Archive for the ‘Hoops’ Category

It’s hard to judge a team on¬†two games, especially a¬†game against the Nets, who were down Gerald Wallace and have every reason as an organization to want to lose games and try to retain their draft pick (it was traded to Portland, but is top three protected), or a game against the lowly Toronto Raptors.¬† I have to admit though, that¬†after me throwing him under the bus¬†just a couple of days ago, Collins seemingly made some very shrewd and difficult lineup changes prior to¬†Tuesday’s tilt against the¬†Nets.

Prior to the game, I was convinced that Doug would bench either Jrue¬†or Evan for Jodie Meeks, but I never would’ve thought to bench Spencer.¬† It seemed like Spencer was such a vital component of their early season success.¬† His shotblocking, his rebounding, his great high post passing, and his ability to sink the face up jumper all seemed like critical components to the way the Sixers¬†ran their offense, and neither Vucevic¬†nor Lavoy¬†was ever stellar as a starter in his place.¬† What I failed to take into account, is we’d never really seen Hawes¬†play with the second unit, get the opportunity to dominate backup frontcourt¬†players.¬† It’s okay if Vucevic just holds his own with that first unit, hits a few open shots, and holds his own on the boards and plays decent defense.¬† Spencer wasn’t doing a great deal more than that lately, and often he seemed to be doing less.¬† It also adds a much needed body to Collins’ rotation, which had been at just 8 players throughout the four game losing streak.¬† That had to be a factor in a season where guys¬†are already worn out.

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“Scola Can’t Jump, Hickson Can”

Tonight JJ Hickson will get his second start in place of LaMarcus Aldridge for the Blazers.¬† In total this marks his third start for the blazers, and we all remember what he did the last time he started for Aldridge.¬† If Hickson can drop 19 tonight, which seems perfectly plausible with Aldridge out and Batum a game-time decision, he will have scored more points in 12 games and 3 starts, and about half as many minutes, as he did in 35 games and 9 starts in Sactown.¬† Let the saltiness continue.¬† His statistics continue to improve¬†in the defense and effort columns over the last few games,¬†and his per 36 minute averages are now¬†at 17.5¬†points, 8.8¬†boards (3.6 offensive), 1.2 dimes, .8 steals, and 1.2 blocks, while shooting 56.3 percent from the field.¬†¬†Last time I checked, those were pretty solid numbers for most starting centers in the NBA these days.¬†¬†The only real flaws he’s currently showcasing are his 58.8%¬†FT percentage with the team¬†, which should eventually migrate towards his career average of¬†¬†66.8%.¬† Tonight’s start against Golden State should provide Hickson with a valuable opportunity to showcase his atheleticism against the Warriors¬†d-league level¬†defensive front court.

“Hickson Tracks Down Udoh”

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If you haven’t read Kate Fagan’s recent take¬†on the trials and tribulations of the Sixers it’s definitely worth a read.¬† Kate was always the most plugged-in reporter on the Sixers beat and it makes sense that she would be the one to break this story.¬† Even if a bit of it may be conjecture, its clear that her words are informed by legitimate information from the Sixers players she developed relationships with¬†while working with the team.¬† The blowout loss to the Wizards, the blowout loss to the Raptors, and the back-to-back losses to Magic and Celtics all make a lot of sense within the context of the notion that the players have hit the wall with Doug Collins.¬† His history with teams speaks for itself, and many of us who have written about¬†him with the Sixers¬†have ignored it because we were so pleased with the results he brought in his first season and a half with the Sixers.¬†¬†Maybe¬†we also wanted¬†to give the guy the benefit of the doubt that he had changed his approach and learned from his mistakes in the over half a decade he took away from the bench.¬† Sixers fans inherently want to believe in Doug for other reasons:

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In the last eight days the Sixers¬†have been blown out by the Wizards, won an extremely promising tough game against the Hawks, and followed that up¬†with a heartbreaking 6 point loss in Miami, a head scratching¬†blowout loss to the lowly Raptors, and blew a 10 point lead to the most dysfunctional team in the league – the soap operian¬†Orlando Magic.¬† The Magic, who were down two starters (Hedo¬†& Ryan Anderson) and have been an unenviable saga of dysfunction¬†recently, had a lot of trouble with the Sixers¬†in the first half.¬† In the second half though, the Sixers¬†ultimately¬†couldn’t contain either Big Baby Davis or JJ Redick.¬† In the third straight game where Doug Collins has played almost entirely an 8 man rotation (Battie¬†got a few spot minutes), the Sixers¬†lost their third straight.¬† While Collins is certainly reaching for different things to get the team going at this point in the season, one has to question whether Lavoy¬†Allen or Nik¬†Vucevic¬†might have been able to help provide a defensive and rebounding presence against the likes of Howard and Davis.¬† Clearly Thad Young was the Sixers¬†most potent offensive weapon tonight, so it makes sense that he got good minutes, but the Sixers¬†were beaten¬†up inside as Howard and Davis combined for 34 rebounds, 14 of them on the offensive end, and the entire Sixers¬†roster had just 41 boards, and just 9 on the offensive end (Hawes and Brand combined for only 17).

