Sunday, November 3, 2013

The 3-0 Sixers Disaster

MC Dub Is Not Afraid Of MVPs
Tonight in South Philly, order was going to be restored. Chicago was going to give the hometown Sixers a clear and obvious regression correction, using the fact that they didn't play last night and are an actual NBA championship contender to put the supposed to be tanking 2-0 Sixers in their place.

And, well, that was all going according to plan. Chicago pounded the home team on the glass en route to a 20-point lead and has great defensive players and coaching, and when that happens, you should lose. They had legs and experience and an ex-MVP in Derrick Rose, and if you were picking players to win this year from these two rosters, Chicago probably has four of the first five off the board. In a year in which the upcoming draft is loaded and the fan base has more or less accepted the need and reality for a tank job, the Sixers looked appropriately terrible in the pre-season. Rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams, blessed with good size and vision, but with a shaky shot and no established back up, was supposed to learn on the job and take his lumps. Small forward Evan Turner was going to accumulate ineffective across the board counting stats in his effort to get a contract from a dim GM, and center Spencer Hawes was going to tease out a deal from somewhere else, in more or less the same story. Thaddeus Young was going to be good, patient and overmatched, and the bench was going to be D-League-ish. Shooting guard was going to be a turnstile.

So, in the second half, when they ripped off another in what's becoming a series of big scoring runs of pace and paint, and finished things off in their usual Who Needs A Go To Guy fashion, they completed a three game in four night run with a 3-0 record, when everyone in the NBA expected 0-3. Chicago scored 19 in the third and 21 in the fourth, and that was that.

How are they doing it? Well, everyone runs and everyone tries, and the long 2-point shot has been more or less eradicated. MCW has been a top 10 player in the entire league, and Hawes and Turner have also added in their best performances in their time in the laundry. The bench has been a lot better than expected, with guard Tony Wroten and big man Daniel Orten in particular looking like actual rotation members on good teams. They run off everything, even makes, so the worst thing they do -- scoring in half-court sets -- is actually OK so far, since they are making teams play constant defense. Coach Brett Brown is doing great work in managing minutes so that no one ever looks gassed or loafing, and personnel groups make sense. After a year of Doug Collins looking like he was just trying to bring back the pre 3-point NBA, it's actually fun to watch this team, and I'm as stunned by these words as you are.

There are caveats, of course. If MCW actually is an efficient shooter now, it's a shocking change from everything he showed in college and the pre-season. Hawes is a lifelong tease, and Turner has a ton of evidence that he's not a winning player. Those bench guys were available for a reason. Miami came in with the back end of a back to back, Washington fell apart late, and Chicago is still suffering with Rose's court rust. Three game winning streaks do not matter outside of the playoffs, and this still doesn't look like a playoff team to me.

Can they keep it up? Well, Monday's home game against Golden State suddenly looks fascinating, and the Bullets will try for vengeance on Wednesday. Friday is a road game in Cleveland against the emerging Cavs, followed by a home game the next night against the same team. If the week ends with a sub-.500 team getting clowned by Andrew Bynum in front of 15K people chanting profanities, we'll all agree that the 3-0 start did nothing more than cost them lottery balls, and even if you are silly enough to hope for playoff games, seven of the first nine games at home says that you needed the early jump anyway.

But all of that, honestly, is beyond the point. Losing the most games in the league doesn't mean you get Guaranteed As If Next LeBron Andrew Wiggins; it just gives you a chance in four of having him in your laundry. If Hawes and Turner build up trade value, and some team throws them another draft chip, that's as valuable as losing a ton of games. If MCW is not just learning on the job, but extremely effective at it, that means the most important position in the NBA -- point guard -- is filled, and the team has a monster need locked down. If Brown proves himself as the next great coach in the Association, that's another immense check box filled.

Winning just enough to get pancaked in the playoffs by real teams is, of course, not the goal here. But winning is, especially if you do it with guys on the upside of their career, who don't cost a lot of money. So just enjoy the only team in recent Philadelphia history that's not just better than they were supposed to be, but given clear and indisputable evidence that they are doing the right things in personnel management. Honestly, it's OK to just watch a team win and enjoy it. Really.

No comments:

Ads In This Size Rule