If the 76ers do not have a sense of urgency now, they'll never have it.
They have just 16 regular-season games remaining, including tonight's home contest against the defending world champion Detroit Pistons (8 p.m. CSN/ESPN).
Prior to Tuesday's games, the Sixers (32-34) were in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, just a half-game in front of ninth-place Orlando and 1 1/2 games behind seventh-place Indiana.
"The word that we constantly use is urgency," Sixers coach Jim O'Brien said. "My mind-set is always one of urgency. Certainly with 16 games to go, with a heated playoff race, the sense of urgency is there. It's there with a capital `u.' I think our guys welcome the opportunity to play games that are so meaningful."
There is little margin for error, and the bottom line is, if the Sixers want to get into the playoffs, they have to win games.
"Yeah, very little margin for error, especially with the eighth through six spots being so close," Sixers forward Chris Webber said. ". . . If we do some things that I believe we can do and we believe we can do, we can move up in the seedings. We have a sense of urgency, we're not happy with where we are, but we're on the way."
That remains to be seen.
They'll play nine of their final 16 at home, and 12 of their final 16 games are against the Eastern Conference. They are 23-17 against the East (14-4 at home). However, 10 of their remaining games are against teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
"It's in our hands, we control our own destiny," Sixers forward Rodney Rogers said. "What we've got to do is go out and play every game like it's pretty much our last game."
O'Brien said he has made dramatic changes with his team's defense, which has struggled mightily this season. He said he has made some changes offensively as well. Defensively, he says they've gone from trapping on pick and rolls to more of a "protection," so that their big men will not have to move as far or as quickly.
Offensively, they're going to do more to utilize the passing game. O'Brien says they want to get Webber, who was acquired on Feb. 23 from Sacramento, the ball more where he needs it and that they've worked on that a lot at practice over the past two days.
Webber has averaged just 14.1 points (on 36.9 percent shooting), 7.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 11 games with the Sixers - down from 21.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists in 46 games with the Kings this season. He shot 44.9 percent with the Kings.
"The idea is to get more of a balance and for us to adjust our offense to the skills of what somebody like Chris Webber brings to the table," said O'Brien, who said they're basically cramming to get the team to mesh at both ends of the court in a short period of time.
Sixers guard Allen Iverson knows he'll have to keep his turnovers down for his team to be successful. He had 11 in Saturday's loss to Chicago and a career-high 12 in a loss to Golden State on March 8.
O'Brien would like it if Iverson can keep his turnovers to around three per game. Iverson's goal is to keep them at two per game.
"I think Allen can pretty much do whatever he puts his mind to," O'Brien said.
At one point in Tuesday's practice, O'Brien had a big lineup on the floor, which included Iverson and the 6-7 John Salmons in the backcourt, the 6-7, 270-pound Rogers at small forward, the 6-10 Webber at power forward and 6-11 Samuel Dalembert at center.
It's a lineup he'll use at times tonight to combat the Pistons, who start the long-armed 6-9 Tayshaun Prince at small forward, and Ben Wallace (6-9) and Rasheed Wallace (6-11) at the other frontcourt spots.
O'Brien, who said he wants to be able to put pressure on other teams by playing different lineups, would like to have Rogers on the floor for 25 to 30 minutes per game. He said they'd like to utilize him at small forward sometimes, particularly against teams that play bigger lineups.
Rogers is comfortable playing small forward or power forward and says his adjustment since being acquired on Feb. 24 from New Orleans has been going great.
"Like I said, I had a little bit of a head start on Chris and the other guys, playing for coach before (in Boston)," Rogers said. "But he changed a lot of stuff from when we were in Boston. We're doing some of the things different on defense than we did up there. Hopefully the changes are good."