HOUSTON - No one wants injuries to happen - not players, coaches or fans. But when they do, opportunities arise. And while the situation might not be ideal, a door opening is always welcomed.
That has been the case for 76ers swingman Dorell Wright. Point guard Jrue Holiday missed his fourth straight game Wednesday with a sprained foot. In the three games before Wednesday night's 125-103 loss to the Houston Rockets, Wright had played between 26 and 30 minutes a game, a huge leap from any other time during the season. Against Houston, he had 20 points and six assists in 39 minutes.
It's no coincidence that his game is coming back to form.
His defense has gotten to where it was at the beginning of the season, when coach Doug Collins could rely on him to cover anyone from small forwards to centers. He has found his shooting touch again, demonstrated Tuesday in Dallas when he hit seven three-pointers and scored a season-high 25.
"Getting the ball in his hands," Collins said in pointing out a reason for Wright's improvement. "That's why we have to make a conscious effort to get that ball ahead on the break. Tuesday, a lot of the good things we did was when we threw the ball ahead or we got some quick penetration and kicked the ball. What he's doing a better job in is, earlier in the year, when teams were running at him, he was taking one dribble and picking up his dribble. Now, what he's doing is he's keeping his dribble and making a play.
"He was really taking the bounce and not really going anywhere with it when he was getting chased off his shot. He's doing a much better job with that, he's rebounding better for us. We'd like for him to push the ball. Without Jrue, I need him to handle the ball to take pressure off Evan [Turner], because it just wears Evan down to have to have the ball so much. Through this time we've had to go through our injuries and stuff, I think Dorell is starting to feel comfortable, and that's really important for us."
Logging big minutes
Before games, Evan Turner is usually found sitting at his locker after his oncourt workout, eating popcorn, talking with teammates and generally having some fun. Recently, he has been on the floor in front of his locker, stretching his aching and tired body.
It's no wonder, as Turner had logged 40 or more minutes in seven of the previous nine games before Wednesday night when he only played 21, leaving the game after rolling his left ankle in the third quarter.
"I'm a little tired but it's all good," Turner said. "I just have to get used to it, but I'll be fine. Guarding the little guards gets a little tiring. [Tuesday] in the second half, my legs were dead, but I just have to get my body used to it. I'm not mentally tired. In college, I went 40 a night, but you go every 3 days. This is something new, but I think I can handle it. I've got my body right. It's mostly about mental toughness, and I'm fine there.
"It gets draining, but it's a good problem to have. I'd be worried if I couldn't do it, but I know that I can do it. It's just making sure your body is ready for things. I think all this now is going to help me further along when January hits and all, and then for the rest of the season."
Turner, a sick workout junkie in the offseason, has lost some weight during the early part of the season, but said his body is right where he wants it.
"I started off at 229 or 230 [pounds] and I'm about 220 now," he said. "That's good, I want to be around 215, 220. You come in heavier before the season knowing you're going to lose weight. I came in with a lot of heavy muscle weight from all the lifting I did over the summer.
"During the season, I'll lift lighter weights with some reps, but it depends on the week. I keep up with my core during the season. I probably lift more than I should during the offseason, but it really helps me."
Jrue Holiday missed his fourth straight game on Wednesday in Houston because of his sprained left foot. The hope, according to Doug Collins, is that he'll be back Friday when the team hosts the Atlanta Hawks. But the coach emphasized he will not send Holiday out on the floor unless he is 100 percent.
"Once he's good to go, he'll go," Collins said. "This isn't an injury that you would say would be chronic unless you tried to do it too soon. I don't think we're sure what happened, how he hurt it. Damien Wilkins was kidding him that it was from coming down 28 times after taking 28 shots [against Chicago his last game]. I'm not sure Jrue knows how he did it.
"He changed his shoes; could it have been because he changed his shoe? We don't know. I don't think this is something that you look at and think that it will reoccur if he lets it heal."