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.
And there is this, from TNT analyst Doug Collins, whose opinions and knowledge I respect above most, during Thursday night's telecast: “Elton Brand is not a great low post player. When his game really shot up in LA (with the Clippers) is where he picks and pops. He has that jump shot to about 15 feet and if you come at him he drives it. But I always felt that in the post if you play him with a bigger player he is not a great low post player…He brings a maturity of a guy who’s been around and understands (the game). He brings a lot more than statistics…He is a terrific running big man.”
We saw some of that in the preseason and in the earlier regular season games, but it seems to have gone away.
Compounding all of this is Andre Iguodala's struggle to get comfortable, and the defense's seeming inability to defend against thte three-point shot. The Magic exploited that, draining 9 triples to the Sixers' 5; that's a scoring differential of 27-15. Think Kyle Korver might be open a few times when Utah comes to town Tuesday night?
Having said all of this, the good news is, the Sixers are plus-65 in rebounding, including plus-19 off the offensive glass. The flip side is, they have 27 fewer steals than their opponents and 35 more turnovers. With all the other problems they have, if they would just take better care of the ball, they would be much more competitive.
Some of the emailers are already proposing trades. After six games? Not me. But, if the Sixers don't figure things out, I might consider this: Move Iguodala to small forward and insert Willie Green at shooting guard, where he started last season, allowing Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams to come off the bench as a duo, charged with creating offense and, if necessary, changing the pace. Just make it clear to Young that he would still be getting starter's minutes, and make it equally clear to Williams that he doesn't necessarily have to score a bunch of points right away, that he can be effective as a facilitator.
Hey, if the emailers can make suggestions, why can't I?