For anyone that followed this blog last year, you might remember that it was more about actual in-game stuff, observations, flaws within execution, how certain offensive and defensive situations might have affected a game, how the Sixers were winning (especially during end of January and February), etc. This season, it's about none of that. Why not? Mostly because I have no clue what the intentions are within a game. There's no grasp of the offense, so it would be hard to break down exactly why it isn't working. I'm not sure what the defense is supposed to be doing, so it would be difficult to break down exactly what was supposed to happen. I couldn't tell you from game-to-game what guys provide what (and I'm not sure the guys could, either), so you can't really discuss who's doing their job, who isn't. So if you're looking for answers: There aren't any.
Here's what we do have: confusion. The most confusing thing of all is the lack of in-game adjustments and the substitution pattern (I use the word "pattern" loosely). Early in the season, Eddie Jordan said that sometimes he looked to get guys minutes to keep them interested and feeling a part of the team. Huh? This was confusing then and it's still confusing now. It makes you wonder if Jason Smith played in the Denver game (he's from Colorado) -- a game after not playing at all against the Los Angeles Clippers -- because he was returning to his home state. I know that sounds like middle school stuff, but honestly, it's that confusing. Smith played very well against the Nuggets, but sitting there watching him check into the game in the second half (after not playing at all in the first, I believe), the thought passed through your mind. That's how much you're grasping for an explanation.
OK, now let's get into the more recent, number-oriented stuff. I've received a lot of e-mails about this stuff, so many of you might see your observations pointed out. In last night's loss to the Washington Wizards -- the third of the season -- only two guys had a positive plus-minus: Marreese Speights (plus-10) and Rodney Carney (plus-5). For the game, these two combined to play about 18 minutes. I'm almost positive neither played a minute in the fourth quarter. The next highest plus-minus was Elton Brand, who was even. He checked out of the game with about 8 minutes, 50 seconds left. I'm not saying Speights is always the answer -- Dalembert was awesome and deserved the center minutes last night. I'm not saying Carney is always the answer, either. What these numbers point out is the seeming lack of in-game adjustment and in-game feel. Carney plays well in the first half, yet in the second half you go with Jason Kapono. Why? I can't tell you.
No one could have told you any of those guys exact plus-minus number without looking, but one would expect a general sense of a player's effectiveness should be grasped. I don't envy Jordan's job, and no one likes continually being negative, but at some point you have to own up to what's happening. Jordan refuses to do that. When asked what has most disappointed him (this was during the West Coast trip), Jordan said, "I'm not disappointed." Really? That's strange, because I know thousands of Sixers fans who would disagree.
Today in practice, Dalembert called the rotation and minutes "confusing" and even Willie Green -- as diplomatic as they come -- said the "norm in the NBA" is to have a rotation set by now and that there isn't more to this than meets the eye. When asked, quite kindly I believe, if there was still some "feeling out" of the rotations, here was Jordan's exact response:
“I just think with the injuries, when Lou was going well, obviously he was a starter. He’s out, have to find another guy to start, have to find a different rotation to fill in for that. For the most part, I’ve said before, I don’t like tinkering with the lineup – and we hadn’t for a long time until Elton got hurt. And when you come off the bench, recently, we’ve been pretty solid with Elton and Marreese as our two bigs, and a guard. When Willie was healthy, he was the first guard off the bench. That’s eight players. Most teams go eight-player rotation. Then you pick the guy at nine, 10, 11 that you think can match up for you, that had good practices, that you think can do things against a zone, or against a bigger matchup, so I don’t think our rotation is that skewed like you guys think. We go eight players and then we go nine, 10, 11 – just like most other teams. It depends on a gut feeling, how guys practice, and matchups. So, it’s not as quacky or quirky as you guys think it is.”
1.) To even bring up injuries as an excuse, coming off a road trip where the Sixers picked up wins against the Portland Trailblazers (who are missing 5 of their top 10 players), the Sacramento Kings (without Kevin Martin and Tyreke Evans) and the Denver Nuggets (without Billups, Anthony, and in the second half, the Birdman), is odd. In the scheme of the NBA, the Sixers have dealt with less injuries this season than most other NBA teams.
2.) The explanation for how his rotations aren't quirky or skewed is to basically say they are quirky: They are not set, they are determined by Jordan's in-game whims, dependent on matchups, gut feeling, how a guy might have practiced, who might play well against a zone, etc.
At the end of last night's game, Nick Young dominated Allen Iverson. He got whatever shot he wanted, mostly little pull-up 14-footers. At what point does defense become a priority? After Young hits one? two? three? four? Or maybe just never. The Sixers were up by 18 points because Washington could not hit the little chippies. Then they started hitting these chippies. Today, Jordan was asked if maybe you go with better defenders at that point in a game.
Jordan shrugged it off and said, "And then not score the ball efficiently?" To which the questioner responded, "Maybe when you're up 18?" Jordan responded: "Your best players should be good defenders and that’s what we’re trying to get to. Trying to get our best players to defend as a unit, defend indiviudually, so you can have balance. There’s no such thing as unbalanced. Good teams don’t just put five defenders on the floor. Your better players are your defenders."
So that's that.
Here were are, 34 games into the season, not much else to say.