It’s October again. And that means one thing – Sixers’ preseason basketball! This is the time of year when the eyes of every sports fan in the city are fixed on exhibition basketball games and absolutely nothing else: every roster move will be scrutinized, every missed jump-shot dissected, every dunk accepted as evidence that the dunker is a magical Christ figure who will carry the Sixers to the promised land – the first round of the playoffs.
Once I get over the crushing disappointment of missing Tony Battie and Chris Quinn face off against their old team (they didn’t air the Nets game on television no doubt because the lost productivity would be too much for the fragile economy to bear) as well as the C’s drubbing the Sixers “B” Team, I assembled a list of items I’ll be hoping to witness from the 7-6 this preseason…
10 Things I hope to see see from the 76ers during the 2010-11 NBA peseason…
1.) Cheap Phillies tickets on craigslist
2.) Jrue Holiday to fulfill his promise
I want to see Jrue take ownership of this team. Given his youth, I don’t expect him to be a vocal leader but I do expect him to make the offense his own. I want him to dictate the pace of the game, show me that he can intuit when to speed things up and when to slow things down (given the makeup of our team I expect speeding things up will usually be in our best interest), and I want him to more aggressively create his own offense. He only averaged 2.3 free-throw attempts per 48 minutes last year. I expect him to triple that number this season and I expect to see ample evidence this preseason that that expectation’s correct. Jrue should also take more liberties as a shooter. He averaged over a point per shot last year (the threshold at which it’s worthwhile for you to shoot) but shot the ball with less than average frequency. I don’t want a Stephon Marbury running the point for us, but I do want a guy who makes the right decisions with the ball. And for Jrue, it looks like the right decision might be shooting it more.
Not too much explanation required here. Not only would it be near impossible for the Sixers to get equivalent value for him (as I’ve railed on about ad nauseam in this space, sorry) but I’m psyched to see how he’s grown after spending the summer with the national team. He looked great over there, got some tutelage from Coach K, and had valuable championship basketball experience. Most importantly though, I think that playing everyday with and against some of the most skilled basketball players in the world clarified his own unique gifts. He learned what he is. He’s ill-suited to be a primary scoring option. He’s what most call a “second banana.” While I take issue with the implicit meaning of that expression (ie, only scorers can be “first bananas” and that “first bananas” are inherently more valuable), I agree that Iguodala has a “second banana” skill set and has tried, to some extent in vain, to play in the style of a “first banana.” He’s now gotten a chance to see and to feel, how excellent he can be when he stays in his wheelhouse. Now with the addition of Evan Turner and the growth of Holiday promising to take some of the offensive burden off him, he might become the player he always should have been. And he’s just 26.
4.) Evan Turner to acquit himself nicely, show that his sub-par off-season play was an aberration, and give me a reason to buy his jersey
Post-draft I was irrationally, stupidly excited about the Evan Turner era. Then he was bad in Orlando, and then nothing. We haven’t heard a whisper about the kid. Even lousy rookies usually get gushed over. After Reggie Miller came to camp he wanted to talk about Craig Brackins. The silence is deafening. ET needs to break it.
5.) Thad Young to relocate his stroke
Thad has shot the ball worse each of his three years in the league. From ten feet and beyond he went from 56 percent his rookie year to 50 and finally to 40.5 this past season. From 10-15 feet he’s gone from 32 percent to 29.4 and from 16-23 he’s regressed from 38 percent to 29. Thad is very close to not being a professional level basketball player. The plan at the moment is to move him to SF, where he, presumably, will have to shoot more from the outside. I’m looking for some indication he’s capable of doing that.
6.) Mo Speights to demonstrate that he’s in shape and committed to stepping up his game (at both ends of the floor)
Mo Speights flashes potential like Jason Segal flashes his penis – a couple times and both happened in 2008. I’d like to see more of that potential.
7.) Andres Noicioni, Spencer Hawes, and Darius Songaila to disappear
I don’t wish them harm, and I’m certainly not advocating a kidnapping (though if you’re going to kidnap somebody anyway, Hawes is a pretty good candidate. He’s really wealthy, is physically weak, and comes from a nice family that seems like they really love him and would be eager to get him back), I just want them to not be around anymore. Maybe encounter a tear in the fabric of time (on a road trip to New Jersey?) and slip through a rabbit hole in the space / time continuum that spits them out in another dimension that’s in almost all significant ways the same as this one save one crucial and disquieting difference (maybe dogs have bigger brains and are normal citizens, but still retain some canine features: they drive cars, vote, but still drool?) but doesn’t involve them playing basketball for the Sixers. Or maybe it does, just the Sixers as they exist in that dimension and not this one where I have to watch them everyday, and think about them, or have even a fleeting awareness of the fact that they exist and are professionally employed to play basketball for the team I root for.
9.) Elton Brand to find a spot in the rotation, demonstrate that in limited minutes he can be effective, and end his career with some dignity
I don’t expect Sir Elton return to his pre-injury (and unfortunately pre-Sixer) levels. Even if the ACL and the shoulder hadn’t happened he probably wouldn’t be able to play at his Bulls / Clippers level at this point. He’s at a stage of his career where most guys have begun a fairly precipitous decline. But I hold out some hope for him. This is the first time in a long time he’s entered a season not having missed the end of the previous season with an injury. So he got to spend this offseason working out, not rehabbing. And it seems he did it. He’s lost weight, which indicates that he was at least ambulatory at times. And we could really, really use a semi-competent frontcourt player.
10.) The Sixers not to embarrass me
There’s a peculiar and unfamiliar air of optimism around this club. Unlike many though, I’m pretty down on the Sixers this season. They, I feel strongly in both my bones and, more importantly, my brain, are going to be very, very bad. Like compete for the worst record in the league bad. While I recognize intellectually that it behooves us long-term to have a really bad season and land another top-ish pick, I just don’t have the stomach for another sub-30 win season. So I’m hoping they prove me wrong, and that proving starts with a good pre-season showing (Note: An 0-2 start was not what I had in mind). Smart people are wrong all the time. I am too. Here’s hoping this is one of those times.