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Out-Tanked in P-Town & Hickson

Posted: April 5, 2012 in Blazers, Hoops
Tags: ,

Hickson treats¬†Jordan Williams¬†like a 3rd grader in a HS Varsity Game (Note: it’s not Kris Humpries, even though both Mike Barrett and the video identify the player as Humphries.¬† S/O to Ben Yew for the correction)

While the Blazers (player and coaches at least) have made no overt efforts to tank since the trade deadline (despite our site’s pleading), the benching of D-Will last night¬†at least on the surface appeared¬†to be a tanking power move, considering the Nets have been on a roll lately, and the Blazers had every reason to lose that game (would’ve helped ensure they maintained two top draft choices in this year’s lottery).¬† Needless to say the Blazers cruised last night, with Aldridge, Batum, and Hickson all dominating the Nets buttery soft front court.

For Cavs fans, and certainly for¬†Sacto fans, it must be somewhat hilarious and slightly infuriating¬† to watch JJ Hickson continue to play out of his mind in Portland.¬† Portland has to be sure in evaluating the long-term value of Hickson to note that he has every reason to play for his own future right now, and is probably more motivated than he’s been at any point in his career to produce, not for¬†his team, but for himself.¬† While his career shattering PER of 22.9 through¬†his first 8 games is reason¬†enough for Portland fans¬†& brass to¬†be justifiably¬†excited about the addition of Hickson (especially considering it was a waiver claim), he still has a career low 13.6% total rebound percentage during his stretch in Portland.

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Very tough loss to the Heat tonight for the Sixers.¬† If Iguodala hadn’t been raked badly in the eye by Mario Chalmers in the 3rd Quarter, I think it’s likely that the Sixers win tonight.¬† Of course Heat fans could easily say that having D-Wade sit out the night was just as detrimental to their squad, but that underestimates just how important Iguodala is to the Sixers on the defensive end.¬† Evan Turner went HAM tonight, dropping 26 (12 of 19)¬†and 8 boards, but couldn’t slow Lebron as LBJ tied his season high with 40.¬† He got a little help from Spencer and Iguodala (while he was on the floor), but Jrue, Lou, Meeks, and Thad were a combined 15-42.¬† It’s a tough loss for multiple reasons:

1) It solidifies the Sixers futility against the Heat, as the Heat have only lost one game to the Heat in the “Big Three era,” that coming on the Sixers court in the first round of the playoffs last year

2) It moves the Sixers a full game and a half back of the surging Celtics.  And despite the fact that the Sixers have a more favorable schedule, they also have more road games, and have lost all of their momentum going into the home stretch.

3) They seemed to be right in the thick of things with Iguodala in the game.¬† Iguodala wasn’t “shutting down” Lebron by any means, but he was keeping him off the line, making him work a lot harder, and wreaking havoc in the passing lanes and the open court.

4) They broke down to hero ball again at the end of the game.¬† Lou Williams was in the game at the end and continued with the hero ball antics he seems to have been greenlighted for all season.¬† It was refreshing to see him on the bench as the Sixers continued to run their offense and sealed the Hawks in a close win on Saturday, but this was a regression.¬† It’s tough to say whether Doug would’ve had Lou out there if Iguodala had been out there, but he could’ve gone with Meeks, Jrue, & Turner – and instead he went with Lou.

It’s not the last chance the Sixers have to recapture the Atlantic or the last chance for¬†“statement win,” but it would seem to indicate that the Sixers are in real trouble if they line up against the Heat in the first round again this year.

Hickson Posterizes Enes Kanter and Gordon Hayward (via TheBlazersVideos)

By far the most entertaining thing going on for the Trailblazers these days is elite displays of atheleticism that JJ Hickson puts forth on occasion.¬† We’re still looking at a small sample size, and he certainly didn’t have a particularly special game on Monday night, but¬†it’s still¬†worth noting that since moving from Sacramento to the Blazers just seven games ago, Hickson has raised his FG%¬†for the whole¬†season by 6.9% and scored over a third of his points, in under 24% of his minutes on the season.¬† It’ll be interesting to see if he continues to develop, but the biggest issue continues to be his rebounding percentage.¬† Last night, on the defensive end, he was again one of the worst rebounders in the entire game.¬† With his atheleticism and the knack he shows above at getting to boards on the offensive end, it’s disappointing that he doesn’t do a better job of protecting the paint and rebounding on the defensive end.¬† There’s no doubt that this¬†is one of those things that¬†caused Byron Scott, Paul Westphal, and Keith Smart all to give minutes to other seemingly less talented players.¬† If he wants to play center for the Blazers in the future, that has to change – as Aldridge is not strong enough on the defensive end to make up for Hickson’s lack of effort down there.¬†¬†Still, it’s disappointing to see Przybilla starting over him, and I have to think that the¬†Blazers are really only doing that out of respect for bringing the Vanilla Gorilla out of retirement, and maybe so Hickson can bring some energy off the bench for them.¬†¬†

Up next for the Blazers¬†are the Nets, a must lose game¬†in terms of tanking positioning and preserving that Nets’ draft pick for themselves – but I doubt¬†the players and coaches see it that way.¬†¬†Still, it will be interesting to see how Crash Wallace responds in his return to the Rose Garden, and you¬†know D-Willikers is going to have his way with the Blazers as well.¬†