It seemed like every Philadelphia faithful, NBA fan and proclaimed “expert” pictured the Philadelphia 76ers having a better season than 27-55 shine hey posted in 2009-10. The only key losses the 76ers encountered was center and locker room problem child Samuel Dalembert. We replaced the one-year failure of head coach Eddie Jordan with well respected former Bulls, Pistons and Wizards head coach Doug Collins. Then we lucked into the #2 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft and added a promising young draft prospect in Evan Turner. Turner’s selection was followed by trade for Spencer Hawes a big man with “potential” and Andres Nocioni, a gritty wing player with a nice outside jumper. So one had to figure this season should be better then 2009-10 right?
Maybe, we were too quick to jump the gun and expect results from Evan Turner and a new coach? Maybe, we need to take a step backwards before we take two steps forward? Yes, it is very early into the NBA calendar but last season at this point we were 4-6, currently the Sixers are 2-8. Obviously every NBA franchise and fan-base wants to see improvement gradually each season.
You never want to push a panic button too early on in the season. Teams go on streaks all the time in every sport. Hopefully this team will figure things out sooner rather than later and get the ball rolling before it’s too late. Lets look at where we stand thus far and loo at the reasons to panic and the reasons to stay optimistic.
Not So Fast, We’ll Be Fine
Schedule differences: In the first ten games last season the Sixers faced much easier opponents and a more favorable schedule. The 76ers caught a break facing the worst team in the league —New Jersey Nets — twice in the first ten contests (winning both). Got wins over a Bucks team that wasn’t quite ready, and an Amare-less Knicks squad.
This season on the other hand has featured a challenging early regular season road stretch with games against the Thunder, Mavericks and Spurs that all resulted in losses. Those three games, all played in four days, were arguably the toughest stretch on this seasons schedule. Also, the opening losses against the Hawks and Heat who are two of the top four teams in the East. Five conference contending champs in ten games, a pretty daunting task.
Evan Turner’s Growth: Obviously watching John Wall in DC makes you wish Turner could have that same impact immediately, but we have to give him time. It’s hard for most NBA rookies to adjust to the high level of play. We can’t except results right off the bat, we need to give these things time. Turner has the skills, his ability to adjust to the NBA speed is what we’re waiting on.
Turner is playing critical minutes at 28.7 per game. His inconsistency has been harming the team, but once he puts it together (assuming he does), this team will make strides with him contributing off the bench.
Elton Brand: Power Forward Elton Brand has been playing well. This is the best he’s looked in a 76ers jersey. His numbers trump any season he has had here in Philadelphia with 16.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game on 56% shooting from the field. His mid-range shot is on and his back-to-the-basket game has been effective.
Brand for only two games of the young season did not take double digit shot attempts — Against the Mavericks and Spurs. The length of the Spurs and Mavericks post hampered is ability to produce. But that has to be expected when he has no interior help on the offensive side of the ball and their defense can key on Brand.
Reasons For Concern
Andre Igoudala’s Early Season Struggles: AI9 has not been the same player that has led this team in scoring since 2007. He missed two games for the first time in 252 consecutive starts, a streak that only Derek Fisher held a longer quantity to. And his tendinitis in his Achilles tendon could potentially annoy him all season long.
Through the first ten games this season, Igoudala has missed two and tallied 12.8 points and five rebounds per game in the ones he’s played. This time last year through ten games Iggy scored 18.4 points and grabbed 6.8 rebounds per game. His slow start might be attributed too his injury, but if it continues to plague him, we could be in big trouble.
The Center Position: Center Samuel Dalembert wanted to be traded and we granted him his wish. The pieces we were leftover with — Hawes, Speights and Battie — have been pretty sad. Neither of them can create their own shot, and Speights and Battie are liabilities on defense.
We have seen the undersized Brand play quality minutes at the five position, but as reflected by our record, it’s not working. In the long run you need a five to plug the hole in the middle. Even if the player can’t score, we need someone to at least defend and bang some bodies on the boards in crucial moments of the ball game.
Digging A Hole: The Sixers are killing themselves with terrible first quarters. In four of their last five games, they trailed at the end of the first stanza and went on to lose the game. Go back to Nov. 5 against the Cavaliers, when the Sixers ended the first quarter down 34-20, never got back in the game and lost 123-116. Against KD and OKC, Philadunkia’s home team was down four at the end of the first and despite a stellar second half push, still lost. Then the Mavs jumped all over the Sixers on the interior which led to a nine point lead after one quarter and an eventual W for Dallas. In Saturday’s debacle at the Alamo, the Spurs crushed a road weary Sixers team in the 1st, led by 11, and went on to white wash the Sixers, 116-93.
These slow starts have helped the Sixers dig themselves a deep hole in the standings early on this season. At 2-8 things could continue to slip quickly and before you know it, your looking upwards at every other NBA team. The only team right now with a worst record is the Los Angeles Clippers. In the Eastern Conference you figure the Heat, Celtics, Magic, Hawks, Bucks and Bulls will all be contending in the postseason. The other two spots? They are wide open this season in the Eastern Conference, However, this horrific start means the Sixers now have a serious up hill climb if they want to keep pace with projected 6-8 seeds in the East like Milwaukee, Indiana, New York and Charlotte.
Let’s hope we turn things around quickly and vie for one of the final two playoff positions, because if we don’t the 27 wins of 2009-10 soon may seem seem like a dream season.