DOUG COLLINS knows what 76ers fans are thinking, what they're saying, what they're questioning. He is not oblivious when the question arises as to why Evan Turner, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft, can't unseat incumbent Jodie Meeks as the starting shooting guard.

But, Collins insists, Turner is a starter. Sort of. He might not be on the court for the opening tip, but he is entrenched in the spot where his coach believes he is most beneficial to the team.

"Evan's been very aggressive, he's been looking to score," Collins said. "He's in a very good place. I spoke to Evan the other day, in front of the team, and I said, 'Evan, you probably have been our hardest worker in the offseason with one goal in mind, to be a starter on this team.' And I said, 'You are a starter. As one of our better players, you're a starter. But what you do for our team, with Thad [Young] and Lou [Williams], is if I were to put Jodie in your spot and put you in his, we're not as good a team right now because Jodie would get lost with Lou and Thad. I know you [media] get hit all the time about, 'Why isn't he starting, being the No. 2 pick in the draft?' To me, he is a starter.

"We've got eight guys on this team who are capable of starting. It's up to me to put the puzzle together and to do that, you have to have people who trust you enough that you're doing it for the right reasons. Thad and Lou did that last year. Thad was rewarded with a nice contract and our team won. I hold them up every single day as guys who star in their roles. When more people star in their roles it gives us a better chance to win."

Maintenance day

Starting point guard Jrue Holiday and sub Lou Williams sat out most of yesterday's practice. Holiday was sidelined with a recurring strained left Achilles', while Williams rested a sore left hamstring. Both were not too concerned with their aches.

"There's a little soreness there," said Williams, who averaged 14.5 points in the Sixers' two preseason wins over the Washington Wizards. "Obviously our schedule is a little out of whack, starting a little late, so we're dealing with a lot of working out, a lot of pickup games. So I started feeling a little soreness in the hamstring so we just took a day off. We're not trying to kill anybody. As many games as we have in this condensed schedule we want to be more healthy for the games than for the practices. I came in, got some treatment and coach decided he didn't want us to go, so that was that."

Williams was then asked if he could have played had it been a game day. "Absolutely. It's nothing to be worried about now."

Holiday was just as blasé about his Achilles', assuring that he is just being cautious. "Just being careful. The season is going to be crazy. This really isn't something you should fight through right now."

Six Shots

Collins said the team would have a hard practice today. After that, players are on their own until a Christmas practice in Portland at 6 p.m. The team charter leaves at noon on Christmas Day. Players can either take that flight or meet up with the team in Portland . . . Rookie Nikola Vucevic looked good again in practice yesterday. Though Collins has said he doesn't want to rush him into action, he might have to.