The 76ers entered the season already a little thin at the center position, and things have gotten even skinnier.
After a very encouraging start to the season, starting center Spencer Hawes has been hindered by back and Achilles’ problems. He missed his third straight game on Saturday in Miami, where the Sixers lost, 113-92, to the Heat. In that game, his replacement, rookie Nikola Vucevic, suffered a left knee quad strain. Sunday the team reported that he is doubtful for Monday's home game against the Washington Wizards. Hawes was reported to be a game time decision.
When Vucevic went out in the third quarter, the game was still very much in doubt, with Miami holding just a six-point lead. Shortly after, the Heat blew out to a big lead and the Sixers’ ultimately fell to 11-5.
So now the questions are: Can the Sixers survive until both Hawes and Vucevic are healthy? And how long will it take for them to get healthy?
“I think any time you have injuries, particularly at the same position and we’re a big guy short anyway with trading Marreese Speights, it’s a concern,” said president Rod Thorn. “I think what you have to ascertain is how long are they going to be out. Will they be playing shortly or will it take a while for them to come back. The problem is there are not a lot of big guys available (via trade). Most are playing here or overseas. You have to find out what is available and what do you have a chance to get. We’ll need to get a more definitive answer from our medical people about both regarding what they think of how long Spencer and Nik will be out.”
The options are pretty limited within the team, obviously. Elton Brand can play some center time, most likely with Thaddeus Young at the power forward. That, however, leaves the team awfully small and doing it for long periods of time can hurt. There is also veteran Tony Battie and rookie Lavoy Allen at coach Doug Collins’ disposal.
“We still have Tony Battie and Lavoy Allen available at the center spot,” said Thorn. “What you have to look at with this is if you can get someone, how does it compare to what you have? We do have 13 players. There is a chance we could pick up someone who could help.”
Teams are allowed to carry 14 players and dress 13.
If one good has come out of any of this, it probably has been the impressive play of Vucevic, who went for 13 points and nine rebounds in just 24 minutes against the Heat.
“When you look at Nik skill-wise he is very skilled,” Thorn said. “He has great hands, he can use both of them to score, he can shoot the ball. I think he’ll be a good passer when he gets experience. Defensively he’s got some ways to go that way. But he’s a talented guy, a good team player. And I don’t see any reason, if he works hard at it, he shouldn’t turn out to be a good defender.”
Asked if he had any regrets on trading Speights, who has been playing pretty well for the Memphis Grizzlies lately, Thorn said: “Speights is a talented player who can shoot and rebound but the fact remains he wasn’t going to play here. So with that being the case and at the end of the year him becoming a free agent and therefore we would have gotten nothing for him.”
Should the Sixers pick someone up, it will be someone they feel is going to help the team on the court.
"We’re not going to pick up someone just to come in and be a practice body,” said Thorn. “With the crazy schedule, there’s no practice time anyway.”
Iggy in the books: When the SIxers were ousted from the playoffs last season, swingman Andre Iguodala was asked what he thought his future might be with the team, as it was often speculated that he could be part of a trade in the offseason.
Iguodala kind of skirted the issue, saying that he would just be happy living his dream of playing in the NBA. He then did say how special it would be to stay with one organization and at the end of his career see his name among the statistical leaders of the Sixers.
Friday night he collected h is 1,000th career steal. He will probably past Charles Barkley (1,007) sometime this week. Still ahead of him will be Julius Ervin (1,508), Allen Iverson (1,644) and Allen Iverson (1,942).
“I saw on the board that I was at like 998 or something like that,” said Iguodala. “But I didn’t know if that was from last year or this year. But I kind of forgot about it. It’s definitely something that I’ll always look back on in my career. I mentioned it last year that I wanted to climb the charts and be up with some of the greatest players in the game of basketball.”
Sixshots: The Sixers will play their next seven games at home, including four this week in Washington (Monday), New Jersey (Wednesday), Charlotte (Friday) and Detroit (Saturday). Those four teams have a combined 14-53 record. The next three home games will be against Orlando, Chicago and Miami. Those three teams are a combined 38-11 (before Miami's game on Sunday night).