For the uninitiated, the 76ers’ Sunday Morning Shootaround is a weekly feature on Liberty Ballers in which I take an irreverent spin around the various Sixers’ social media accounts. Below are the most recent posts - enjoy:
For the uninitiated, the 76ers’ Sunday Morning Shootaround is a weekly feature on Liberty Ballers in which I take an irreverent spin around the various Sixers’ social media accounts. Below are the most recent posts - enjoy:
When the Philadelphia 76ers took their team picture last month, Jason Richardson was nowhere to be found.
Of course, very few people noticed and/or cared because Andrew Bynum - both hilariously and appropriately - also happened to be a no-show for the aforementioned photo session.
Despite both players’ legitimate excuses for their absences (both were rehabbing their surgically-repaired knees), the picture day fiasco (henceforth known as the “Glamour Shots By Deb Incident”) fits perfectly into the “Richardson as invisible man” narrative. Not only was the 32-year-old shooting guard largely ignored in the trade that bought Bynum to Philadelphia last August, his January knee injury was an afterthought in the midst of Bynum’s cornrowed, bowling-for-dollars, cartilage-grown-in-Petri-dishes, flamenco-dancing hilarity.
Unlike Bynum however, Richardson played in actual NBA games last season. Yet save for an encouraging stretch early in the year, it was clear that we were witnessing the slow decline of a man whose athleticism was - once upon a time - literally jaw-dropping.
Richardson’s mind may be willing, but his body is clearly weak. The 12-year veteran dealt with knee, chest and ankle injuries during his final season with the Orlando Magic, and he missed 49 games this past year with similar ailments.
We’ll see glimpses of the old J-Rich going forward, but they’ll only serve to remind us of what once was. The 360 dunk against the Milwaukee Bucks in November may ultimately be Richardson’s finest moment in a Sixers’ uniform, but even the optimists among us believe that similar feats are sure to be fewer and farther between.
The 33 games that Richardson did appear in this past season isn’t a huge sample size to draw from, but it still paints a sobering picture of what to expect in the future. When he wasn’t stepping on cameramen, Richardson shot a career-low 40.2 percent from the field, and he knocked down just 34.1 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
To his credit, Richardson did manage to earn the coveted “Ace of Spades” Award three times last season. And while he grabbed rebounds at a fairly decent clip in 2012-13 given his position - Richardson finished with a Defensive Rebound Percentage of 13.4 - the knee injury that he suffered in January will rob him of a fair amount of his already fading explosiveness going forward.
In a perfect world, we’d be able to bottle up the J-Rich we saw at the beginning of last season. Richardson averaged 13.4 PPG in November while shooting nearly 47 percent from three-point range. He rarely strayed from his role as the Sixers’ designated spot-up shooter, and served a fine complement to the emerging Jrue Holiday.
Sadly, that may have been the last shining moment for Richardson prior to his denouement. The above-mentioned knee surgery will keep him out at least until late January, and even when he returns to the lineup, expecting him to play more than 15-20 minutes per night may be unreasonable at this point.
But barring a major setback, J-Rich will (and should) be back in a Sixers’ uniform, primarily because buying him out simply doesn’t make sense.
In a world without consequences and repercussions, Richardson would have received a firm handshake thanking him for services rendered shortly after his exit interview last month. However, the NBA has certain rules and regulations that teams must adhere to, and since his contract was signed under the previous collective bargaining agreement, the Sixers would be on the hook for the full note salary cap-wise if they let him walk ($6.2 million in 2013-14 plus a $6.6 million player option in 2014-15). So, for better or worse, the Sixers are married to Richardson for at least one more year.
And while the two parties aren’t staying together just for the kids, the youth of the team will be the ones who should benefit the most from Richardson’s presence. For what it’s worth (and it’s worth something) Richardson has twice as much experience as every other player under contract next season with the exception of Kwame Brown. And as we learned from the @Sixers Twitter account back in March, you “can’t put a price on veteraness.”
Actually, you can put a price on it, and $6.2 million is a big, lottery-sized check to write for veteran savvy alone. Hopefully, Richardson can serve as a solid rotation player upon his return, and maybe even impart some of the wisdom that he’s picked up over the past dozen years in the interim.
If nothing else, the man still owes the 76ers a picture.Source: libertyballers.com
Lost in the midst of yesterday’s public feting of Doug Collins, the Philadelphia 76ers are apparently looking for a New Media Manager.
For better or for worse, this person would be in charge of the team’s online initiatives and digital marketing strategies. All things considered, it sounds like a pretty sweet gig: Few among us wouldn’t enjoy working for a professional sports team if given the opportunity, and between the salary and the perks, it sure beats working at Moe’s.
We here at Liberty Ballers are all but banned from applying for the job, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t throw your hat in the ring. In fact, we’ve come up with a sample cover letter that you can use when you apply. By the way, if you do get hired, don’t forget who helped get you that corner office…
To whom it may concern:
I am writing to express my interest to the New Media Manager position that you recently posted on the NBA.com Team Jobs Web site.
I’ve been an avid Sixers’ fan for the past XX years, ever since the team drafted (pick one, depending on your age: Leo Rautins, Christian Welp, Shawn Bradley, Allen Iverson, Craig “Speedy” Claxton, Jrue Holiday). I live, breathe and eat Sixers’ basketball, so working for the franchise that has the third-most playoff appearances in NBA history would be something of a dream come true for me.
I watch every game as it is, so I would have no problem working nights, weekends and/or whenever needed. I am also well-versed in social media - there would be no issue for me to continue the current practice of posting dozens of pictures (and even Vine video) of Spencer Hawes going through his pregame warmup routine.
