If telling it like it is means telling the bad when it's bad, then it means telling the good when it's good. And, right now, there's no more doubt: it's good. If you're not excited about this team, which tonight beat the New York Knicks 100-98 and has a record of 20-13 in its last 33 games, then you're never going to be excited about this team. You should stop reading now.
We've been tentative all season long because a 3-13 start will scare some people. Couple that start with last season's record of 27-55 and it doesn't take a genius to understand why the seats have been empty in the Wells Fargo Center and minds have been closed toward discussions of revival. But then this strange thing happened. Even though the team started 3-13, it didn't come apart at the seams. So we watched, cautious, wondering if the bounce back was just temporary, if they'd stumble once again and start showing the immaturity and frustration and then, eventually, start losing again. If, despite his best efforts, Doug Collins would be unable to penetrate the minds of this talented, but previously aloof roster.
But even through the ridiculous losses (which might not necessarily be out of their system, one never knows), the 76ers played hard and solid and kept winning their share of games. Even the most skeptical among us might not be as skeptical as Andre Iguodala, who has for years seemed only willing to give so much of his emotion (as compared to physical effort, which he always gives) toward the winning effort. At some point in the last two weeks, Iguodala has bought in. He's made this his team, not just the team he plays on, and you can see the results on the floor. Did you see him tonight? He had 16 assists and 0 turnovers. Here's a crazy statistic that I was relayed tonight: since the NBA started keeping turnovers as an individual statistic (sometime in the 70's), Iguodala's 16 assists is the most assists in franchise history without a turnover. Dishing out 16 assists and not turning the ball over is amazing and remarkable, about as infrequent as tossing a no-hitter in baseball. A really good assist-to-turnover ratio in the NBA is 3-to-1. Tonight, Iguodala's was 16-to-0. That statistic is really just a byproduct, it seems, of some sort of switch that has changed with Iguodala.
We're as wary as anyone of falling into this once-a-year trap of proclaiming that "Iguodala is embracing his role as leader!" We heard it last year, we heard it the year before, we heard it the one before that. And by each of those seasons' end, you really couldn't say for sure that he had. This doesn't feel like previous years. This feels different. For starters, in the fourth quarter of tonight's game, Iguodala could not have been any more excited after each of Elton Brand's jumpers. He was the first to punish Brand with (what looked like) an intense hi-five. Given his reaction, you'd have thought Iguodala had scored, not Brand. At one point when the Knicks cut the lead to six points, Iguodala took the inbounds pass in front of his own bench, turned upcourt and just absolutely busted to the rim for a layup. We've never seen that before. Is it really that easy for him? It looked that easy. And that was a monster basket for the team, pushing the lead back to 8 points. In seasons' past, or even earlier this year, doubtful that Iguodala executes that play. But tonight, his team needed a basket and he took off. That's all there was to it.