Archive: November, 2008
Thinking out loud before heading for Minnesota and Wednesday night's game against the Timberwolves:
1) If you've been waiting for Elton Brand to blow the doors off the Wachovia Center, you're waiting for the wrong guy.
He is, however, as advertised, even though his numbers are slightly off his career 20 points/10 rebouns averages. Still, he's averaging 15.5 and 10.3 and is the post player, stabilizing force and leader the 76ers have needed. It's obviously going to take more than 10 games for Brand to fgure out the strengths and weaknesses of his teammates, to work out spacing and shot-blocking issues with center Samuel Dalembert, and to do all of that without sacrificing his own strengths, including a very nice pick-and-pop mid-range jump shot.
Here's an early-season 76ers' truism: Hold down the turnovers, hold off the opponents.
This was true again in Saturday night's 110-85 victory over Oklahoma City. The Sixers kept their errors to 14, just 5 in the second half, although they could have lived with more if necessary because the Thunder seemed so overmatched, losing its seventh straight game, falling to 1-9 and gathering for a post-game players-only meeting.
Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks like to keep the turnover total to 14 or less. That's where it has been in the three-game winning streak: 13 in a 106-96 victory in Toronto, 10 in Friday night's remarkable 94-92 comeback victory in Indianapolis and 14 against the Thunder.
Don't be superstitious about the number 13 when it comes to turnovers.
"I think 13 is a good number (for us),'' Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. ''Any time you can keep it lower than that, obviously that's pretty good, but if you have 15-18 turnovers you're going to be in trouble.''
The Sixers kept their errors to 13 as they won in Toronto Wednesday night, but going in to tonight's game in Indianapolis they still have 36 more than the opponents through 8 games. They also have 32 fewer steals. Taking better care of the ball should translate into at least better chances to win.
If Elton Brand is the Sixers' first offensive option, if Thaddeus Young is emerging as the second option . . .
Where does that leave Andre Iguodala? And can the guy who had been the first option find satisfaction there?
He could Wednesday night. He looked really comfortable for the first time this season in the 106-96 victory in Toronto, coming within a single digit of a triple-double: 18 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds. He shot just 5-for-13 from the floor, but he was aggressive going to the rim.
The 76ers, of whom more has been expected, are 2-4. Not good.
Opponents have accumulated 27 more steals than they have. Not good.
The Sixers have committed 35 more turnovers than their opponents. Not good.
Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks has been saying since the preseason that he intends to settle on a substitution roation and stick to it, rather than trying to spot additional guys for a few minutes here and there.
He says he has done that, even though it has been difficult to tell at times.
That's what can happen in a 2-4 start that has including blowing a 23-point lead in Atlanta and having a dreadful performance in Miami.
My email began lighting up even before last night's game in Orlando ended. Many of the message-senders were familiar, either because I know them personally, have met them in the arena or because we've had a dialogue over time and I've come to respect their knowledge and opinions.
But the messages were all painfully similar. They--and I--are beginning to see cracks in the Sixers' plans. Everyone is obviously unhappy with the 2-4 start, but they're all even more unhappy--distressed--with the players' seeming inability to meld with new power forward Elton Brand.
To make a combination of a running game and a post player work, the big men need to rebound on the defensive glass and throw the ball ahead, with Brand trailing the play as a safety valve. If the fast break doesn't yield a solid opportunity, the ball needs to be in the hands of Andre Miller, with the perimeter guys cutting and moving. When the spacing is poor and the wing men remain somewhat stationary, Miller has little choice other than to shoot or drive to the rim. Hence, Miller's unwieldly 24 shots against the Magic.
Andre Iguodala is not a prototype NBA shooting guard.
There, I've said it. You can stop trying to tell me the obvious in your emails. But I'm open to suggestions about how to find a comfort level for the guy, who is clearly an NBA talent, who has a gift of being able to fill up multiple columns of the boxscore, who seemed last season as if he were on the verge of a break-through to All-Star consideration.
Here's one thought that has been known to work at every level of the sport: Get him an easy bucket at the start. The thinking is, if you make one, you might also make the next five. After that, get him in a position to do what he does best, which is run the floor, throwing down dunks, at the very least getting to the rim, drawing fouls. Build him up; don't tear him down.
As long as we're talking history in the real world, here are some NBA things to think about:
1. Allen Iverson told reporters in Detroit that ''Happy is an understatement. I'm ecstatic'' about being traded to the Pistons, but he can't keep the No. 3 jersey he wore through his 10-plus seasons with the 76ers. Two reasons: First, it belongs to Rodney Stuckey, who, by all accounts, would have been happy to give it up; second, the NBA, for marketing and licensing reasons, won't allow it to change until next season, assuming Iverson is still a Piston. A.I. will wear No. 1.
2. Jerry Stackhouse, selected to be the Sixers' centerpiece in the draft preceding Iverson's arrival in 1996, celebrates his 34th birthday today. Stack at 34? Yikes.
I like Lou Williams. I really do. But when he said today that thinks the Sixers should be 4-0 . . .
I would disagree by one.
They could be--not necessarily should be--3-1. Toronto was simply better opening night. On the other hand, Atlanta was more than ripe to be had.