Unlike most others interested in this position, I already have a relationship with a number of those associated with the Sixers’ organization: Jrue Holiday, Nick Young and Molly Sullivan each responded to one of my tweets this past season. Furthermore, I have enhanced my written and interpersonal skills by passionately, intensely, and proudly defending the team on a variety of Internet message boards and blogs, including Liberty Ballers.
As the team’s New Media Manager, I will be vigilant in ensuring that members of the ownership group don’t use Twitter to solicit advice on player personnel decisions. In addition, I am cognizant of the fact that Sixers’ fans may not be aware of all of our social media initiatives - therefore, I will be exceedingly cautious when using phrases like “mean monkey dunk” out of context.
I appreciate your taking the time to review my credentials and experience. Thank you for your consideration - I hope to hear from you soon.
Go Sixers! #ShowYaLuv
Your NameSource: libertyballers.com
Every week, I take a look back at the week that was on the Sixers’ social media scene. Here are few links to the articles posted so far this season:Source: libertyballers.com
Less than three months ago, it was always sunny in Philadelphia.
The fact that the calendar read August at the time had something to do with it, but the cloud hanging over the city suddenly lifted when the Philadelphia 76ers acquired center Andrew Bynum in a four-team trade that – due in large part to Dwight Howard being sent to the Los Angeles Lakers – shifted the landscape of the entire NBA.
Included in the deal was Andre Iguodala: a brooding, mercurial talent who was never embraced by the city of Philadelphia. After Allen Iverson was traded by the Sixers in 2006, Iguodala was saddled with the (somewhat) unfair burden of being “the man.” We soon found out that he was unable (or unwilling) to meet those expectations, and neither he nor most fans of the team that he represented wanted the marriage between player and team to continue.
His time here had run its course: Iguodala knew it, the fans knew it, and most importantly, the Sixers’ front office knew it. So when the chance to acquire the 7-foot Bynum this past August presented itself, the team had no choice but to pull the trigger.
For a while after that, things were good. Roughly 1,500 people turned out at the National Constitution Center this summer to welcome Bynum and Jason Richardson (who was also acquired in the deal) to Philadelphia. At his introductory press conference, Bynum – the first premier center the Sixers have had since Moses Malone – even expressed a desire to sign a long-term deal once his current contract expires at the end of this year.
But after an entire preseason where Bynum hasn’t even been able to step on the practice court, we’ve all received a cold, sobering dose of reality: The Sixers traded for a 25-year-old with chronic knee issues.
This summer, we’ve become all too familiar with the words Orthokine and Synvisc-One. We’ve heard the word lubricant far more than we’re accustomed to on over-the-air television. The fate of the 2012-13 season rests on Andrew Bynum’s right knee, and much like Meek Mill, the next few months will be filled with dreams and nightmares for Sixers’ fans.
Now, to be fair, this team has looked relatively good in the preseason sans Bynum. The Sixers brought in three shooters this offseason (Richardson, Nick Young, Dorell Wright) who are all capable of going off for 20 points on any given night. Gone are the days when many of us cringed when Iguodala and Lou Williams used to let one fly from 23 feet out: Head coach Doug Collins is now blessed with more long-range threats on the roster than the franchise has had in recent memory.
Reserve forward Thaddeus Young has added about 20 pounds of muscle and settled into his niche as a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none option off of the bench. Jrue Holiday appears ready to take the next step in his development as one of the NBA’s best young playmakers, while Evan Turner now has the chance to shine as the Sixers’ best wing player.
This team is more than capable of making the postseason even if Bynum spends most of the next six months in street clothes. But let’s not fool ourselves, either: If the Sixers have any chance of replicating (or even improving upon) their playoff success from last year, No. 33 needs to patrol the paint for a good portion of the season.
What portion of the season that ends up being is anyone’s guess. Opening Night is definitely out of the question, and it’ll take some time for him to get into game shape whenever he’s ready.
Bynum has the potential to turn this decent Sixers team into a very good squad, but more importantly, he’s the franchise-altering talent that has been missing in Philadelphia since Iverson’s first stint ended six years ago. His health is vital to the long-term health of the Sixers as a whole, so it makes little sense to rush him back onto the court until he’s 100 percent healthy.
In the interim, newly acquired center/former No. 1 draft pick bust Kwame Brown will get more burn than he deserves (read: more than none), and the Sixers will go with a undersized frontcourt of Thaddeus Young and Lavoy Allen.
The X-factor, of course, is Collins: A steady hand capable of weathering the storm of uncertainty surrounding Bynum. And because of their head coach, the Sixers will probably win somewhere in the neighborhood of 46-48 games this season, barring a catastrophic injury to one of the team’s key players.
So while dreams of an Eastern Conference title may need to be put on hold for now, this season will be far from a nightmare, regardless of what happens to the Sixers’ biggest star.Source: 215mag.com
Who is Arnett Moultrie?
At face value, the 6’10” rookie out of Mississippi State appears to be the last big man on the Sixers’ bench.During an interview at training camp last week, head coach Doug Collins rattled off the names of the top nine players in his rotation. Prior to that, he mentioned a few others - Maalik Wayns, Royal Ivey and Kwame Brown - that he plans to use as “specialists” this season based on the opponent and the situation.
Arnett Moultrie’s name was never mentioned.
The omission may have been purely accidental, but it’s clear that - barring something completely unexpected - Moultrie doesn’t figure to play a huge role in the Sixers’ plans this season.
