THURSDAY WAS, as always, the hardest day to be a coach for Brett Brown. That's because, just like at every level he's been a coach, he had to cut players, thus diminishing their basketball dreams in some sense.
Brown and general manager Sam Hinkie broke the bad news to Khalif Wyatt, Vander Blue, Mac Koshwal and Royce White on Thursday, trimming the roster to 16, one above the limit that must be reached on Monday.
Wyatt and Blue were understandable cuts, as there simply was more talent in front of them in Michael Carter-Williams, James Anderson, Tony Wroten, Darius Morris and Evan Turner, who can play either guard spot. Though the team is rail-thin at the big men spots, forward Koshwal never appeared to have a shot at making the team.
The lack of numbers in low-post players is exactly why it was sort of surprising that White was given his walking papers. Acquired from the Houston Rockets in the offseason for a good price (Houston will pay all of his guaranteed $1.7 million) and with a pretty good variety of talent, White appeared to be, as coach Brown called it, "an intriguing player on the team." But in the end, there were just too many variables that kept White from making the roster.
He came into camp not in very good shape. He said it was due to a lack of activity, because he spent most of last season in a battle with the Rockets on how to handle his anxiety disorder, which makes it nearly impossible for him to travel via airplane. White acknowledged that his timing was off and that he had a little more bulk than he would like, but assured that wouldn't be a problem for long.
His lack of fitness did show in games, however, as he was in foul trouble from the second he walked onto the court in each game. He committed an astounding 20 fouls in only 94 minutes. And while he showed some flashes in his game, he still shot only 39 percent from the floor and 43 percent from the free throw line, and committed 17 turnovers.
Both White and the team decided he wouldn't make the flight to Europe for the first two preseason games, but he did fly to Charlotte and made it by auto to a game in Columbus, Ohio, against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The anxiety issue wasn't the sole reason he was cut, but it probably did come into play.
"We want to pay attention to him," Brown said after yesterday's 2-plus-hour practice at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. "We'd like to keep him very much within our reach, and keep him in mind. It gets down to basketball decisions and how do you form a team and all the components that come up with that. I've been doing this for a long time. I've cut many, many people, and it's never easy, because he is a talent, and I think he's a good person. From a team perspective, it wasn't meant to be."
White likely will end up with the Sixers' NBA Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers.
One man's loss is another's gain, and the grin swing man Rodney Williams wore nearly gave away his thoughts. The 6-7 rookie from Minnesota has one of the most innocent, boyish faces in the NBA, and it was stuck on grin mode yesterday. While one more player still must go, Williams knows the glory of living through another cut.
"I just wasn't someone who was being talked to," Williams said of his avoiding the getting-cut talk. "That's how I found out that I was going to stick around. I thought about it, but I really didn't hide from anyone.
"I just come in with the same attitude and work as hard as I can. I don't try to do too much and just try to play my game, and that all starts on the defensive end for me. Just come out here and bring it in practice."
Williams has seen action in only two games this preseason, but they've been in the last two, as Brown tries to get a feel for the rookie. In 32 minutes, he has made only one of six shots. But he does have three each of rebounds and blocks, and that is where he could help this team, on the defensive end.
The Sixers have until Oct. 21 to offer Evan Turner a qualifying offer, which would pay him $8.7 million next season. If the Sixers don't offer it to him, he most likely would become an unrestricted free agent. Said Turner yesterday about it: "I just show up and work hard. It doesn't really bother me. I just take it one day at a time. I'll be somewhere next year, so all that other stuff doesn't bother me. I'm going to play hard, and I'm going to get my money, regardless" . . . Tickets remain available for the season opener Wednesday against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat . . . Earlier that day, Allen Iverson is expected to announce his retirement from the NBA.