For the last 10 days, the actual woes of the 76ers have been overshadowed by news the team was considering Allen Iverson, then by the news they had signed him, then on Monday, his "return debut."
Tonight still has a little juice left because the Sixers are playing the Detroit Pistons, one of his former teams, but we're getting awfully close to returning to reality: The Sixers are 5-16 and have lost 10 straight. And, maybe starting tonight, it will be time to address exactly why this team is where it shouldn't be, at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Tonight, though, the focus is still on Iverson. He has a game behind him. He has had another practice and another shoot around. It's not much, but it'll be interesting to see -- in a more controlled setting than Monday night's craziness -- how Iverson fits in with the Sixers and how the team plays. On Monday night, it seemed the Sixers were improved since they were hanging with a very good Denver Nuggets team. Last night, Denver went to Charlotte and lost to the Bobcats. So the reality of it is that the Nuggets haven't started off their East Coast road trip playing very good basketball.
This morning at shoot around, Sixers coach Eddie Jordan reiterated that the team is only teaching Iverson the very basics of the offense, which actually could be an improvement. Rookie Jrue Holiday is out again tonight. The starting lineup will be the same as Monday's: AI, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Elton Brand, and Samuel Dalembert.
So there are the nuts and bolts happening in Sixer-land. Here's a few things to watch tonight.
1.) The bench play. On Monday night, the Sixers got 2 points -- 2 points! -- from their bench, which shot 1 for 15. More importantly, keep an eye on who's getting the minutes now that Iverson is here. It looked like Jason Smith was out of the rotation now. If he's not getting minutes right now, without Marreese Speights, he's going to struggle to get minutes after. And what's going to take a hit is the Sixers' defensive "effort" ...which brings us to No. 2:
2.) Defense. Or lack thereof. On Monday night, the Sixers played a bunch of possessions in a matchup zone. A matchup zone allows two things: open three-pointers and rebounding. Hmmmmm. Those sound like the two things at which the Sixers are already really bad: defending the three and rebounding. Jordan said he's going to play some matchup zone now to "save" Iverson's legs. Look for these "matchup zone" defensive possessions because they usually end in an open three-pointer and ... if that three-pointer is missed ... offensive rebounding ... which brings us to No. 3:
3.) Rebounding. It's the reason the Sixers lost to the Pistons in Detroit a few weeks ago. The Pistons grabbed 21 offensive rebounds.
So, tonight, there's no reason to lose this game. Pistons are 8-12 and Sixers are 5-16. Pistons are missing their three best players: Ben Gordon, Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton.
This game is going to come down to three-point defense and rebounding. If Sixers can hold the Pistons to less than 5 three-pointers (and that would be only about 1 less than their average) and stay within 10 rebounds total, this should be a win.
Check out the video in the Deep Sixer player below on the right. One is of Iverson tonight (he arrived at 4:50 p.m. after arriving at 5:59 on Monday night). The next is of Lou Williams doing some on-court sprints tonight well before the game. Jordan said tonight that Williams has lost 5 pounds since starting his liquid diet. If you want all this info as it happens, follow on Twitter: Deep Sixer.