Maybe last night, 76ers coach Eddie Jordan saw how his team has been playing for the first time. Or maybe last night, he finally decided to say something about how he's been seeing his team. Either way, last night, Jordan seemed frustrated and angry for the first time this season.
I think most fans have already noticed how much the Sixers are struggling. Last night just happened to be the first time Jordan verbalized what most fans have already seen: his team is out of sync, has little rhythm, and doesn't look fully committed to what needs to happen.
So far, the Sixers had slipped past these types of games, barely beating the New Jersey Nets, winning in overtime against the New York Knicks, and defeating the Charlotte Bobcats in a game much closer than it needed to be. The Sixers won all those games, but they looked bad doing it. In an 82-game NBA season, you tend to ignore a win, regardless of the opponent, regardless of how bad the Sixers might have looked getting the win. You accept there are going to be ugly wins.
But last night was just ugly.
Over 14,000 people showed inside the Wachovia Center (obviously buying tickets to see the Memphis Grizzlies because they believed Allen Iverson would be on the Grizzlies). And I can't imaging many people, while leaving the arena, stopped by the ticket office to pick up season tickets. Losing to the Memphis Grizzlies is bad. The Sixers haven't done it at home since 2003. Memphis (still) hasn't beaten a winning team.
Considering Jordan has looked for the positive in each game this season, I think the assumption was he would do the same. Not so. He was angry. He said his team played as individuals, didn't stay committed to each other, and basically went their separate ways. He wouldn't go so far as to say they played selfishly, just that there was no leadership. He said a "coach can only do so much." The blame, as far as I can tell, was shifted entirely to the players. A few minutes after Jordan spoke, inside the locker room, the vibe from the players seemed very different. Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young seemed to shrug off Jordan's insinuation.
1. This is completely my interpretation, but there seemed to be a sense from the players that Jordan has as much responsibility in these results as they do. These are his systems he's trying to fit to this team (and are they the right systems?) and they're trying to execute them. The question becomes, how much do they believe in these systems? Is it too early to ask those questions? Jordan is the one executing the substitutions. He's the one devising the offensive and defensive schemes. And, right now, they aren't working. Is it because it's early in the season and these are intricate systems? Or is it because the players know they're running an offense that might not be suited for them? That was the vibe inside the locker room -- although I'm unsure exactly what the answer is only 12 games into the season.
2.) You can't ignore the looks on the court. The Sixers defense isn't rotating. After the game, Iguodala clearly said they aren't communicating or playing good defense, not that you need Iguodala to tell you what you are seeing. It happened with at least five players last night. I saw Samuel Dalembert, Elton Brand, Jason Smith, Willie Green, and Andre Iguodala at various points look around and wonder where the heck the help was. Dalembert would come off his man to stop someone else and nobody would pick up his man. Smith took the ball out of bounds and you could feel his frustration, clearly someone wasn't where he needed to be. Lack of defensive rotations is a downward cycle: if repeatedly you leave your man to help another and no one picks up your help then you're going to hesitate to leave your man.
More later, time to board this flight to Cleveland for tonight's game against the Cavaliers. No time to proof-read, so if there is an error, can we refrain from posting the "Ever heard of spell check?" comment? -- as fun as those comments are.
Will Tweet upon arrival in Cleveland. If you want to follow Deep Sixer on Twitter, click here: Deep Sixer.