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News » Are they better or the same?

Are they better or the same?

Are they better or the same? New logo, new uniforms, new head coach, and new point guard: The 76ers begin training camp today with a fresh coat of paint.

They also begin with more questions than previous seasons, questions they'll begin answering this morning during the season's first practice at St. Joseph's University.

After an uneventful off-season in free agency, which saw last season's starting point guard Andre Miller sign with the Portland Trail Blazers, the Sixers enter the 2009-2010 season seemingly walking the line: If all things mesh, they might find themselves near the top of the Eastern Conference.

But if, at midseason, some of those unanswered questions remain, things could easily go the way of the previous two: early playoff exits, or possibly worse.

As the Sixers begin checking off the list of firsts - first practice, first drill, first scrimmage, first game - here are the five most pressing questions.

Is Elton Brand healthy?

1With a torn Achilles tendon during 2007-08 and season-ending shoulder surgery during 2008-09, Brand is the team's biggest question mark. If he returns to previous form, when he averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds a game, the Sixers will have the inside scoring presence they've missed and could easily improve upon last season's 41 wins, and first-round playoff loss.

Yesterday at the team's media day at the Wachovia Center, Brand said he was 100 percent healthy, fully recovered from both season-ending injuries, and tuned for action following two months of intense pickup Basketball in Los Angeles.

Even before last year's shoulder injury, Brand struggled to find his place in the Sixers' up-tempo system, averaging only 13.8 points and 8.8 rebounds in 29 games.

"The main thing is, it wasn't Elton," said swingman Andre Iguodala, last season's leading scorer at 18.8 points per game. "We didn't really have a concrete plan. I think we had a Plan A, but no Plan B, C, so on and so forth. Just pound it inside and see what happens from there. Once that was shut down it was kind of hectic instead of playing our game and going with the flow."

Said Brand: "No pun intended, but there's a lot of pressure on my shoulders. I know what I was brought in here to do."

How will the team respond to Eddie Jordan's Princeton offense?

2If last season lacked a concrete plan, this season is perfectly mapped. New head coach Eddie Jordan, hired at the end of May, brings with him a precise, pass-and-cut offense: the Princeton. On paper, its options are endless, its flow a thing of beauty. On the hardwood, it might take months for the Sixers to sufficiently execute, even longer to effectively execute.

"It's going to take time," Brand said. "I know we can put the basics in, but once we have the basics, it's still more plays, more layers we can add."

"End of preseason, I'm pushing for that time," forward Thaddeus Young said about when the offense might find a rhythm.

Can Lou Williams run this team?

3Williams, an off-the-bench combo guard his first four NBA seasons, will be the team's starting point guard. Known more for his ability to create his own shot, Williams has officially known since July - when Miller signed with Portland - that he'd been promoted.

"My role is just to be one of the guys," Williams said. "This is not an offense where the point guard pounds the ball and everybody is worried about whether I'm going to be able to do that or not, but I put myself in a great position this summer with the way I worked."

Can the Sixers finally make some outside shots?

4The last two seasons, the Sixers have been the league's worst three-point shooting team. In 2008-09, they shot 31.8 percent from beyond the arc.

In June, the Sixers sent rugged power forward Reggie Evans to the Toronto Raptors for smooth-shooting guard-forward Jason Kapono and his career three-point shooting percentage of 45.4.

On a team of slashers - Iguodala, Young, Williams - and potentially a banger - Brand - making outside shots could become a make-or-break skill.

"I don't really feel any pressure because it's something that I'm comfortable doing," Kapono said. "It's something that I've done throughout my career . . . whether I'm shooting the ball well or not, I hope my threat on the floor allows guys to have lanes."

Is Samuel Dalembert ready to play?

5Dalembert, currently the team's starting center, is coming off a season he deemed "frustrating," a season during which he asked to be traded, vocalizing displeasure with his reduced minutes.

He averaged 6.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks in 24.8 minutes a game.

Yesterday, Dalembert scoffed at the insinuation he could be this team's X-factor, saying he would, as always, produce in accordance with minutes given.

"The reason I haven't done more is because they've never asked me to," Dalembert said.

When asked if he was happy to still be a Sixer , Dalembert said, "I mean, this is where I am. It's not bad or miserable or anything like that, so it's where I am."

Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 29, 2009


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