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Friday, April 15, 2011
Behind enemy lines: Getting to know Philly

By Tom Haberstroh

MIAMI -- You know how the old sports saying goes: Keep your teammates close, but your opponents closer. Well, close enough at least.

Anyway, it’s time to get to know the Heat's first-round opponent, the Philadelphia 76ers. After Friday's practice, I asked a few guys on the team to shed some light on a player on the Sixers roster that they have a history with, whether it’s from a former team or friends from home.

First up, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on Sixers sharpshooter Jason Kapono, who played two seasons with the Heat including the title run in 2005-06.

“He had a great run with us. The year after the championship, when he won the 3-point contest, that’s when he really emerged in this league."

That season with the Heat, Kapono shot a mind-blowing 51.4 percent from downtown, nearly topping Steve Kerr's single-season record of 52.4 percent. Where does Kapono rank on the best Heat shooters Spoelstra's been around?

“He ranks right up there," Spoelstra said. "He has as quick of a release as anyone and he’s worked on that. Of the best pure shooters we’ve ever had, they’re Voshon Lenard, Kapono, James Jones and Mike Miller. If you’re in a gym and they shoot 100 threes, they’ll hit over 85. Those guys are as good as it gets.”

Mike Miller had some thoughts on the Sixers’ 6th Man of the Year candidate Thaddeus Young.

“Young fella, Thaddeus Young,” Miller said. "He used to work out at my house all the time in Memphis growing up. I knew he was a pro first time that I saw him. That kid can play, man.”

Everyone has an opinion on this: is Thad a 3 or a 4?

“He can play both positions,” Miller said. "Offensively, he’s tougher to guard at the four spot but I think he’s good enough to play at the three. I’m just happy for him.”

As a former Yellow Jacket, Chris Bosh is happy for him too. But does he have a close relationship with the former Georgia Tech player?

“No, not really,” Bosh said. “I’m not going to lie to you.I knew who he was when he was coming through since I still have a relationship with Coach [Paul] Hewitt. He can play. He’s quick. He always works off the mismatch but it’s our job to know our opponent. We’re on him.”

Who does Zydrunas Ilgauskas know on the Philly roster? Forward and fellow Lithuanian Darius Songaila. But good luck trying to squeeze a family-friendly anecdote about him.

“I know him well,” Ilgauskas said. “None of the stories that I have are PG-13. We had some good times in Lithuania. He’s a great guy.”

We’ll leave it at that.