December 3 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bob Cooney:
“A LITTLE MORE than a month before the 76ers embarked for training camp with a new coach and memories from a dismal 2009-10 season that produced 27 wins and 55 losses, Rod Thorn was brought in to be the team’s president.
Thorn had spent the previous 10 seasons with the New Jersey Nets, but that relationship ran its course. While there in the same role, he oversaw a team that reached two NBA Finals.
His hiring here in mid-August, along with keeping general manager Ed Stefanski, whom Thorn worked with in New Jersey during those Finals runs, was a sure sign by chairman Ed Snider that the time had come for this organization to warrant interest again. Thorn came in with not much knowledge of the team or its personality. He has had 3 1/2 months to evaluate, and says he likes what he’s seen lately.
“We obviously started poorly, and I think it was because we couldn’t keep teams from getting to the rim,” he said. “With the exception of a few games, we’ve been in games late, but don’t win, because we have a tough time keeping them away from the rim. Lately, we’ve played much better defensively. Our center play has been much better, including all of them [Spencer Hawes, Marreese Speights and Tony Battie]. Overall, we’ve played better, I’ve seen improvement. As of now, we are close to the worst record in the East, but are only 2 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, so there are a lot of teams that are close to where we are.”
Which brings up the obvious question: Is making the playoffs as a low seed a goal or should this team look to build for the future?
“It’s almost a Catch-22,” Thorn said. “You want to create as good a winning atmosphere as you can. You want to win every game you can; on the other hand, you want to develop players. That’s the Catch-22. But if you look at the distribution of minutes, virtually everybody has had a chance to play some significant minutes, with a couple exceptions. Our bench has been one of the best parts of the season. Thad Young has really picked his game up, not just scoring, but defensively. We’ve had different lineups during the year, sometimes because of injuries, sometimes just trying to get a group out there to start the game that can do the job on both ends of the court.
“You almost have to have a shooter with the first group, a wing player, that the other team respects and will have to come out and guard. That’s a problem that [coach Doug Collins] has to deal with.”
Evan Turner was thought to be that player when he was taken with the second overall pick in the June draft, before Thorn arrived. Turner doesn’t appear to be that player now, but Thorn said he could develop into it.”
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