CONTINUITY

Posted by: Tom Sunnergren
12/15/11 1:29 pm EST

This season for the 76ers, the buzz-word is “continuity” — which is an interesting word to galvanize your fan base around.  Much less exciting certainly than “talent” or “excitement” or “greatness.”  It’s also an interesting word choice because it’s contingent. 

Continuity relative to what?  If I’m coming off a 60 win season, continuity sounds pretty appealing.  25 wins?  Not so much.  If I won 41 games last season, have scant cap room, bad contracts, and no clear sight line to contention?  Well, you could probably pick a better angle to pitch me on than continuity.

At the Sixers Wednesday afternoon Media Day at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine though, the players themselves didn’t seem to think bringing back the same team was so bad.

 

(Granted, there’s not really any upside whatsoever to saying otherwise at Media Day. Reporter: “How do you feel about your team’s basic offseason philosophy?” Player: “I think it’s indefensibly stupid.” How well would that go over? People say they want honesty from players–what we really want is for them to say what we want to hear convincingly and with gusto.)

“It’s pretty good because we’ve had the same group now for two years. We made the playoffs last year, now let’s see what we can do this year,” said Mo Speights, for whom individual continuity of performance would probably lead to unemployment. “It helps you a lot. It’s gonna be pretty good this year to play with the same guys.”

Craig Brackins, who’s adjusting to a new position, added he expects playing with the same group will be a boon to his development.

“I think we were building something from last year, and we just go up from here. A lot of teams are scrambling to grab other players, but we’re just gonna run the same stuff, same coach–everybody knows each other–and we just keep getting better,” the sophomore said.

“If everybody’s on the same page, it’s like a good book. You’ve got a good story.”

Clever turn of phrase aside, Brackins might be on to something. In the shortened off-season, there might be an advantage to keeping the same guys around, especially if they’re going to be in the same system. The Sixers won’t have to scramble to generate chemistry, they already have it.

(Sort of.)

Tony Battie is emblematic of the continuity approach. He is very old, no longer very good, and doesn’t really have any reason to be on the Sixers anymore–especially given the glut of talented free-agent centers who were available this offseason. So the Sixers resigned him.

“Teams can always use an experienced big man — you can’t teach height — so I knew I would end up somewhere,” he said when asked if he was surprised to be doing Media Day interviews in a Sixers uniform.

He added that the team values him, aside from his height, for his leadership abilities.

“I’m here to try and help the younger guys develop. I’m here to show them what I can about the game,” he said, adding that he leads by example, but also with more explicit instruction: pointing things out on tape, sharing tips, opposing player tendencies, etc.

“I’ll do whatever I can do,” he admitted.

(What Tony Battie can do, according to his 2010-11 performance: nothing)

Elton Brand is another of the Sixers who really shouldn’t be a Sixer anymore. He had an unbelievable season last year–leading the team in points and rebounds, putting them on his shoulders at points in carrying them to the playoffs. He played so well in fact that he was almost worth what the Sixers pay him. Almost. But instead of trading him on the strength of his renewed value, or using the new amnesty clause to clear his bad contract from their books, they kept him.

He seems surprised by this too.

“I wasn’t sure [I'd be back]. I’m definitely glad to be back and lead this young team though. Be a part of the playoff push, lead the team in points and rebounds. Just get to get that part of my game back,” he said.

Brand added that the condensed 66-game schedule will be a challenge for his (creaky) knees, but he has a plan.

“I’ve got some secrets. Ice and stim and rest. I’m definitely going to be off my feet as much as possible. Coaches are already talking to me asking ‘What do you need practice wise. Do you need to sit out, or do you need to rest?’ I haven’t needed to rest yet, but if I do, it’ll be there. Orthotics, anything I can do to give me an edge I’m gonna do ’cause this is a lot of games.”

That Spencer Hawes is back is even more puzzling. Hawes is young, intelligent, and multi talented. Unfortunately none of his talents are of the sort you need to play center well in the NBA.

“After last year, after the run were able to make, I wasn’t surprised to be brought back,” he said, “I was excited to come back to a good team that’s headed in a great direction.”

“And the familiar faces will really help us hit the ground running in what is a very condensed preseason and a condensed regular season where we’re not going to have a lot of time to practice.”

Spence, as his friends call him (and I like to think we’re friends), went on to say that he hopes to be more of an enforcer and paint presence on both sides of the floor, but admitted that he embraces his role as a “skilled center.”

“I think with a finesse center they look at you like you’re soft. I describe it as skilled. If you have that ability, you don’t have to beat people up on every play. You can just out think them and out skill them.”

It’s much harder to say critical things about people after you’ve made extended eye contact with them, but Spencer Hawes hasn’t out-skilled anyone since he was in the PAC-10. There were 26 free agent centers this offseason. Hawes was the 16th most productive on a per minute basis.