That ranking may seem a bit low for someone whom the Sixers claim was among the top 10 prospects on their draft board last June. Moultrie was predicted by many to be selected in the back end of the lottery, so the Sixers were fortunate to swing a draft night deal with Miami that allowed them to select Moultrie with the No. 27 overall pick.
It’s not often that a first-round pick can arrive in a city without much fanfare. Yet in the days following the draft, many Sixers’ fans were too busy lamenting the team’s overabundance of wing players (while at the same time printing “How Could You Be Moe Harkless?” T-shirts) to pay much attention to Moultrie.
The 21-year-old forward is only months removed from a stellar junior season in which he averaged 16.4 PPG and 10.5 RPG while shooting nearly 55 percent from the field. There’s no question that Moultrie has the length and athleticism to compete at the NBA level, and his face-up game is fairly refined for a player of his size.
After the Sixers amnestied Elton Brand in July, Moultrie appeared destined to log meaningful minutes at the two frontcourt spots this year. But exactly one week later, the team signed Kwame Brown. And less than a month after that, Andrew Bynum arrived in Philadelphia.
Playing time that had once seemed plentiful will now be hard (if not impossible) to come by for Moultrie. As it stands, the Sixers even have the luxury of sending him to D-League for a stint or two, though he might be better served squaring off against Bynum and Brown in practice instead of toiling for the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
It was probably best for all parties involved that Moultrie didn’t get thrown into the fire immediately. His low-post game still needs quite a bit of work, a few extra pounds would help him deal with the rigors of the NBA, and despite an 8’11” reach, a 7’2” wingspan, and explosive leaping ability, he hasn’t shown a propensity to block all that many shots (Moultrie averaged less than a block per game last season for the Bulldogs).
It appears that he’ll have plenty of time to work on those weaknesses: With most of the Sixers’ bigs signed to multi-year deals (with the notable exception of Bynum, who figures to re-up next summer), it’s anyone’s guess as to when Moultrie will be able to contribute on a regular basis.
Moultrie has been impressive during the first week of camp, despite the fact that he continues to deal with a high ankle sprain that kept him out of summer league action in July. The next month is crucial for Moultrie: Anything positive that he shows now will give the coaching staff that much more confidence to use him during the regular season.
“He’s still not 100 percent, but he’s big, he’s strong, he can rebound the ball, he’s got a great feel for the game,”said Collins last week. “He has played very, very well.”
Statistical projections for Moultrie this year are almost entirely dependent on the well-being of those ahead of him in the Sixers’ rotation. If Bynum, Hawes, Brown and Allen are relatively healthy this season, much of Moultrie’s freshman campaign in the NBA will be spent cleaning popcorn out of his car and/or wearing “Hello Kitty” backpacks on road trips.
As long as the Sixers’ veterans don’t force Moultrie to go the “Call Me Maybe” route, the former Bulldog will likely be able to consider his rookie season a success. The only calls Moultrie wants to hear this year are the ones from Collins telling him to check into the game.
Unfortunately for Moultrie, those calls figure to be few and far between.Source: libertyballers.com
Lost in the hoopla surrounding Andrew Bynum this summer was the Sixers’ acquisition of a man who has made more three-pointers than all but 14 men in NBA history.
Jason Richardson has a good chance to start alongside Jrue Holiday in the 76ers’ backcourt on Opening Night, yet there has been very little discussion surrounding him this offseason. Richardson, an 11-year veteran who boasts a career scoring average of 17.5 points per game, has been all but obscured by the fairly large shadow cast - literally and figuratively - by Bynum’s arrival.
It’s almost as if he were invisible.
“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me… When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”
- Ralph Ellison, “Invisible Man”
True invisibility is one of the world’s most coveted superpowers. Figurative invisibility, on the other hand, is anything but. Richardson, much like the unnamed protagonist in Ralph Ellison’s seminal work “Invisible Man”, can actually be seen by the naked eye, but has mostly been ignored by Sixers fans for the better part of the past two months.
The sharpshooting swingman was little more than a footnote at the very press conference that welcomed him to Philadelphia - a supporting actor to a 7-foot star set to illuminate the Wells Fargo Center. Bynum clearly deserved the lion’s share of the press clippings (and billboards) celebrating that day, but Richardson shouldn’t have been summarily dismissed either.
That said, the 2012 edition of Jason Richardson is, in fact, a far cry from the player who averaged 21.8 PPG back in 2007-08. He isn’t the same freak of nature who captured two consecutive NBA Slam Dunk Contest titles nearly a decade ago. Richardson’s yearly scoring averages and field-goal percentages have both steadily decreased in each of the past four seasons, and he averaged career lows in both points (11.6 PPG) and minutes (29.5 MPG) in 2011-12.
These days, the 6’6” marksman spends most of his time with his feet on the floor and firmly planted behind the three-point line. Richardson is a career 37.2 percent shooter from long range, and is far more consistent than the recently-departed Jodie Meeks, who started 114 games over the past two seasons for the Sixers.
Unlike Meeks, Richardson is capable of effectively attacking the basket, making the Sixers’ offense far more diverse than it was a season ago. So even on those nights when Richardson’s shot isn’t falling, he’ll still be able to draw attention from opposing defenses.
“I want him to slash and cut, I want to get him in the post some… I don’t want him just to live behind that three-point line,” said Sixers’ head coach Doug Collins following Richardson’s introductory press conference in August.
If nothing else, Richardson will provide some much-needed leadership for a team that lost both of its captains in the offseason. As the oldest and most experienced player on the roster, Richardson is in line to fill part of the void left by 13-year veteran Elton Brand, who was amnestied in July.
