing and then getting thrown right back into the flame too fast - going from just walking around to all out sprinting in NBA action. We'll see how it goes."
Said Collins: "I would think, unless he had a dramatic setback or whatever, I would think that he would probably be able to go."
If not, Collins is plenty comfortable with the replacements. He has been since training camp.
Swingman Jason Kapono did not practice due to personal reasons . . . All of yesterday's practice was non-contact . . . After Oklahoma City, the team plays in Dallas on Friday and in San Antonio on Saturday. The Sixers finish the road trip on Tuesday in Cleveland.
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