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The Long, Cold Summer

We're now roughly 71 hours away from a lockout. The players' union basically thumbed their noses at the owners' latest proposal and didn't even bother to submit a counter-proposal. There doesn't appear to be any way this lockout will be averted. Forget the union for a second, and let's talk about what this lockout means for the players who will essentially be rudderless for an indeterminate period of time.

For guys who are under contract, this summer might not be all that much different from other summers, except the team-sponsored activities will be verboten. No more coming together at PCOM for some five-on-five. Jrue, Turner, Meeks, Brand, Lou, Nocioni, Speights and Iguodala will pretty much be on their own. Left to their own devices to do what they need to do in order to stay in shape, at the bare minimum, and improve their games ideally. You can look at that list of names and probably make an educated guess as to who will take their summers seriously, and really define what taking their summer seriously means. Jrue put in a ton of work last summer, not only on the court, but also working with Maurice Green, a former Olympic gold medalist sprinter, to improve his explosiveness. Jrue will probably be in LA, and elsewhere, working on various parts of his game and putting in long hours at the gym. I feel pretty confident that no matter how long this lockout lasts, Jrue will be in shape when it's over and ready to take the next step in his career.

As for Iguodala, assuming he's still on the team, (which seems like a much safer assumption now than it did a week ago), his top priority has to be rest in the short term. The lockout could actually play in his favor in that regard. It could allow him to properly rest his myriad wear-and-tear injuries, and then put in a full summer's worth of workouts to hopefully put the injury bug behind him after his grueling 24-month campaign (2009-2010, Team USA, 2010-2011 season.) Again, if history is any indication, Iguodala will be ready to go. Brand is a pro, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt as well.

Turner and Meeks are a little bit unknown, but both guys seem dedicated to their jobs and willing to work, so assume they'll be in the gym as well.

When we get beyond those guys, however, things get a bit murky. Lou may be one of those guys who doesn't need to be in the gym to retain his skills. It's pretty natural for him. His outside interests seem like a distraction to me, but he's always in shape, and he seems to keep things in balance off the floor, so I'm less concerned that he'll be able to keep that up than some of the other guys. Speights, I'm flat out worried about. Ever since his knee injury, he's been a sloth, to put it kindly. Without the team to keep him focused (and playing), who knows what will become of Marreese. I could see him reporting back to camp 50 pounds heavier than when we last saw him, and let's face it, he wasn't exactly in shape even with the team pushing him.

That covers the important guys who are under contract, but the bigger concern might be the guys who aren't. Thad will be a restricted free agent when the lockout ends, and he'll be looking for a monster pay day. The ambiguity of his contract situation inserts a ton of risk into everything he does. If he blows out his knee in a pick-up game, he could cost himself tens of millions of dollars. It seems like he's taking that risk very seriously. The 700 level interviewed Thad last week and when they asked him about his plans for the summer, he said he won't be playing any five-on-five, but he will be working out, he will be "staying in shape." This worries me, to a degree. I mean, if New Jersey signs Thad away from the Sixers, then who cares if he blows his summer and doesn't improve a bit? But if Thad takes it easy for a six month lockout then signs an extension with the Sixers, well, that's a lost summer, that's lost time for him to improve upon the things you don't get a chance to work on during the season. That's a big deal to me.

The team's other free agent is Spencer Hawes. I doubt the lockout will impact his "workout" regimen greatly, considering he doesn't really appear to have one.

Around the league, teams and players will have to deal with these issues. The Sixers aren't alone, and they probably won't be affected as much as some other teams, considering they've, for the most part, put together a core of stand-up guys who take basketball seriously and aren't averse to hard work. But this is an angle that isn't talked about much concerning the lockout. There are a ton of misguided, immature players in this league. Guys who will see a lockout as a vacation, or time to party (until they don't get a paycheck). Maybe the character of the guys the Sixers have drafted will actually help them get off to a quick start when the lockout does end, there are definitely teams in their own division with key players who have either motivation or weight issues.

Even though I sort of poked fun at it yesterday, I think the fact that Doug Collins is making a point of meeting with each of his guys prior to the lockout shouldn't be overlooked. They trust him, they believe in him at this point. It's important for a voice from the team to maybe give them some focus heading into a summer that may bleed into the fall, or longer. Things could get ugly and we could miss a significant amount of basketball, but eventually we will come out the other side. Hopefully, Collins will be able to keep the Sixers players focused on what they need to accomplish to reach their goals when the dog and pony show is over.
by Brian on Jun 28 2011
Tags: Basketball | Lockout | Sixers |