THE SECURITY blanket that 76ers coach Doug Collins once coveted was the play of his bench. Last season, Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young provided instant spark nearly every night, often pulling the club out from the holes created by sluggish starts.
And while those times may return when the team gets completely healthy, right now Collins is struggling to just find some consistency from his subs.
In the first 15 games of this season the Sixers were getting 30 points a game from the bench, mainly from Nick Young, Dorell Wright and Spencer Hawes, with a sprinkling of Maalik Wayns, Kwame Brown and Royal Ivey.
But Young missed his second straight game Tuesday against the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves, Wright and Hawes have struggled with their offense and Collins is still trying to find trust in Brown and Wayns. Tuesday the bench was outscored by 32-4 in the first half of the 105-88 blowout loss, before closing that gap with a bunch of meaningless minutes in the second half. They had combined for just 32 points the previous two games.
"Sure we're worried because last year it was a real strength," Collins said. "Three of our starters were bench guys [Lavoy Allen, Evan Turner and Thad Young] and Lou Williams was second in Sixth Man of the Year [voting]. It was a huge thing for us last year coming in with that bench. We're still finding out what guys can do, night in and night out. Just bring what you bring, that's the most important thing. But we have guys who are key off that bench. I think Spencer's very, very key for us off that bench and when Nick is healthy, we need those two guys to know night to night exactly what we're getting from those two guys and then the other guys, we'll figure out how that fits in based on how the game is going."
Minnesota All-Star forward Kevin Love has mentioned among his idols growing up were Moses Malone and Wes Unseld (a family friend). It's no wonder he has such a passion for rebounding the basketball. Entering Tuesday's game Love is averaging 14.6 rebounds in the seven games he had played after missing the first nine with a broken right hand.
"He's one of the more difficult matchups of the year," said Thaddeus Young, assigned to Love much of the evening. "He's a guy who never stops going to the basket, he's very active. He's the best rebounder in the league. He's one of those guys that you just have to try to keep your body between him and the basket, get the rebound and just try to run him up and down the court.
"Kevin Love just has a knack for going and getting boards. I would say him and [Denver's Kenneth] Faried as the two of the most active guys on the boards. He's always getting into guys and trying to find his way around you to get to his spot for a rebound. Kevin is a guy who just has a natural feel for the game.
Asked if Arnett Moultrie might soon be headed to the NBA Development League, Doug Collins said that subject has been discussed.
"We'd like to see him get a chance to play," Collins said. "There's a couple spots on the schedule where maybe he can be gone for maybe 10 or 11 days and maybe get six or seven games in. He needs to play. There's no question he needs to get out there and play. It's hard to get him minutes. He missed a lot of time [with an ankle injury]. Those 4 months that he missed with that injury really set him back. I really didn't expect him to be a factor until January after that ankle injury. He's done some decent things for us, but he needs to get in shape and the only way you can do that is to play in games. You can't do that on the elliptical or the anti-gravity machine, you have to get out there and bang bodies and run and then you'll find out what you can do as an NBA player. I'm sure [general manager] Tony [DiLeo] and I will sit down and see what the schedule is and find a good time for him.