Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Observations from the Bench

Just as the NBA preseason was about to tip off, I had the opportunity to accompany a buddy of mine to a Sixers practice, scrimmage, and meet-and-greet session with the players. All season ticket holders got the open invite to come out and see how the 2009/2010 squad is shaping up.

These are my observations.

  • Upon entering, it becomes evident the Sixers spare no expense for their season ticket holders. (Probably because there are so few of them). There is quite a nice spread of food and various adult beverages. I am surprised and pleased by this.
  • We take seats directly behind the players’ bench. We can pretty much hear everything the coaching staff and players are saying. This is the closest I've ever been to an athlete besides two autograph signings I've attended. (Cole Hamels and Irving Fryar for those of you keeping score).
  • Jason Smith is listed at 7-0 feet tall. This is a bold face lie. Primoz Brezec is listed as only an inch taller on the 76ers website, but as they stand next to each other, Brezec is quite obviously several inches taller - or Smith just isn't 7 feet. (thats what she said).
  • Elton brand is absolutely ripped. He's looking slimmer, healthier, and stronger than last year. He definitely came to camp ready to play.
  • Jason Kapono is a robot. He has yet to miss a shot from anywhere on the floor during warm-ups.
  • Opening drills begin. Iguodala isn’t really attempting any fancy dunks in the layup drill like I'd hoped. Others are however and I'm thoroughly entertained.
  • Samuel Dalembert is actually a funny guy. And dare I say - has a likeable personality??? It’s true. He's cracking jokes with the fans, dancing around, and interacting with everyone. With all of this, I wonder if he’s really such a bad guy. I can’t help but finally have a soft spot for Sammy D and decide I’ll start to give him some slack.
  • The scrimmage has started. It's first-team vs second-team.  Jason Kapono misses his first shot attempt. Figures.
  • I think Lou Williams is going to be a huge part of this team. While he’s certainly not the ideal or traditional pass-first point guard, he will flourish in this offense. You should expect a big year from him. Book it.
  • Thaddeus Young leaves the scrimmage. Looks like some type of injury/strain but definitely nothing serious. I’m more upset I won’t be getting his autograph now.
  • Willie Green will continue to suck. Later, when we actually get to meet Willie, we’re sure to give him a back-handed complement about his attempt to play a little point guard this season. I will continue to forever hate him.
  • Eddie Jordan’s offense is well suited for this group of players. I think the Sixers will surprise people this year. Not as in win the division or anything. But maybe a 4 seed??
  • 1st round pick Jrue Holiday played well in limited minutes. He's raw, but he can fly down the court.
  • Randy Ayers is the quietest yeller ever. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t want to yell in front of the fans in this setting, but I can’t see how he's getting any of his points across. I’d kind of like to see a coach go off on a player in an intimate setting like this. Sure, some of these fans would find it uncomfortable, but I think it would be rather interesting to see up close.
  • Sammy has by far received the most attention from the coaching staff. And not in a good way. He continues to be called out on stupid mental mistakes. Even as he’s standing there being corrected, you can just see the advice going in one ear and out the other. No more slack. I officially hate him again.
  • Scrimmage over. The 1st team nearly doubles up the 2nd team. I guess that’s about right. Anything less would’ve just made me disappointed.
  • I get autographs from six or seven of the players and get a picture with Elton Brand. I immediately switch this to the background for my phone. I'm a tool.

So all in all, I had a great time and hope the Sixers do more of these for fans. It certainly a gives you a different perspective on the game that you're normally not privileged to see.

I liked what I saw from this team. They play hard, are picking up the new system, and seem to be jelling nicely. I’m very optimistic for the upcoming year.

We all know you shouldn’t take preseason records or stats seriously in any sport, but for what it’s worth, the Sixers are 5-2 at the time of this post. Booya.

Having said all that, it begs the question - who is going to suffer the catastrophic injury that derails the season and vaults us to certain mediocrity?  Waka waka.

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