(Battie, in case you were wondering, was the 19th.)

Jrue Holiday, conversely, is very productive now and should continue to be so for the foreseeable future. So are Thad Young and Evan Turner.

The young trio, for what it’s worth, each seem comfortable with and within the team’s direction.

“The continuity definitely will help…especially in the start of the season, when guys have new coaches, and there are older guys who take longer to warm up,” the young point guard said.

Holiday added that the fans will see a “very alive team. A team that flows and plays well together. A team that plays up-tempo.”

(“The 2011-12 Sixers: They’re Alive!”)

Newly rich Thad Young — “A lot of teams wanted to start talks, but I wanted to be here,” he told Philadunkia — said the team will hang its hat on aggressive and opportunistic defense and the transition game.

“You’re going to see a lot of highlight reels, a lot of dunks,” he said.

Evan Turner, who seemed to have a swagger that was often absent last year, said he expects to make a leap.

“I feel really confident about my game, and confident in my teammates,” he told us.

In one area at least, the continuity is not wrongheaded: Andre Iguodala is, thank god, back. Though he, to an extent, blocks Turner’s development by dint of their similar skill sets (Iggy said he would describe their relationship as a cross between mentor-student, and competitor-competitor), Iggy is also the best perimeter defender in the NBA and the Sixers best player by an enormous margin.

He does seem ambivalent about being back though. He admitted that he doesn’t get driven by the toxic nonsense people say about him on the radio, as much as he just tries to tune it out. Tries being the operative word.

“I don’t know, I don’t really think about it too much. We’re all human, so thoughts go through your mind, but I don’t really have any control over it. I just kind of roll with the punches,” he said.

***

The Sixers had a mediocre ’10-11 season; they won 41 games, but alienated their best player, and failed to unload any of the bad contracts or players their roster is larded with. This year their plan is to do more or less the same thing. They’ve embraced “continuity.”

Here’s a prediction for the season: The 7-6 were 25th in the NBA in attendance last year, and last in attendance as a percentage of seats filled. I’m guessing they’ll see some continuity in that area too.

 


 
 
 

8 Responses to “CONTINUITY”

  1. Mayank
    16. December 2011 at 02:22

    This ridiculous amount of skepticism and negativity is just annoying – as someone who read this site regularly last year, I will not be coming back any time soon.

    I’ll be the first to admit that keeping the exact same roster isn’t splashy. But nobody likes reading the kind of negative crap you’re putting out here. Talk about how A.I. looks, if Turner’s jumpshots are going in, if Meeks has developed any part of his game besides the 3-point shooting, if Holiday looks ready to take the next step. We have enough naysayers in Philly without this site choosing to devote itself exclusively to bashing the Sixers.

    We get it. They won’t be competing for a title this year. Everyone knows that. Now MOVE ON and report something meaningful.

  2. KenzoSal19134
    16. December 2011 at 03:25

    Obituaries aren’t that depressing to read. You talk about bad contract but the Sixers only have 2 on the team, one is Brand who lead the team in scoring and rebounding last year, and the other is your God send Iggy. Where was Iggy in the playoffs? There were centers in free agency yes but the Sixers didn’t have the money to sign any of them so you can’t blame them for not going after one.

    And the Sixers were 38-28 over the final 66 games last season so if we build upon that success it’s perfectly reasonable to think we can go 44-22 over this 66 games season considering we are one of the few teams who actually have enough players under contract to have a scrimmage during practice.

    And Holiday is going to be the teams best player not Iggy. Iggy needs to be shipped out of town on the next thing smoking so Turner can step into his role and show everybody what a go to player looks like again. Something Iggy has no idea how to be. Why do you think the ball was in Lou’s hand at the end of every game last year. And the only game we beat Miami in was because Turner actually saw court time and went off.

  3. Charlie
    16. December 2011 at 13:47

    this was a depressing article. all these writers think they are bill simmons. you have to be funny/witty to pull off that mean/honest style.

    You failed to mention they took miami to game 5 and played them tougher in the playoffs than any other eastern conference team.

    Also look at the eagles and the phillies, they went the total opposite routes with no championships to show for it. I think the city is ready to embrace something organic like the 08 phillies.

    You don’t have to take such a negative stance about this season.