“I was invisible, and I was only just beginning to realize the extraordinary advantage my invisibility gave me. My head was already teeming with plans of all the wild and wonderful things I had now impunity to do.”
- H.G. Wells, “The Invisible Man”
The lack of focus on Richardson may allow him to slide under the radar a bit in the short term, despite the fact that he’s due to make more than $18 million over the next three years. For better or for worse, expectations for Richardson are relatively modest, especially since the 31-year-old swingman is at best the team’s No. 4 option on offense.
Whether Richardson will ever get to start for the Sixers at shooting guard is still to be determined. However, as long as he keeps defenses honest and knocks down the occasional 23-footer (something that he did 102 times last year), he’ll be a key member of Collins’ rotation.
Earlier this summer, Richardson said that he’s willing to do whatever the team asks, but after starting 794 out of a possible 805 games in his NBA career, he doesn’t appear content to merely fade into the background.
“It’s really a great opportunity for me at this point in my career to come to a team that is headed on the upswing,” said Richardson back in August. “I’m looking forward to coming to Philly and contributing in a big way.”
Maybe invisibility is overrated after all.Source: libertyballers.com
All-Star. Olympian. Overpaid. Overrated.
Aloof. Enigmatic. Polarizing. Underappreciated.
Andre Iguodala has been called all of those things - as well as other, unprintable things - ever since he arrived in Philadelphia in the summer of 2004. So perhaps it was only fitting that the city’s most mercurial athlete was five time zones away when the Sixers decided to trade him last week.
The four-team deal that ultimately shipped Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers could have easily been consummated at any point before the 2012-13 NBA season. But with each of the franchises eager to pull the trigger before any of its fellow trade partners got cold feet, Philadelphia agreed to send Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets.
Three days later, the former Sixer helped the U.S. Men’s National Team capture a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics.
So to recap: Less than 72 hours before the greatest athletic achievement in his life, Iguodala was traded away by the only team that he had ever known in his professional career. But trades in the NBA are relatively commonplace. The more important story is the divorce between a man and the city that - in contrast to its still-infamous tourism campaign - never loved him back.
The split between Andre Iguodala and Philadelphia should be amicable for both parties: It isn’t as if this was a case of unrequited love.
For the better part of eight seasons, Sixers’ fans have been anything but silent in their disdain for the 6’6” swingman. Professional basketball hasn’t often been a topic of conversation on the Philadelphia sports talk radio airwaves in recent years, but whenever it was, Iguodala typically was the lightning rod for most callers’ vitriol.
Things changed only slightly with the advent of social media. 82 nights a year - or 66 nights during a lockout-shortened campaign - thousands of hands throughout the Delaware Valley remained poised above keyboards and smartphone screens during Sixers’ games. What Iguodala did on the defensive end was unimportant: Whenever he missed an ill-advised three-pointer, or failed to convert a pair of free throws, 140-character missives began to flood Twitter timelines all across the region.
After the Sixers fell in the first round to the Miami Heat in the 2011 Eastern Conference Playoffs, Iguodala was asked if he expected to return to the team the following year. His response? “I expect to be in the NBA.”
One day later, Iguodala skipped his end-of-year exit interview with Sixers’ head coach Doug Collins. If Iguodala’s goal was to anger an already hostile fan base, then he couldn’t have played his cards any better.
But in true enigmatic fashion, there were plenty of times when he got it right. Before the start of the 2011-12 season, when a group of fans came together for an “End Of Lockout” party, Iguodala showed up, even though he was under no obligation to do so. He shook hands, he posed for pictures… he probably would have kissed a few babies if any were present. It was a genuine display of goodwill for a group of supporters who truly loved the Sixers and the game of basketball.
That one gesture began the reconciliation process between a man and his fans. Not much changed on the court: In fact, it appeared as if Iguodala made a conscious decision to shoot even less than he had in the past.
Yet last season, Iguodala had perhaps his best year ever, culminating in his first-ever All-Star appearance. He led the Sixers to a 35-31 record - the team’s first winning season in seven years - and provided us with one of the most thrilling endings in Philadelphia sports history.
Last May, in the closing moments of Game 6 of the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, the 76ers trailed the Chicago Bulls by a single point. With 7.7 seconds left in regulation, Iguodala corralled a missed Omer Asik free throw and drove the length of the court with reckless abandon.
He was fouled with 2.2 seconds to go, and in front of a sold out Wells Fargo Center crowd - very few of them optimists at that moment - Iguodala calmly sank two free throws, securing Philadelphia’s first playoff series victory since 2003.
Shortly after the final horn, Iguodala jumped on top of the scorer’s table, posed, and bathed in the admiration from a sea of Sixers’ fans.
“I don’t know how you could write a better script,” said Collins during the post-game press conference. “Dre has gone through a lot here and I told him after the game that no one deserves more than you do to have this moment.”
And in that moment, something of a truce was formed between Andre Iguodala and the city of Philadelphia. The two neighborhood kids who never seemed to get along had finally made peace with one another.
Three months later, those two game-winning free throws are little more than a distant memory. One of those neighborhood kids is now headed halfway across the country, and his replacement (Andrew Bynum) is already more popular than the old kid ever was.
Andre Iguodala never gave us what we wanted while he was here, but in leaving, the Sixers - and their fans - got the franchise player that they’ve long wished for.
The 76ers will open the 2012-13 season against the Denver Nuggets at the Wells Fargo Center. There will be some sort of ceremony to honor Iguodala before the game, and most fans in attendance will give him his proper respect. Ironically enough, Iguodala may be cheered more that night than he ever was while he wore a Sixers’ uniform.
