By Bob Cooney, Philadelphia Daily News –
PHILADELPHIA — When the 76ers’ postseason run ended in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics last season, coach Doug Collins started looking almost immediately to improve his team for the next season. Getting bigger and more athletic players and acquiring better shooters were tops on his list of priorities.
To do so, Collins would have to put on his recruiting hat, perhaps get some tips from his son, Chris, the associate head coach at Duke who is considered one of the premier college recruiters in the country. Whatever Collins did worked, as he landed big free-agent shooters Dorell Wright (from Golden State) and Nick Young (from the Clippers). At the time of their signings, don’t forget, Collins didn’t have the benefit of one of the premier centers in the league on his roster, as the trade for Andrew Bynum was still weeks away. Collins landed the players pretty much on his own, with his persistence, personality and NBA knowledge.
On Wednesday, Young talked about the process that brought him to Philadelphia.
“I was shocked myself,” said Young, who met with the media at the team’s practice facility at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. “I didn’t see them as one of the places I was going to end up coming. But that’s the tricky thing about free agency. Doug called me early, like 6 a.m. LA time, and we were just talking, and it was a great talk. From there, I was really just leaning to coming here. He had a good spirit to him. He sat down and talked to my dad and my mom. Once my mom started raving about him, it was pretty much a wrap right there.”
During one of those initial conversations, Collins mentioned to Young that he envisioned the 6-7 swingman with the large hair winning the league’s most improved player award. Always a Sixers killer, Young has averaged 11.4 points a game in his five seasons in the NBA, four-plus spent in Washington. He has made 37.8 percent of the 987 three-pointers he has attempted in his career, a skill that Collins will be counting on heavily this season. Young sees no problem there.
“I’m just going to do my best out there,” Young said. “I really don’t know my role. Of course, I’m going to be somebody who is going to score the ball, somebody that takes some of the pressure off of Bynum, when he gets double-teamed he can kick it out and I can knock down that shot.”
While Young was happy to come back East after his early conversations with Collins, the fact that the team changed so drastically afterward and landed perhaps the most dominant offensive center in the game was just icing on the cake.
“That was unbelievable, really,” Young said. “It’s big to get a player like that, Andrew Bynum. It makes us work harder because we know that we’re going to have a target. People talked about that I made a mistake leaving LA, but it’s like I brought LA with me. Look at all the LA guys on the team, and we brought one of the big men from LA.”
One of those Los Angeles natives, Jrue Holiday, has impressed Young during the not-so-informal workouts that have been taking place daily at PCOM for the past few weeks.
“I could see how hard they play,” Young said of the incumbent Sixers. “They’re close and that’s why they played as hard on the court as they did and why they were winning. The environment, especially inside the locker room — they get along with each other, they know each other’s games and they feel comfortable out there. They have that feeling. They are calling out plays and stuff in a scrimmage and I’m just, like, floating around.”
Young sees the team’s attitude as an extension of Collins. “Doug takes everything serious; even when we’re playing pickup games he’ll stop it if he doesn’t like the way it’s going. That’s something that younger players need.”
And perhaps it’s part of what attracted Young to the Sixers.