WITH FREE agency still changing rosters throughout the league and rumors of trades swirling, this just might be the season when returning what you had is a good thing. The 76ers sure hope so, as just about all of their roster is back and will take the court for the season opener on Monday in Portland.
Here's a look at the roster and what each player needs to do - and can't do - in order for the season to be a success for second-year coach Doug Collins.
JRUE HOLIDAY HAS TO: Continue, and maybe hasten, the rise that Collins sees him taking to become one of the upper-echelon point guards in the league. If his numbers can grow to the 16-point and eight-assist area, this team will benefit greatly. His outside shooting seems to have improved tremendously. That could help open the offense for the likes of Andre Iguodala, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young. CAN'T: Become too unselfish. It appears most of Holiday's mistakes offensively occur when he tries to make one too many passes. For him, selfishness can sometimes be a good thing.
ANDRE IGUODALA HAS TO: Embrace that being a very good all-around player is exactly what this team needs. On different nights, Collins will need him to be the defensive stopper or top scorer or best rebounder or playmaker. If Iguodala is engaged to being all of that, Collins will be his biggest fan in the city. CAN'T: Settle for long, stand-still jump shots. When Iguodala takes two or three power dribbles to the basket, few players in the league can handle his quickness and athleticism.
ELTON BRAND HAS TO: Stay healthy. For a guy who would still love to average 20 points and 10 rebounds a game and be the main focus of the offense, Brand has smoothly made the transition from star to team player. He rightfully prides himself on leading the team in points, rebounds and blocked shots. That might not be the case again this season, but Collins needs his only true low-post player for all 66 games. CAN'T: Change a thing. The ultimate pro who approaches each game and practice like a highschooler, Brand, 32, is the leader on and off the court this young team needs to help keep growing.
SPENCER HAWES HAS TO: Stay in shape. That allows Hawes to do the things the Sixers brought him here to do, which is hit open jump shots out to 20 feet, run the floor and use his passing skills from the perimeter. It also enables him to be a double-digit rebounder. CAN'T: Get down on himself. Many times last season, probably due to frustration with his lack of conditioning, Hawes got so flustered that it affected his performance on the court. He is a mental player. If that part of his game isn't there, everything else fails.
JODIE MEEKS HAS TO: Make open shots. Sounds simple, but Meeks is in the starting lineup for that sole purpose. He shot 42.5 percent from the floor last season, including 39.7 from three-point range. Like a lot of players who are in Meeks' kind of role, he was a streak shooter. But the team needs better than that. When he has a wide-open shot, which often happens, he needs to drain most of them. His percentages need to rise to somewhere close to 46 and 42 percent. CAN'T: Become a player who starts forcing shots and looking for more on offense than what he's needed for. With his great attitude, though, that really doesn't seem to be a concern.
THADDEUS YOUNG HAS TO: Become a serious threat from the 15- to 18-foot range. When/if Young can do that, he might become virtually unstoppable at the offensive end. Opposing power forwards cannot stay with Young when he is going to the basket. Their only hope is to back off Young and stop his drives to the hole. If he can hit that mid-range jumper consistently, there's not much of a defensive solution. CAN'T: Allow the daily pounding of defending far bigger opponents to wear him down. Young is very good at not getting into shoving matches when he is guarding other "fours" in the league. Some nights the pounding is more necessary than others. He will have to be smart about throwing around his body.
EVAN TURNER HAS TO: Get off to a quick start to the season. He will be vastly improved over last season. That can be predicted solely on his regained confidence. But also, his game has gotten much better. He is in a more comfortable place, ready for the mental and physical grind that an NBA season (especially this one) entails. He also will benefit from Collins diagramming more sets in which Turner has the ball in his hands. CAN'T: Change the way he played in college, which made him the consensus national player of the year. During his junior season at Ohio State, Turner thrived with the ball in his hands and was a terror on the backboards, averaging more than nine rebounds. Though his outside shot has improved, the groove that he had as a Buckeye needs to return.
LOU WILLIAMS HAS TO: Pretty much duplicate what he did last season, when he averaged 13.7 points in just over 23 minutes of play. He is the best pure scorer on the team, combining a threatening outside shot with an ability to get to the hole and either score or draw a foul. Usually when he is driving, something good happens. If he can improve upon his 40.6 percent field- goal shooting from a year ago, his numbers may rise. CAN'T: Be slowed by injuries. After Holiday, the Sixers are really thin at point guard. Williams is mostly a shooter coming off the bench but is also the only other option at lead guard should something happen to Holiday.
MARREESE SPEIGHTS HAS TO: Stay in shape and play defense. It's pretty much been the same story throughout his 4-year career. He will be needed early in the season, due to the crazy schedule and until rookie Nikola Vucevic is ready to put in serious minutes. CAN'T: Solely rely on his offensive skills to keep him on the court. The math is pretty easy. Speights can't be giving up twice as many points as he scores.
NIKOLA VUCEVIC HAS TO: Absorb, absorb, absorb. At least early in the season, Vucevic has to be a sponge to all the things Collins, Brand and Tony Battie will be teaching him. He seems to be the perfect student to do just that. His time will come and he could surprise people. CAN'T: Let this craziness of a season (66 games in 123 days) discourage him. The NBA, with the travel and schedule and talent, is overwhelming enough for a rookie in a normal season.
CRAIG BRACKINS HAS TO: Embrace whatever time he does get. He was the perfect "redshirt freshman," as Collins labeled him last season. His minutes will be scattered, but he'll need to make the most of it when his number is called. CAN'T: Become a total outside player. His long-range shooting is impressive, but he also can do some damage around the rim. He will have to find balance in his offensive game.
TONY BATTIE HAS TO: Continue being the ultimate professional, which is the main reason he is back. He'll mentor Hawes, Vucevic and Lavoy Allen, providing invaluable lessons in what it takes to stay and thrive in the league. CAN'T: Be outdressed by any player on the team. Battie is a GQ model in waiting. Perhaps one of the best dressers in the league.
ANDRES NOCIONI HAS TO: Be patient. It's obvious his minutes won't be plentiful. He'll be a situational player this season, perhaps called on to defend a hot opponent or maybe looked to for a big shot, but those times will be few and far between. CAN'T: Rock the boat. A fierce competitor, Nocioni no doubt could become frustrated, which won't help anyone.
LAVOY ALLEN HAS TO: Just appreciate where he is and continue to play to his strengths (rebounding, defense) and look to improve his weakness (offense). His is a super strong player who needs to learn to use that more. CAN'T: Miss any pregame three-on-three games that are supervised by assistant coach Aaron McKie. Those sessions are priceless.