Much has changed with the 76ers since their 2009-10 season ended with a loss at the Orlando Magic. For some people, it probably hasn't been as much change as they wanted, for others it was probably the perfect amount. One thing is definite heading into the 2010-11 season: the Sixers have some exciting young players. And they'll look very different than they did during last year's disastrous season. That, we can universally agree, is a good thing.
This blog has been (mostly) dormant this summer. But that's about to change. The Sixers are only two weeks from opening training camp at St. Joe's, and about three weeks from their first preseason game. That means it's time again to start analyzing all things Sixers. It's time to try to understand what all these changes might mean for this season and for seasons to come. In short, Deep Sixer is back up and running. And if you want to follow on Twitter, click here: DeepSixer3. No more World Cup soccer, no more vacation, all Sixers.
Since we still have some vacant days between now and Sept. 28 (the first day of camp), let's take this analysis one player, one change at a time. In the days to come, we'll get to the swap in the paint: Spencer Hawes for Samuel Dalembert. We'll get to the change in coach: Doug Collins for Eddie Jordan. We'll get to all the other new pieces: Evan Turner as (starting?) shooting guard, Andres Nocioni as hustler off the bench, and Rod Thorn overshadowing Ed Stefanski.
Today, though, we have Andre Iguodala.
Last season was not good to Iguodala. As the losses mounted, so too did Iguodala's frustration. There were questions about leadership and his ability to be the go-to guy on a team. To put it bluntly, he lost a lot of fans in Philadelphia, a place where he had never been fully embraced to begin with. But this summer with Team USA, Iguodala seemed to regain his rhythm, even if it was in a complementary role. The USA team won the World Championships, which inspired this quote from ESPN's Bill Simmons:
"One of the frustrating things about this tournament: Iguodala has been a revelation as a fourth banana/swing defender/energy guy/uber-athlete, which really should have been his NBA destiny -- mega-glue guy on a great team, like a much more devastating version of Trevor Ariza on the 2008-09 Lakers -- only we don't have nearly enough quality players to fill 30 NBA teams, so instead he's forced to carry a lottery team, take terrible shots, play with inferior teammates and do everything that the basketball gods never meant for him to do. He's like Roger Sterling in "Mad Men" -- you don't want him carrying the show, but in short doses, harnessed correctly, he can be a weapon. I had given up on Iguodala as a meaningful basketball player; now I think he'll be reincarnated on a contender within the next two seasons. He's one trade away."
Okay, so we're most definitely not trying to start Iguodala trade talk right now. Let's focus on the bulk of Simmons' quote; he's saying Iguodala is effective as a complementary weapon. That sounds quite similar to what every Sixers' fan has been saying for the last two seasons. Even more important to Sixers' fans is this question: Do the Sixers even have the offensive weapons to allow Iguodala to focus on these other parts of the game? Or do they need him taking 15-20 shots a game? If you allow yourself to dream, you could envision a world where Doug Collins creates an offensive system where Jason Kapono is open for three pointers in the corner, Evan Turner is hitting pull-up jumpshots, Jrue Holiday is creating transition opportunities with his defense, and Elton Brand is effective as a block option. Within that world, Iguodala is doing exactly what he should be doing: slamming Holiday's alley-oop tosses, grabbing rebounds, running the lanes, and playing swarming on-ball defense.
So, since we have some time, let's go to the source himself: Iguodala. We talked to him this afternoon and tried to ask some of these questions. The first one was about Simmons' quote (Iguodala had not read it, sadly). I asked him if he agreed with the theory that he is best suited in a secondary role.
"Not really," Iguodala said. "If you play well in one setting peple think you need to do the exact same things in the next setting in order to succeed. But here [with Team USA] everyone had a role to fill. Only three guys played the same way they play for their NBA teams: Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Tyson Chandler. My focus was on defense. If I didn’t do my job, I would be letting down my team."
Okay, but if you look at last season, it didn't seem like you were as effective as you're capable ...
"I think Coach [Collins] is going to be able to do the job of putting me in a position to attack more, where I won’t have to exert energy on the perimeter," Iguodala said. "Last year our offense had me outside the perimeter. I shot a lot of threes, but it wasn’t my intention to do that. I’m going to attack the rim more this season."
Does he believe he's capable of being the go-to guy?
"That’s something I can do. I never shy away from a role. I talked to [Sixers] teammates throughout the summer and said like, 'You have to help me lead the team, get the ball in the open court.’ And vice versa. I have to help Jrue be a better point guard. I have to help Evan be the best rookie in the league. We have to pick each other up. I learned a lot from Team USA this summer, especially from Chauncey [Billups]. A lot of the things on the court, people don’t see. There were times at practice Chauncey would get on me for something. He'd say, 'It may not be your fault, but it's your responsibility because you’re the best defensive player out here.' I think I learned a lot how to lead from this summer."
How can he translate his success with Team USA to the Sixers?
"Every player has to have the mentality like we have to get off to that good start," Iguodala said. "I'm going to do everything I can do to make us successful. USA was great, but, mentally, I have to refocus again. It was great, it was all good, but 82 games is a lot different than 13 or 14 games."
From talking with Iguodala, it sounds like this summer has given him a new perspective on his abilities. He said he felt he was playing better than he ever has. For Sixers fans, perhaps this season will be a nice compromise: not so many three pointers (but still some), more attacking the rim, and improved leadership abilitites.
More soon ...