Monday, February 7, 2011

The Good, The Bad, And The Doesn't Matter

A quick check-in for my basketball laundry, the Philadelphia 76ers, who just split a home and home with the Knicks and appear more likely than not to return to the playoffs.

The good?

1) Elton Brand is no longer terrible. He's still overpaid, heaven knows, and it could still end at any moment, but there is no doubt that the Dookie has made a considerable comeback. I still doubt he has any real trade value, and he's still being paid like the best player on the team when he's more of a fourth, but at least he no longer makes us weep out loud.

2) Doug Collins has a clue. He's worked on making Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams, defensive sieves when given starter's minutes, valued bench players. The Sixers no longer are on auto-roast in bench time, and that's well, kinda huge when your front line talent isn't so front line.

3) They haven't sold Andre Iguodala for 40 cents on the dollar. Instead, they waited for him to get healthy and have allowed him to do what he does best - fill up the stat sheet in unique ways, depending on his feel of what is needed - and reaped the rewards. As always, Iggy is a handle and a three-point stroke from being one of the Association's best players. There's also no chance he ever gets either, at this point, but he's still got a ton to offer, and if he's the third-best player on your team, you might win a championship. Unfortunately in Philadelphia, he's their best, and probably would be for another 2-3 years, at which point his game will start to fall off a cliff. Sigh.

4) Jrue Holliday continues to develop. He's probably never going to be a top 5 point guard, but at least he's getting better, and never plays a game without effort on the defensive end. I just like him; I think he could be a new-school Gary Payton, and that's high praise.

5) Evan Turner is earning his minutes. He's still nothing like what you might hope for from the #2 pick in the draft, and I still think his ceiling is more like Iguodala II, but at least it looks like he has a future now. For the first 20 games of his NBA career, he looked like a guy who was destined for Europe after his rookie contract expired.

The bad?

1) Spencer Hawes is as useless as advertised. I keep waiting for the guy to get rung up on pot or something, because the erratic nature of his performances, and Collins' steadfast refusal to give him crunch-time minutes, is just telling. I get that Sam Dalembert's contract was awful and his play highly limited, but there's very little that Hawes does that makes me think he belongs in the best basketball league in the world. He starts every game, and yet plays less than 20 minutes a game. All you need to know, really.

2) After a nice start, Jodie Meeks looks overmatched. This was such a nice story for about a dozen games; an actual three point threat and defensive player, but the Association will correct such things with a vengeance, and it was probably too much to ask for Milwaukee to have thrown away a useful player. Still, not encouraging.

3) Andres Nocioni and Jason Kapono continue the team's tradition of (a) not being able to hire a tolerable Euro, and (b) not being able to hire a tolerable three-point specialist. It's as if the franchise has refused to admit that the world has changed, and that playing pro ball like you were coached by John Chaney of Temple isn't the be-all and end-all of professional basketball evolution. Which leads us to the real problem of this franchise, which is true even when you have won six of the last eight, as they have...

4) There's no way they are winning a playoff series. Right now they are the seven seed, just in front of the suddenly awake Pacers, and three games back of the Knicks. To avoid the Boston-Miami-Chicago first round of death, they'd have to get to the Orlando level of competence, which is a dozen games above .500, or more or less statistically impossible for a team that plays with this small of a margin for error, with only 32 games left in the season. It's also not outside of the realm of possibility that they miss the playoffs altogether, considering that Charlotte looks alive after tossing off the Larry Brown shackles.

So they are watchable, and try hard, and have some young guys that might be something someday. I could have said the same thing for most of the last decade. They could play four more games than last year's trainwreck team. And people wonder why Philly Fan doesn't go to games?

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