There are few things that will get 76ers coach Doug Collins more upset than to have his big men play like waifs rather than warriors. He wants them to rebound with physicality and to defend with vigor.
These concepts are not lost on rookie power forward and former Temple standout Lavoy Allen. Selected by the Sixers in the second round with the 50th pick overall, Allen - Temple's all-time leading rebounder (1,147) - hopes to earn a roster spot. He'll get that chance beginning Friday as the Sixers open training camp at St. Joseph's University.
Second-round picks do not receive guaranteed contracts. So if Allen is going to make the team, which begins its lockout-shortened season on Dec. 26 at Portland, he's going to have catch Collins' eyes early and often.
"I definitely have to hustle, make plays like diving on the floor for balls and stuff like that," Allen said Wednesday during informal workouts at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. "That and making it tough for the veteran guys. I'm not just going to go in there and back up off of them. I'm going to hit them a little bit and be aggressive with them."
A four-year starter at Temple, Allen, who averaged 11.5 points and 10.7 rebounds as a junior, posted similar scoring numbers as a senior (11.6) but saw his rebounding dip slightly (8.6). He helped lead the Owls to three straight Atlantic Ten titles, and last year he helped Temple reach the third round of the NCAA tournament.
After the college season, he embarked on a conditioning program focused on building his body and his stamina.
Nevertheless, the lockout forced him to seek other opportunities. So rather than sit around over the summer, Allen signed overseas with Strasbourg IG in France. He said the conditioning was great - "we ran through the forest and did a lot of sprints" - but he also said that he learned more about the mental aspects of the game under the tutelage of his coach, Vincent Collet.
"It was a good experience," Allen said. "I played against some good competition in a pretty good league. My coach was the coach of the French national team, so I think I learned from him. And I had some great teammates."
Allen's Strasbourg contract ran through early next year. However, it contained a clause that allowed him to opt out once the NBA went back to work. Where he finds himself now is trying to make a team that has significantly more talent at the guard and small forward positions than it does at power forward and center. According to a league source, the Sixers are very high on him.
Allen returned from France last Sunday and he has not let potential jet lag slow him down. On Monday, he was back at Temple, working out with some of his old teammates. And on Tuesday he was at PCOM, eager to work on his game.
On Thursday he received a vote of confidence from power forward Elton Brand.
"He's a good, talented young player, and we need another bruiser like that," Brand said. "I'm happy he has a legitimate shot to make the team because we can always use a guy with presence who's physical."
Allen likes his chances as well.
"Yeah, I think I have a legitimate chance," Allen said. "They were telling me I have the skills and all of that, and they just want to see a little bit more fire in me. Just being aggressive every single play on the court."
For the next few weeks, he's going to get every opportunity to do just that.