Waiting to Hit on all Cylinders – the 76ers in 2012

Posted: March 18, 2012 in Hoops, Sixers
Tags: , , , , ,

For those of you who hoped this was solely a blog about the Portland Trailblazers, the team I grew up on and will always love, as any self-respecting native Oregonian must, given the lack of other professional competition in the Land of the Empire Builders – I’m sorry to disappoint.  Having married a Philadelphian and lived in Philly for the last couple of years, I’ve begun to closely follow a second team, the 76ers.  Don’t worry, if there’s ever a rematch of the ’77 Finals, my allegiances will always still be with Rip City.  But when I moved here, having lived in New York, New England, and Oregon previously, I couldn’t believe how affordable a set of partial season tickets in excellent seats were for my family.  For a diehard basketball fan, I went initially (as I had to Kingdome games in Harlem) just to see the competition.  I hoped the Sixers would make the games interesting, but in the Eddie Jordan era, they seldom did.  I was struck by the lack of support or interest the Sixers had from local sports fans.  They weren’t good, but they were young and they were promising, and they were clearly trending in the right direction, even if after they lost a key leader with Andre Miller’s departure and got a patch of terrible coaching I could see that they were headed somewhere in the not too distant future.

This year, they’ve shown the ability to put it all together for brief stretches.  Lately, not so much, but with Spencer working his way back into the rotation, I have to think it’s coming soon.  I’ve been working on an interesting (or at least interesting to me) statistical project based on analysis of film from some individual Sixers games.  The project require hours of video analysis and I haven’t had the time to sift through all the film yet, but I’ll be sure to share my findings soon on that front.  I think they may provide some additional support for the value of Andre Iguodala on this team, although it’s hard for me to believe that after years of giving him shit about being an overpaid pseudo-star, this city doesn’t realize just how valuable he is to this franchise right now.

The biggest issue is obviously still that the Sixers don’t have a winning identity in close games in the last five minutes.  Sixers fans would’ve loved to see Andre or Elton (still not convinced Elton couldn’t take on this role from the block), take on the role of 4th quarter assassin, something Iguodala has floundered at, but it doesn’t appear to be in their make-up.  They are who they are, and that’s just not them.  There are lots of ways that both of those guys provide value for the squad, even in crunch time.  Lou Will has shown those chops in a few important situations, most notably against the Heat in game four last year, but he’s also been shutdown completely in some of those situations, like this year’s home loss to the Clippers (although that was partly Iguodala’s fault for not giving him appropriate spacing).  Given Evan’s recent confidence, and given his ability to step up in the moment,

I think it might be worth a shot.  Jrue should get a look with this too.  I get that Doug likes to be consistent in who he goes to in these situations, to try to instill confidence in the guy he puts in the role (last year with Andre, this year with Lou), but for a team that plays so well sharing the ball and looking for the right shot, I find it odd that the Sixers completely give way to the isolation dynamic, with the ball going to one of two guys when the game is on the line.  Some I have debated this with, argue that defenses tighten up at the end of games and you have to move into an isolation game in that moment.  I’d argue that even if that’s the case, having the isolation game 30 feet from the hoop in all circumstances may not best suit the team.  Can we not get a pick and roll heading toward the hoop?  A little high low game between Jrue and Elton?  Evan on a drive and kick to Lou in the corner?  Anyway – I still think the Sixers are on the path to becoming one of the best teams in the league over the next two years if they get the right breaks.  They weren’t active on the trade market this year, but I have to think Elton Brand’s 18 million dollar expiring contract next year is going to be one of the most talked about in the league.  I’m not one of those detractors who thinks that Elton hasn’t lived up to his contract.  Maybe on the floor he hasn’t done what some had hoped (unfair hopes given that the guy was in his 30’s and coming off a potentially career ending injury), but in the locker room and on the practice court, Elton has made the Sixers a better team.  And in 2013 his contract might make the Sixers a better team on the court, as an $18 million expiring contract can bring you the star you’re looking for if the market is right.

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