  4. Philadunkia
    16. December 2011 at 15:42

    Mayank, KenzoSal19134, and Charlie,
    First, thanks for reading guys.
    Secondly: Now you’ve all said that the tone of this article was too negative. I agree, but I’m not sure what other choice the facts give us.
    Kanzo, you’re right that the 76 had an impressive run to finish last season. This is, in large part, why I’m frustrated. They closed well last year, seem to have a really solid core, save one glaring weakness–center–that, if filled, might give them a real shot at a real playoff run. Now, most offseasons, a team in need of center who’s up against the cap is SOL. But, miracle of miracles, this offseason there A.) were (are) not only a bunch of huge upgrades available at the critical position, but B.) the major reason our cap is in shambles (Brand) was coming off a great season where he could be traded (Great!) or, if they get no takers, amnestied (Probably just as good, because he’s likely to get a contract with an AAV not too far from what we pay him now.), freeing up the money necessary to make a play for a frontcourt player who can rebound.
    So what did we do with this incredible good fortune? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I’ve never seen an organization so pleased with a .500 finish. And now, I think, we’re looking at a team that has a lot of them in their future.
    I guess long story short, if you want coverage that is honest, come here. If you want coverage that is honest and optimistic, become a Clippers fan.

    – Tom

  5. Kyle
    16. December 2011 at 17:37

    This whole article is way too catty in tone. First off, what’s the point using the amnesty on Brand now? There’s no one available, nor was there anyone available, that would come remotely close to filling that spot, so why pay him to do nothing? So you can overpay Kwame Brown?

    A condensed schedule for a young team with fresh legs, and no volatility in terms of a coaching/system turnover or roster turnover from year to year plays well for this team in terms of the landscape of this season. Whether or not the Sixers are a “true” contender in the Eastern Conference (most likely not), they do have a chance to surprise people this season. I’d set the ceiling as high as the 4th seed.

    We still don’t know what the ceiling is for Turner. If he fixed his shot problems (and people around the team have indicated he’s improved) then he could be on his way to stardom and Holiday is already one of the more interesting emerging young players in the league.

    I’m fine with a wait and see approach here. And come the 2012 offseason, if you have a chance to get a legitimate star then you use the amnesty on Brand if you can’t trade him and find the low post piece to compliment your young backcourt.

    If you wanted to criticize the front office about the center position, you could have said they should have amnestied Nocioni, cut Hawes loose (I generally agree with your assesement on him)and used that money to pull in one of the free agent centers. But I don’t know that you want to blow the amnesty on that. Say Brand gets hurt or Iguodala’s injury problems get worse. That’s a nice thing to keep in your back pocket.

    Personally, I’d like to track Greg Oden’s progress this year. It’s a long, long, long shot for the Sixers to have even a whiff at getting Howard, or Deron Williams next offseason, but Oden is intriguing and if he’s healthy, his potential with that emerging backcourt and Iguodala shutting down the perimiter could make this team very interesting.

  6. Justin
    16. December 2011 at 18:23

    Observations and interpretations aren’t facts. Facts are last year’s playing statistics and are (at best) a basis for an educated guess. The Sixer’s .500 record was misleading as they started the season 3-13 with a new coach and relatively new lineup. They had an impressive end of season run and will hopefully build on that same success and momentum moving into this season with Coach Collins and a team already familiar with his system (proven to be successful in the past) which should translate into more wins. These self-deprecating B.S. articles like “Should we tank the season” are going to kill your readership.

  7. Dan
    16. December 2011 at 19:40

    this team is a mess, its not so much about the sixers roster but the fact is we stayed exactly the same and the team last year wasnt that fun to watch. honestly nothing against collins but i actually liked the way the team played under cheeks a more faster pace we have a very young team except for brand and we just slow everything down to a snails pace not very entertaining. also looking at the current team and future of the sixers we dont stand a chance to win a championship anytime soon thats not negative its just the facts. we cant compete with miami, boston, dallas, lakers, OKC ,chicago, clippers, and orlando all these teams have drafted better and actually spent money on good players, instead the sixers draft badly and pay way to much on washed up players or over pay for solid but not all star talent. also chicago, miami, OKC, new york and orlando all have players comparable to the sixers in age so we cant even blame it on were a young team that cant be an excuse forever. i feel like the team is missing that superstar we havent had since iverson , someone to be the go to scorer, and someone that other players want to play with to attract free agents to actually want to play for the sixers. i disagree with one thing you said brand played great last year, i disagree we payed for a 20 and 10 guy heck they even printed it on the sixers web site career average 20 and 10 and almost 2 blocks and we havent gotten anything close to that he is way passed his prime, he is to slow to keep up with the young guys. we could of got josh smith and we went with brand who just came off 2 knee operations great job sixers management. i could do a better job drafting and signing free agents then these clowns running the team.

  8. Dan
    20. December 2011 at 13:31

    I realize this is the internet era and everyone is now a genius, but come on dude. The Sixers played the best team in the NBA to 5 games last year and most of the losses were very competitive. Why would they blow up their entire team when they have no chance at Paul, etc.? If there was something out there, then fine, but why blow everything up from a team that made obvious progress for no reason? Was someone really going to take Nocioni off their hands? Or Brand?

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