Perhaps Andre Iguodala isn’t the only one that we should be calling enigmatic after all.
But while they weren’t able to land this summer’s ultimate reward, the Sixers still wound up with one of the two best centers in the NBA.
For a young 76ers squad that was overly reliant on jump shots last season, Andrew Bynum’s impact should be felt almost immediately. The 7’0”, 285-pound center is a massive presence who will attract quite a bit of attention whenever he posts up on the low block.
For the first time in ages, the Sixers will be able to run an effective inside-out game, especially now that the team added a bevy of shooters this offseason (Dorell Wright, Jason Richardson and Nick Young).
Furthermore, with Bynum a threat to go for 18 points and 11 rebounds every night, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner should have more space in which to attack the basket.
Simply put, Bynum is the best big man to put on a 76ers uniform since Moses Malone. Knee injuries sapped both Chris Webber and Elton Brand of much of their effectiveness before they arrived in Philadelphia, and no other low-post player in the franchise’s recent history was as polished on both ends of the floor as Bynum is at only 24 years of age.
To be fair, the Sixers did have an All-Star center on their roster 10 years ago, but even back in 2002, Dikembe Mutombo was considered old.
California Redwoods, cut-him-open-and-count-the-rings old.
Mutombo averaged 11.5 PPG and 11.2 RPG as a member of the Sixers, but he was more or less an afterthought on the offensive end of the floor.
Bynum has yet to enter his prime, and he’s already the best go-to low-post option Philadelphia has seen since Charles Barkley ruled the Spectrum two decades ago. Bynum is extremely skilled at establishing position under the basket, and once he catches the entry pass, Bynum is virtually automatic—he converted 73.2 percent of his field-goal attempts at the rim last season, according to HoopData.
As the team’s No. 1 option on offense, Bynum has to get better at passing out of double-teams, a skill he failed to develop with the Lakers. It’s a detail on which Sixers head coach Doug Collins will be sure to focus in training camp this fall as the team revamps its playbook in order to fully maximize Bynum’s strengths.
The addition of Bynum also gives more validity to Collins’ plan of starting Spencer Hawes at the power-forward position. While Thaddeus Young would be better suited to guard opposing 4s, Bynum’s presence in the middle negates much of Hawes’ ineffectiveness on the defensive end.
Hawes also happens to be one of the team’s better passers, and his mid-range jumper—which is far better than that of Young—is the perfect complement to Bynum’s “bull in a china shop” approach in the paint.
Time will ultimately tell how much of an effect Bynum will have on the Sixers, but it’s hard to imagine that the team won’t be better with a legitimate All-Star center as the focal point of its offense.
The Lakers may have been awarded the gold at this summer’s NBA offseason Olympics, but Andrew Bynum is a pretty good consolation prize, no matter how you judge it.Source: bleacherreport.com
Less than two months removed from its best postseason run in nearly a decade, the Philadelphia 76ers franchise is like a ship without a rudder.
A 35-31 campaign capped off by an appearance in the conference semifinals would normally be cause for celebration in most cities. Yet discerning Sixers fans are well aware that their beloved team is caught in a morass of mediocrity: too talented to be considered bad, yet not talented enough to be a legitimate threat.
A suggestion for the team’s theme song next year? “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Stealers Wheel.
Unfortunately, the 76ers’ playoff success this past season is nothing more than a cheap cologne that masks the team’s true scent.
So instead of rebuilding (which would be the most prudent course of action), the franchise has focused its efforts on re-tooling the current roster.
But so far, their moves to that end have left many scratching their heads this offseason.
The Sixers’ biggest need is in the middle, and the team chose to “solve” that issue by re-signing center Spencer Hawes to a two-year, $13 million deal.
That would be the same Spencer Hawes who ranked 341st in the NBA in points per possession allowed last season (0.91 PPP, according to Synergy Sports). The same Spencer Hawes who averaged less than 24 minutes per game in the Eastern Conference semifinals, as his Charmin-like defense forced head coach Doug Collins to replace him with rookie power forward Lavoy Allen.
Hawes would be a decent backup center on most teams, but expecting him to competently guard physical big men in the post is little more than a pipe dream.
Elton Brand was the team’s most effective interior defender last season, but the 76ers used the league’s amnesty clause to part ways with the 13-year veteran. Brand looked every bit of a 33-year-old with bad knees at times last season, but his long arms and guile made him a nightmare for opposing bigs. In post-up situations last season, Brand was 16th in the league in points per possession allowed (0.61 PPP).
It is unknown who will provide that brand (no pun intended) of veteran savvy this season.
Presumably, Thaddeus Young will slide into Brand’s spot at the 4 position, but he doesn’t have enough experience guarding power forwards to be an immediate difference-maker.
In regards to the backcourt, the ‘Sixers are still in search of a true playmaker off of the bench. Jrue Holiday has been the team’s only point guard ever since he arrived in Philadelphia three years ago, and no one currently projected to come off of the bench for the Sixers can effectively run the offense.
More than anything else, the Philadelphia 76ers need a true sense of direction. Not from the bench: Collins has coached this current group of players as well as humanly possible.
No…The problem lies in the front offices of the Wells Fargo Center. The team president, Rod Thorn, has one foot out of the door, yet he’s still the figurehead of a new ownership group that is unwilling to take the drastic steps in order to make the team a true power in the NBA.
Until they do that, they’ll be left floating in the proverbial creek without a paddle.
And without much hope for the future.Source: bleacherreport.com
Last night, with the Chicago Bulls leading by one with 2.2 seconds remaining in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series, the fate of the Philadelphia 76ers’ season rested on the shoulders of Andre Iguodala.
