Eight Might Not Be Enough

The 76ers, as we know, are adjusting to having Elton Brand as a low-post player and inside presence. Brand, arriving from the Los Angeles Clippers, is adjusting to a whole new set of teammates. Coach Maurice Cheeks is adjusting to both, and that might be as much an explanation of their 1-2 start as anything else.

I think all of that will work itself out. I've gone on record saying I believe they'll win 49 games and be at least the No. 4 playoff seed in the NBA's eastern Conference. But there's a long way to go--exactly 79 more games--before that, and I'm not one to make overriding judgments this early. At the same time, here are some early thoughts:

1--Cheeks essentially used an eight-man rotation in the opening night loss to Toronto, was down to seven for much of the victory over New York and went with just eight in Saturday night's loss in Atlanta. Whether eight is enough is one question, but to me the real question is whether Kareem Rush will find his way into a meaningful role. He was on the court for 4:45 and 8:06 in the first two games and was a DNP-CD against the Hawks. I haven't asked Cheeks, but I'm wondering whether this is the coach's way of reminding the player that he has to be more than just a three-point specialist.

2--The role of Reggie Evans seems to be diminishing. An emotional force last season, he could change the flow of a game with his rugged play around the basket and his inimitable, unpredictable way of pressuring the ball at any time against anyone at any position. He's still providing 7 rebounds a game, but the rest seems to be missing.

3--Lou Williams is shooting 12-for-35 in three games, 3-for-12 on threes. He can be so much more effective.

4--I said during the preseason that Thaddeus Young was easily the team's most improved player. Still no doubt in my mind. That was driven home, in part, by his 17 points in the first quarter against the Hawks; I've seen an extended shooting range and moves off the dribble that weren't there as a rookie.

5--Marreese Speights is obviously talented, and just as obviously unafraid. But there's no reason to unnecessarily rush the rookie big man on to the floor. It's much more important for him to be really ready, not just willing, when he does get there.

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