Update: Tonight against the Hornets the Sixers will be without center Spencer Hawes, who tweaked his back during pre-game warmups. In place of Hawes, Doug Collins will start Marreese Speights. This back injury is supposed to be different than the back injury that kept Hawes out for two weeks of preseason.
Happy New Year to everyone from here in New Orleans. It seems we've been following around the BCS games: first the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles (TCU fans were based at the Marriott across from the Staples Center) and now the Sugar Bowl here in New Orleans with Arkansas and Ohio State fans filling the streets.
Tonight at the New Orleans Arena, the 76ers (13-20) will conclude this road trip against the New Orleans Hornets (20-14). So far this trip, the Sixers have defeated the Orlando Magic, Denver Nuggets, and Phoenix Suns and lost to the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, and Los Angeles Lakers. The Sixers are 3-4 through seven of the eight games. When the Sixers left Philly, they were 10-16.
Here's an interesting perspective on all of this, as pointed out at this morning's shootaround by Doug Collins: after tonight's game, the Sixers will have played almost exactly half of their road schedule (20 of their 41 road games) and much less of their home schedule (14 of their 41 games). If the Sixers win tonight, they will have finished this road trip 4-4 (.500), which means they'll have left Philly exactly six games under .500 and returned exacty six games under .500, with seven extra home games in front of them. That is to say, the team has actually put itself in a decent position as we approach the halfway mark of this season.
Here's how Collins put it (although it now seems easier to understand in person rather than in transcribed quote form): "When we left Philadelphia, six under .500, if we could come back six under .500 with this trip and then we have [seven] more home games then we have road. Tonight, we finish up half of our road schedule because this is our 20th road game … even though we’re under, I feel like this game is a great chance for our guys to finish out this trip."
After tonight, the Sixers return home to the following schedule: vs the Washington Wizards (8-24), vs. the Chicago Bulls (22-10), at the Detroit Pistons (11-22), vs. the Indiana Pacers (14-18), vs. the Milwaukee Bucks (13-18), vs. the Charlotte Bobcats (11-20). Not hard to find four, maybe even five victories in that stretch. By Jan. 17 (that's the Charlotte game), we'll have a pretty clear picture of where this season is headed.
This is by no means saying tonight's game is crucial, or desperately important, only to say that it would be a nice little jumping pad into the next two weeks of games.
One other thing before we sign off until later tonight. A little more on rookie Evan Turner, who's hanging out in New Orleans with thousands of Ohio State fans. Has he been recognized here yet? "Some people, and some people are like, ‘You look familiar,'" Turner said, joking. "It’s the older people, sometimes they don’t remember me."
It's going to be fun watching Turner tonight. Against the Lakers, he missed a few key jumpers that really would have put the Sixers in position to win the game. The good thing, Turner said, is that he feels like that was crucial experience. Those were his first important, end-of-game shots, and they came against the defending NBA champs and inside a sold out Staples Center on New Year's Eve. Turner said the experience broke him in for "future moments."
Tonight's game tips off at 8 p.m. EST.
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