Of course it did.
The Sixers’ co-captain—often criticized for coming up small in the clutch—was fouled on a spirited drive to the basket, and had a chance to silence the critics (at least temporarily) provided that he knocked down a pair of free throws.
Free throws have been something of an albatross around the neck of Iguodala this year. The mercurial small forward shot a career-low 61.7 percent from the foul line during the regular season, and had only made 23 of his 51 fourth-quarter foul shots during the shortened 66-game campaign.
So, naturally, with the 20,362 fans at the Wells Fargo Center focused on his every move, Iguodala calmly sank both of his free throws to give Philadelphia a 79-78 victory, clinching the franchise’s first playoff series win in nine seasons.
Of course he did.
It no longer mattered that the 47 minutes and 57.8 seconds of basketball before those foul shots was often painful to watch. Nor did it matter that Bulls’ point guard C.J. Watson would come within inches of winning the game with a last-second, desperation heave. The important takeaway from Game 6 is that Iguodala ended the night as the hero—a hero finally embraced by a city that had shunned him for most of his career.
“I don’t know how you could write a better script than for Andre Iguodala to get the rebound, drive the length of the floor, step up to the foul line, and make two free throws to get us to the second round,” said Sixers head coach Doug Collins after the game. “Dre has gone through a lot here and I told him after the game that no one deserves more than you do to have this moment.”
Sixers CEO Adam Aron couldn’t have been more honest when he went on Philadelphia radio station 94WIP after the game and said that if someone were to pitch the story of Game 6 in Hollywood, no one would buy it.
Quite frankly, there was very little last night that made any sense. Never before has the phrase “suspension of disbelief” fit so appropriately to an NBA playoff game.
The Sixers were outrebounded by Chicago 56-33, shot 39.7 percent from the field, and had only scored 29 second-half points before the two Iguodala free throws. Yet despite all of that, they only trailed the Bulls 78-77 with 7.7 seconds left to play.
Bulls center Omer Asik had a chance to extend his team’s lead to three with a pair of free throws, but missed badly on both. Iguodala—sore Achilles be damned—corralled the rebound on the second miss and drove the length of the court, only to be fouled by Asik with 2.2 seconds left on the clock.
The way the story usually goes, Iguodala would have driven into the lane, kicked the ball out to Lou Williams, and let someone else get the glory (or the blame, depending on how it all played out). But Iguodala chose to make a few last-second edits to the screenplay, and with those changes, he may have written himself into Philadelphia sports lore for years to come.
The soft-spoken Iguodala tends to lead more by action than by words, and his play last night is evidence of that. Collins himself said after the game that he hadn’t spoken all that much to his All-Star small forward over the past two years.
Iguodala doesn’t say much to anyone outside of his inner circle. Conversely, Sixers fans have been anything but shy in expressing their feelings about a man whom many consider to be both overpaid and underwhelming.
The soundtrack is different this morning, however. Before last night, the song that would have best described Philly’s like/hate relationship with Iguodala was “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” by Bobby Bland. Today? It’s “Dre Day.”
All of the slings and crossbows pointed in the direction of the Wells Fargo Center have been lowered. For at least one day—and perhaps for a little while longer—the city of Philadelphia belongs to Andre Iguodala.
Of course it does.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a series.
In Game 2 of their first-round matchup against the Chicago Bulls, the Philadelphia 76ers didn’t just cruise to a 109-92 victory, but they firmly embraced the challenge of upsetting the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
On Tuesday, the duo of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner teased us with glimpses of their potential. Andre Iguodala tormented Bulls forward Luol Deng into a 3-for-12 shooting performance. Even the Sixers’ second unit—affectionately referred to as the “Night Shift”—got in on the action, chipping in 39 points and 16 rebounds.
Unless you happen to be a Bulls fan, it was a beautiful thing to behold.
And if you do happen to be a Bulls fan, a bit of concern about your team’s short-term prospects should have crept into your head by the time the final buzzer sounded. Nearly everyone who watched Game 2 likely came to the exact same conclusion: There’s no reason why the Sixers can’t do it again.
And again. And again.
Of course, there are always the doubters, naysayers and non-believers. A fair amount of historical evidence is on their side, however, as Chicago is 18-10 with Derrick Rose out of the lineup this year.
It should also be noted that Philadelphia’s Game 2 win was due in large part to the team’s scorching hot shooting effort (59 percent from the floor) combined with a 25-to-8 disparity in fast-break points.
But why can’t Holiday and Turner combine for 40-plus points again against C.J. Watson and Rip Hamilton? Even at this stage in their careers, the Sixers backcourt of the future is more talented than the starting tandem for the Bulls. Furthermore, Philadelphia’s advantage only increases in crunch time since Kyle Korver is Chicago’s de facto shooting guard in the fourth quarter.
What exactly is preventing Iguodala from harassing Deng on every Bulls possession? Including the playoffs, Deng has played against the Sixers four times this season. Only once—Game 1 of this series—has he scored more than eight points.
Chicago’s youth would typically be to its advantage, especially after a compressed regular season such as the one we all just endured. Yet Philadelphia only has one rotation player—Elton Brand—who is over the age of 28.
Game 2 victory aside, this same 76ers team defeated the Bulls—who had a healthy Rose at the time—98-82 back on February 1. The contest was such a rout that Rose didn’t even play the final 12 minutes.
Even with the reigning MVP at point guard in Game 1 of the current seven-game set, Chicago didn’t put Philadelphia away until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
With the next two games at home—in a building full of supporters who are just a win or two away from becoming believers—Philadelphia could put its foot on the gas pedal and all but close this series out.
