In anticipation of tonight’s Wizards game against the 76ers in Philadelphia, I exchanged some questions with Carey Smith of Philadunkia, the ESPN TrueHoop Network Sixers blog.
I answered a question from Carey about the Wizards’ struggles in general, and attempted to encapsulate the season’s problems in a nutshell. I also answered a question about Eddie Jordan and defense, which I spoke with the coach about when the Sixers played in D.C. on December 22nd.
Head over to Philadunkia to read my answers. Carey’s answers to my questions are below.
(TAI) — How is Elton Brand coming along? Has he overcome his slow start? Is he ultimately better coming off the bench?
(Philadunkia) — Brand has been a beast lately — three double-doubles in December and one near miss (25 & 9); 18 & 6 per over his last 4 games –, so I would say yes he has overcome what many perceive to be a slow start. If Eddie Jordan would just play him more and maybe call the occasional set play for #42, I’d bet that Brand would really fill up the stat sheet.
Does coming off the bench make Brand a better player? Not in my opinion. To me, Brand has proven that if he starts and plays 35 or more minutes a night, he will produce, so I believe he should be starting. I believe we’ll eventually learn that the starter/bench thing is a personal riff between Jordan and Brand. The evidence is too overwhelming for Brand not to be starting.
Now is it better for the Sixers that he comes off the bench? I still say no, but at least I understand this argument. He gives the second unit a physical presence, post scoring that is hard for opponents to match and he provides leadership to an otherwise young group of Sixers. So I can almost see where some people believe playing him as the 6th man benefits the Sixers, but I still need a lot of convincing.
(TAI) – What are your thoughts on Iverson? Was signing him more to financially benefit a franchise with struggling attendance?
(Philadunkia) — I loved the Iverson signing and I actually asked, no make that begged for it happen in Summer 2009. I actually surprised myself with those thoughts because I was never an Iverson apologist during his first tenure with the Sixers. I loved his heart and stood in awe of his skills, but I was quick to acknowledge his many shortcomings on and off the court. As a bonus, his signing has worked out even better than I thought, and I believe than the Sixers ever imagined.
Iverson has done and said all the right things, he’s found his role and fit in with the team, he has opened up the floor for teammates and he gives the Sixers another go-to-guy in clutch time. Additionally, he’s shooting the lights out – 46.5% on FGA and 42.9% from three which are both above his career averages. The signing was about a whole bunch of things here in Philadelphia – injuries, needing a scorer, needing another guard, the Sixers disappearing act from the Philly sports landscape, etc. – and among them was horrific attendance numbers at the Wachovia Center (28th in the NBA at the time).
(TAI) – Is winning three out of the last four a sign that the Sixers might be turning the corner, or just a mirage?
(Philadunkia) — It’s a mirage. The W’s came against Portland, Sacto and Denver, teams that are all depleted by injuries right now. So while I was impressed because they were all road victories, each one is tainted in my eyes because all of the teams were missing key players. Also the Sixers defense, which has been horrible all year was not improved in those wins, so if Portland, Sacto and Denver had been healthy I believe the Sixers would have lost at least 2 of those 3 games by wide margins.
(TAI) – Who are the Sixers’ defensive leaders and have they been doing their job?
(Philadunkia) — The 76ers only have three players who see regular minutes that play defense, so picking out their leaders on that end of the floor is very easy. Andre Iguodala is far and away the best overall defender. Typically he draws the toughest assignment each night and always guards the ball in clutch situations for the opposing team. I’d say that yes, he has been doing his job so far this year as he does every year. However, his growing frustration with the lack of defensive effort and fundamentals by the other Sixers players has become visible during games and it’s only matter of time before he calls people out or simply just snaps.
Rookie Jrue Holiday has been a pleasant surprise this season. I knew he could play team D because he played for Ben Howland at UCLA, and Howland demands that of his players, but I had no idea what a tremendous one-on-one defensive player Holiday is on a nightly basis. He’s simply done a great job of guarding the ball and keeping the opposing point man out of the paint, something our starter Louis “Ole” Williams has never been unable to do.
Lastly, Sammy Dalembert is also a defensive leader on this team. In fact his shot blocking ability has been so good lately that he’s become a game changer. So when he’s in the game, yes he does his job. Other teams are hesitant to drive the lane with Sam on the back line and when they do muster up the guts to go to the hole, Sammy alters or blocks a lot of the shots. The problem is Sam commits so many stupid fouls going for rebounds or reaching in on swingmen that he spends most of the night on the bench. I have said before that the key to turning the Sixers season around is better defense and since Eddie Jordan won’t play a more defensive minded lineup, Sam is the only possible solution. Thus he’s got to stop getting into foul trouble and stay on the floor for more minutes if the Sixers are to become better defensively and make a run at the 8th seed.