With the now tentative agreement, the Sixers now have 66 games to play in a stretch that normally fits something in the area of 50 games. And with an abbreviated pre-season and training camp period, issues will be magnified, more urgent, because there’s less time to settle them. Maybe the most pressing concern for players will be conditioning: with such a large amount of games in a small period of time, players will need to be well-conditioned to play through the grueling back-to-backs and all. Normally, coverage of teams focuses on how well-conditioned players are heading into camp. The narratives usually follow one of these patterns:
“(Insert player here) is in the best shape of his life.”
“(Insert player here) has put on 15 pounds of muscle in order to get better this coming season.”
“(Insert player here) is down to 4% body fat with the goal of preventing injuries this year.”
Of course, now that conditioning is king, I have the feeling we’ll see the complete opposite – stories detailing players who are overweight or out of shape coming into camp may replace these, which you could find sporadically throughout the lockout (see: here). I’m not one to judge, since I myself am nowhere near being in good shape. But poor conditioning will be a big risk for teams, since players had no specific time that they had to be ready by. The concerns, in my eyes, are as follows:
Concern Level: Very Low
Andre Iguodala – well, he’s one of the best athletes in the NBA and has never been anywhere close to being out of shape since entering the league. With the summer off (no team USA basketball), Dre should have gotten plenty of rest for his knee, which became a nagging issue toward the end of last season.
Jodie Meeks – Jodie was one of the few players I saw in action this summer, taking part in exhibition games at his alma mater, Kentucky. Jodie looked to be in great shape at that time. He has no extensive injury history and, even when coming deep off the bench, was always ready to play.
Lou Williams – Lou was another of the Sixers that partook in summer league action around the United States. He seemed to be doing well, too. While effort may be a concern on one end of the floor, Lou’s always been in shape to play. Whether he can bring the intensity on both ends of the floor remains to be seen.
Concern Level: Low
Jrue Holiday – While Jrue’s never given any indication that he would show up out of shape, there’s at least a little bit of concern for a 21-year-old who spent the early part of the summer becoming a world traveler with the USWNT.
Thaddeus Young – Thad’s concern level would be higher, if only because his improved play last year came on the heels of a summer where he gained muscle weight, making defense on opposing bigs much easier, but with impending free agency (and looking for a big contract), I doubt he’ll be in bad shape. But his build compared to his expected position will be important – if he looks to get signed as a perimeter player, he may have taken off some of the muscle mass.
Concern Level: Medium
Elton Brand – Elton will be in great shape. He has a wonderful track record in that regard. But the shortened season will put a higher demand on durability, and at his age the short season is at least a concern. Limiting his minutes, especially early in the season, will be important.
Spencer Hawes – I’d have put him higher, but it has been suggested that he was out of shape early last year due to a back injury early in training camp (and that he had been “in the best shape of his life”). Spencer doesn’t rely on athleticism nor does he play a lot of minutes (he averaged 21 per game last year). If he re-signs, and I’m assuming he is, then he’ll take his starting spot back and play roughly the same amount of minutes.
Nikola Vucevic – Mainly just because he’s an unknown. I’d have him at a high risk, but he’s been playing overseas and, like Hawes, doesn’t rely on his athleticism (and he shouldn’t, given his athletic testing results before the draft).
Andres Nocioni – for the fans’ sake, I hope he doesn’t see the light of day in a meaningful on-court situation. Anyway, I imagine he’ll be in good shape, but considering he lost his lateral quickness two years ago and cannot cover anybody on the perimeter, that’s at least a little concerning (if he plays).
Concern Level: High
Evan Turner – Turner showed up to summer league last year out of shape, according to multiple reports, including this one from Yahoo!’s Marc Spears. Going to Vegas in poor condition was somewhat excusable – trying to ensure that he gets drafted second overall can do that to a person. Turner arrived in camp in shape, reportedly 10 pounds lighter than in summer league.
Marreese Speights – While Mo is currently playing in Europe, he showed up last year in far worse condition than in previous years. Making defensive rotations while trying as little as possible requires more effort when he puts on a few pounds.