The checkered flag is still quite a few laps away, but the 76ers are clearly in the driver’s seat just as the race is starting to get interesting.Source: bleacherreport.com
When it comes to the Philadelphia 76ers, there’s an elephant standing in the room that very few people want to talk about.
So, instead of discussing the obvious, they prefer to make excuses.
He’s only 21 years old. This is only his third year in the league. He’s still learning the finer points of playing the point guard position.
All of the above statements are true. What also happens to be true is the fact that 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday is in the midst of a disappointing season.
Philadelphia’s 18-7 start this year was a perfume that masked a lot of the team’s flaws. But after losing four of their last six games, many of the 76ers’ shortcomings are finally coming to light.
Holiday isn’t Philadelphia’s most pressing concern, nor is he the team’s biggest weakness. But without consistent play from its young point guard, it’s unlikely that the 76ers will make any sort of statement come playoff time.
After a sophomore campaign in which he averaged 14.0 points and 6.5 assists per game, the arrow on Jrue Holiday’s career appeared to be trending upward. It seemed safe to assume that natural progression would take over and that the 21-year-old would grasp the subtle nuances required to be a top-10 point guard in the NBA.
That hasn’t happened as of yet.
With nearly 200 games under his belt, Holiday continues to have a penchant for making careless turnovers at inopportune moments. Well into his third season, he has yet to learn how to effectively use his 6’4”, 180-pound frame to draw contact from opposing defenders.
On a team that has to work extremely hard on most of their offensive possessions, Holiday still hasn’t figured out how to make it easier for both himself and his teammates.
As a result, Holiday has clearly shown signs of regression this season. Even 76ers head coach Doug Collins acknowledged that his young point guard is going through some severe growing pains.
“You’ve got to keep fighting, man,” said Collins when asked about Holiday’s recent struggles after a 82-75 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. “It’s a tough business.”
This season, Holiday is shooting a career-low 41.4 percent from the field. He’s averaging nearly two fewer assists per game than he did in 2010-11, and his rebounding numbers are down as well.
Holiday has notched double-digit assists only once this season (Jan. 20 vs. Atlanta), and in 16 of the 76ers’ 31 games, Holiday has finished with four assists or less.
In recent losses to the Orlando Magic and the Dallas Mavericks, Holiday shot a combined 1-of-17 from the field, and his combined plus/minus ratio in those games was a minus-37.
Holiday didn’t score in the Mavericks game until the final minute of the first half. By the fourth quarter, the 76ers’ young point guard was passing up wide-open jumpers—his confidence clearly shaken.
The first order of business for Collins is to create quality scoring opportunities for Holiday, whose shot selection is questionable at best. This season, nearly 53 percent of Holiday’s field goal attempts have come from beyond 16 feet—a seven percent increase over last year.
Once Holiday makes a concerted effort to drive the lane, things should become much more fluid for the 76ers on offense. Attacking the basket won’t just result in higher percentage shots for Holiday, but it will also lead to increased trips to the foul line as well as open looks for his teammates on the wing.
Despite his struggles, Holiday has given a solid effort on defense this season. In terms of points-per-possession allowed, he is one of the top-50 defensive players in the NBA, according to Synergy Sports.
But, to be fair, that ranking is skewed by the lack of quality opponents Philadelphia faced during the first month of the season. In the past few weeks, a number of opposing point guards have had their way with the 76ers, from the elite (Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Tony Parker) to the…less elite (Jameer Nelson, Jeff Teague, Ramon Sessions).
Holiday’s potential is alluring, to be sure. There are very few players in the NBA with his size, speed and sheer willingness to learn. But there is only so long that his potential and inexperience can be used as a crutch. So as Holiday’s metamorphosis from a scoring guard into a playmaker continues, Philadelphia needs to do whatever it takes in order to hasten the process.
The time for excuses is over. With the 76ers poised to make a serious playoff run for the first time in nearly a decade, the elephant in the room is simply too large to ignore.
Who is Andre Iguodala?
If you were to ask New Jersey Nets general manager Billy King, he’d say that the 6-foot, 6-inch swingman is a “prototypical 3 man” who would be in high demand if he were to ever hit the open market.
According to USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, Iguodala is an “incredible defender” who helped lead the U.S. men’s’ team to a gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championships.
But to many fans of the Philadelphia 76ers, Andre Iguodala is an overpaid, underperforming player who rarely—if ever—comes through in the clutch.
Seven-plus seasons of familiarity have bred much contempt in the city of Philadelphia for Iguodala. Contempt that, at least on some level, appears to be a bit misguided.
Both supporters and detractors can agree that Iguodala has one of the more versatile skill sets in the entire NBA. Few in the league are more efficient at attacking the basket than Iguodala, who is an absolute terror in the open floor.
Defensively, his ability to virtually lock down opposing wing players is nothing short of impressive. Last season, Iguodala earned NBA All-Defensive honors for the first time in his career, but he’s been regarded as one of the league’s best perimeter defenders for quite some time.
Logic would dictate that a player with all of those talents would be embraced by the tough, blue-collar town in which Iguodala plays. But along with those gifts comes a man whose questionable body language often gives the impression that he isn’t always going full bore.
It also doesn’t help that Iguodala is following in the footsteps of Allen Iverson: a 6-foot, 165-pound superstar whose blue-collar work ethic (with the exception of practice) and underdog, never-say-die attitude epitomized virtually everything that Philadelphia fans want in their best player.
