This afternoon Ed Stefanski and the Sixers reached out to a group of Sixers bloggers and Henry Abbott from ESPN's True Hoop
blog for a conference call. Ed made a brief statement, just summing up the Sixers offseason to this point and then fielded questions from everyone involved.
It was good to put a voice to a couple of bloggers I've interacted with online and Ed was forthcoming, didn't dodge any questions. I think all the bloggers present did an excellent job of touching on the main issues heading into the season, I'll try to relate some of what Ed had to say after the jump.
When asked about Thad's transition from the 4 to the 3, it became clear that this could be the critical question of the season. Stefanski said Thad has been working hard all Summer on his handle and the plan right now is for him to play the bulk of his minutes at the three. Later he said definitively that as of now, Iguodala is the starting two guard. The only question is how well Thad will transition. More on this later.
The questions circled to the back court, and Andre Miller's contract situation. Here's what Ed had to say, "Andre does things a little differently from the young guys on the team. Andre likes to take the Summers off. And when I say off, I mean off. He's texted me a couple times to say he's happy with certain moves we've made, but I haven't talked to him. He does not have any representation right now, so we really don't know where he's at. Until he has representation we won't know."
He also pointed out that there really isn't a ticking clock on Andre. Even if they don't get an extension done before the end of the season, they still hold his rights (meaning Bird Rights). I got the feeling that he wants to get together with Miller, and does think keeping him here beyond this season is a priority.
The question I had for Ed was about the Sixers style of play. I've been wondering for some time what the addition of Elton Brand would do to the Sixers' pace. Not because I don't think he can run with the rest of the team, but because if you can play in the half court effectively, would you still choose to run? Stefanski had an interesting response:
"We're not planning on slowing it down. Whenever you run, you need a trailer and Elton is a very good shooter from the elbow. He'd be a perfect guy to trail the break and Sammy can really run with anyone. The biggest change will be when the defense gets back and the run is stopped. I think Elton is going to especially help Sammy in the half court with all the attention he draws. He's going to help everyone by drawing doubles."
This is good news. Running defined this team. It created easy offense and put a ton of pressure on the other team. Even with Brand, I think their legs will still be their biggest advantage over the better teams in the league. Think of Elton as the security blanket. When Iguodala has the ball on the break, but doesn't have the numbers, he doesn't have to force the action. He doesn't have to worry about what the offense will do in the half court, he can just pull it out and feed the ball down low. Quite a luxury.
There were several more questions, and unfortunately my notes aren't great, so I'll touch upon them in bullets:
- Josh Smith was apparently plan A until Brand became available. Ed wouldn't call the deal he eventually signed a bargain, but he did say he thinks Atlanta is very happy with the way it played out.
- When asked if this team is a champion contender he hedged, saying, "We look like a pretty good team on paper."
- Theo Ratliff loves the fans in Philly because "If you work hard in Philly, the fans love you."
- He never met with Josh Childress, but did talk to his agents. Brand's signing put everything else on the back burner.
- Very happy with Marreese Speights so far. Said he's "Athletic, skilled. It's up to him. He has the skills to succeed." Also talked about the background work they did before picking him, they just didn't see any indication that he had a poor work ethic.
- Talked a little bit about having "A lot of guys who I'd just term basketball players." Meaning, it doesn't matter if Iguodala is a 2 or a 3, if Lou is a 1 or a 2. They can just flat out play and in today's game, traditional positions aren't as important as they were years ago.
The call ended when Jordan from SixerSoul
beat me to the punch with a question about Willie Green. Ed's response, "Willie will get an opportunity to play basketball. If Iguodala's minutes swings more to the three, that'll probably mean more minutes for Willie at the two. Willie is part of the team. We don't have any plans to move anyone at this point."
That's really the answer to a couple of unasked questions right there. The roster is set, and Willie will be a part of the rotation. How big of a part he plays will depend largely on Thad's development. If he can handle the three, we won't see a whole lot of Willie. If he can't, well that's not a road we want to go down at this point. Moving Iguodala back to the three for most of his minutes would be a huge blow to the step forward this team has taken. There's a very good chance Green could find himself in the starting lineup again. That's not something anyone wants to see happen.
I'll keep my eyes open for the posts from the other bloggers who were on the call and throw the links up in this post. Thanks to Ed Stefanski, the Sixers' PR department and Michael Preston in particular for setting this up.