WHAT A difference a day makes.
After a productive 2-hour teaching session on Tuesday, the last workout of training camp, coach Doug Collins had planned for his team to get in two, maybe three quarters of scrimmaging. But sloppy play, the result of tired minds and bodies, put that plan to a halt before even the second stanza was completed.
After some choice words from Collins, the coach then ended the session with encouragement and a quick laugh before sending the team on its way.
When players reconvened yesterday morning at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, they were gathered to watch a tape. Not of Wednesday's fiasco, but from last season.
"They made a real nice team video from last year that was a feel-good tape, and I showed that to our guys before practice," Collins said. "It was about 5 or 6 minutes long. [CEO] Adam Aron put it together. It was really great and I think it made our guys excited about when we get healthy and strong and we're in shape and everything, that's the way we play. I think it helped us at practice today."
The scrimmaging lasted only a quarter, with the first team (starters Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes) defeating the second team (Evan Turner, Lou Williams, Craig Brackins, Thaddeus Young and Nikola Vucevic) in a game that showcased fresh legs, crisp passing and accurate shooting.
"I've learned a lot in this short training camp," Collins said. "There's a limit as to what I can do, timewise. [Wednesday] we had the scrimmage at the end, and the guys were shot. So I just let them know, 2 hours and 15 [minutes for practice]. When we go 3 [hours] or whatever, we can't get anything accomplished except maybe getting somebody hurt. Today, our guys were full of energy. The scrimmage was fantastic. It was a very, very good day.
"Yesterday, I made a mistake of keeping our guys out there too long. I apologized to them. I'm learning through this condensed time, too."
And now things start to open up a little bit, with the first of two preseason games tonight in Washington. The two teams will go at it again here on Tuesday, then Collins will have the next 3 days to get ready for the season opener in Portland on Dec. 26. Collins will give the players off on Christmas Eve, then they all will fly out West on Christmas Day.
"If [tonight] was one of eight exhibition games, that would be one thing, but it's one of two," Collins said. "So it's a little bit different. I think the one thing about it is that I think the guys trust me and I trust them."
As for how he'll handle his roster tonight, Collins will do it carefully.
"[Tonight] probably nobody will play more than 24 minutes, that's what I would like," Collins said. "We've got 10 or 11 guys that I would like to get them time if I could. A lot of time, you script it before the game, so instead of looking to go out to score or do a normal substitution pattern, you try to script a little more, so maybe guys go 6 or 7 or 8 hard minutes. I don't like substituting five at a time. We'll see different combinations with each other. I might start with a group of guys and then when they come back, I'll go with a different group of guys, so I start getting a feel of just who is playing well together."
Collins had Evan Turner handling the ball for the second team yesterday, with Lou Williams playing off the ball . . . The first team won the one-quarter scrimmage, 29-25, as Spencer Hawes scored the final four points for the winners in the waning seconds. On one possession, the second team passed up two semi-open shots to find Lou Williams for a wide-open three, which he drained.
Last season, Spencer Hawes started 81 of 82 games for the team at center, averaging about 20 minutes a game. What hurt Hawes was an early-season injury that cost him most of the preseason, resulting in him getting out of shape and landing on the bench for long periods of time.
This year, though, Hawes reported to camp in great shape, both mentally and physically. Often a hothead on the court, both at himself and others, Hawes says he has learned to curtail the outbursts. Somewhat.
"I think you get older, you get smarter and you learn. Part of what's always made me good is that I've always had this kind of chip on my shoulder and had a little bit of attitude, but if you put too much into it, it could hinder you," Hawes said. "Being a little bit more mature and learning how to channel that the right way instead of reacting on every little play when something doesn't go my way. I just need to go on to the next play and not be so hard on myself. As I've learned to do that, I think it makes the game a little easier."
The two final offensive possessions of yesterday's scrimmage showed exactly what Collins wants from his 23-year-old big man. While Jrue Holiday beat his man off the dribble and drove down the left baseline, he found a cutting Hawes, who took the pass and threw down a dunk. Then, on an inside-out play, Hawes spotted up perfectly from about 20 feet, took the pass and calmly drained his jumper just as the shot clock expired, drawing shouts of praise from Collins.
"I think just slowing down. Early in your career, you come in and you don't get as many opportunities, so you want to make the most of them and then speed yourself up," Hawes said. "Having a little bit of maturity now and watching guys over the summer, I think that I've learned a lot. Some of the guys at my position, they take their time and get where they want and just shoot it. And if they go in, it goes in, and if you miss, you move on to the next one. Being able to take a step back from myself and observe some other guys and how they are able to do it helps me out."
Said Collins: "When Spencer Hawes plays well, we're a different team. And to think where he is now to where he was last year, it is light-years."
The Sixers will hold a scrimmage open to fans at the Palestra on Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m. Doors will open to fans at 5 p.m. Admission is free, with the first 1,500 getting free Sixers shirts. The Sixers dancers will perform at 5:30, and the team will take the court at 6. During the scrimmage, Doug Collins will wear a microphone.