Iguodala’s devil-may-care demeanor is in stark contrast to Iverson’s emotionally-charged playing style, so to many in the City of Brotherly Love, the modern-day A.I. is committing a cardinal sin just by the way he looks while he’s out on the court.
Perception isn’t always reality, however. If Iguodala truly didn’t care, he wouldn’t have gone out of his way to attend a fan-organized “End of Lockout” party last month. And he certainly wouldn’t have scheduled (and paid for) a week of informal off-season workouts with his teammates during the lockout.
“Dre so wants these fans to appreciate what he brings as do I,” said 76ers head coach Doug Collins.
It’s going to take some time for that to happen, however. For starters, the memories of last April’s playoff series against the Miami Heat are still all too fresh in the minds of 76ers fans.
In terms of rebounds (7.0 RPG) and assists (6.8 APG), Iguodala had an exceptional showing against James, Wade, Bosh and company. But for many, the fact that he only averaged 11.4 points per game in the five-game series trumps all.
Last season’s showing against the Heat aside, Iguodala’s largest albatross is his performance—or lack thereof—when the game is on the line.
The very atmosphere inside the Wells Fargo Center becomes noticeably different when Iguodala is initiating the offense late in a close game. For Sixers’ fans, seeing the ball in the hands of their starting small forward during a crucial possession is the basketball equivalent of the “Sword of Damocles.”
Their reaction isn’t completely unjustified. According to 82games.com, in crunch time situations last season (fourth quarter or overtime, less than five minutes left, neither team ahead by more than five points), Iguodala shot a paltry 30.9 percent from the floor.
That’s not to say that Iguodala isn’t built for those types of situations. In Game 1 of the Sixers’ first-round series against the Orlando Magic in the 2009 NBA Playoffs, Iguodala hit a memorable, step-back 19-footer with 2.2 seconds to go—the game-winning shot in the 76ers’ 100-98 victory. But moments such as those have been far too infrequent for a man who is often ranked among the 30 or 40 best players in the NBA.
In a perfect world, Iguodala would be the Robin to someone else’s Batman. Although he’s one of the most physically gifted players in the entire league, his best skills—defense, playmaking—are more complementary than primary. But given his six-year, $80 million contract, Iguodala is expected to perform at a superstar level every night.
It’s clear that Andre Iguodala won’t ever be the 22/6/6 type of player that many envisioned he would be at this point. But if he were to consistently put up 15/5/5, play lockdown defense, and occasionally flirt with a triple-double every now and again, that may be enough to win back some of those who have already written him off.
A year after his trade to the Denver Nuggets, Iverson was asked about Iguodala’s ability to lead the 76ers to playoff success. In his familiar cadence, A.I. began the answer with a question of his own: “Can he [Iguodala] be ‘The Man’ in Philly?”More than four years later, 76ers’ fans are still asking themselves that very same thing. Source: thebreakdownshow.com
The above statement would have been completely dismissed a year ago, or even a month ago for that matter. After all, heading into this season, expectations for Hawes were pretty much in line with his production from last year.
During his first season in Philadelphia, Hawes averaged a pedestrian 7.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in 2010-11, but was relegated to only 21.2 minutes per night due to his deficiencies on the defensive end.
What a difference a year makes.
In 12 games this season, Hawes is averaging 10.4 points, and leads the 76ers in rebounds (8.8 RPG) and blocks (1.67 BPG). Not only is he shooting an impressive 58.8 percent from the field, but in terms of points per possession, Hawes is one of the most efficient players in the entire league (1.04 PPP—35th-best in the NBA, according to Synergy Sports).
Most importantly, much of the Philadelphia offense runs through Hawes—an offense that often becomes stagnant whenever he’s not on the court.
Hawes’ value to his team was clearly evident when the 76ers squared off against the New York Knicks on January 11. Hawes missed the game with a lower back strain that he suffered against the Sacramento Kings the previous night, and his absence was felt from the opening tip.
With Tony Battie starting at center, 76ers head coach Doug Collins tried to run the same sets the team ran with a healthy Hawes in the lineup. By the end of the end of the first quarter, the Sixers had only scored 15 points.
For the night, Philadelphia shot 39.5 percent from the field and had their worst offensive performance of the season in an 85-79 loss. And in a game in which Hawes didn’t even play, 76ers fans learned just how vital their starting center is to the success of their team.
Simply put, Hawes is an adept passer who is more than willing to create opportunities for his teammates from the pivot position. Once he receives the entry pass from the point guard, Hawes has a number of options, most of which don’t result in a shot for himself.
And he seems to be perfectly fine with that.
Whether he hands the ball off back to the point guard, kicks it out to a spot-up shooter, or finds a cutting wing player, Hawes typically makes the proper decision that keeps the 76ers’ offense flowing. Moreover, Hawes’ proficiency at knocking down the long-range jumper—he’s shooting 57 percent from 16 to 23 feet this season—creates space for his teammates to operate in the team’s half-court sets.
While compensating for his back injury, Hawes recently strained his left Achilles tendon, and won’t suit up until next week at the earliest. Battie, starting power forward Elton Brand and rookie center Nikola Vucevic have done their best to fill Hawes’ role as a facilitator, but the results have been uneven at best. Through the team’s first 15 games, the 76ers are 10-2 with Hawes in the starting lineup, and 1-2 when he doesn’t suit up.
“We’ve got to be very careful with this,” Collins said when referring to Hawes’ latest injury. “This is an injury that if you come back too soon, you can be right back to where you were.”
The 76ers know that they have to be extra cautious with their starting center, especially during this condensed season. As crazy as it may sound, Hawes is the one player that they can least afford to lose for an extended period of time.Source: bleacherreport.com