Sunday, July 26th, 2009 marked the Charlie Mack 12th Annual Celebrity Basketball Game at Temple University’s Liacouras Center as current and former NBA players took some time out of their busy summers to hit the hardwood for a good cause. Philadelphia over the past few years has developed a reputation as “Killadelphia” due to the ongoing murders and violent acts that have hit the inner city neighborhoods.
Current NBA players Hakim Warrick, Kyle Lowry, Lou Williams, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Mardy Collins, and Rasual Butler hit the court at the event to raise awareness of and show their concern for the ongoing violence in the “City of Brotherly Love”.
In the event the Blue Team which featured Lou Williams, Kyle Lowry, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, and Mardy Collins dominated the Orange Team of Hakim Warrick, Rasual Butler, and Dionte Christmas as they cruised to a double digit victory. Among the highlights from the event were some vicious slam dunks by both Hakim Warrick and Pops Mensah-Bonsu, but the complete play from Lou Williams is what impressed the crowd and players alike as Williams brought home the MVP trophy for the game. Williams looked like the total package as he hit a dozen three’s, slashed his way through the lane, threw down some ferocious dunks, or passed through defenders to an open teammate. Luckily, Philadunkia was able to get in a few questions with Williams before the game on several issues pertaining to the Sixers next season.
As most of you already know, Andre Miller is officially signing with Portland very soon, which means that Lou Williams will be running the show on offense for the Sixers next season. Philadunkia wanted to make sure that Lou was doing all he could to fill the void that Miller is leaving behind, so I asked him how he has been prepping for his new lead guard role.
“I’ve been doing a lot of weight training at the gym and getting a lot of reps up,” said Lou. “At the point guard position you have to make shots at the right time so that’s one of the things I’ve been working on consciously. Getting to the gym, getting my reps up, taking 500 shots a day, weightlifting, and just trying to make myself a better player for the team are some of the things I’ve been working on.”
Training in the gym is all well and good, but in order to replace a great point guard like Andre Miller you have to be able to read defenses and know the holes that will be there for the offense on game day. Studying tape is an absolute necessity in order to take the next step and it seems as if Lou Williams has already been on top of things in the film room.
“Studying tape has been extremely important,” said Lou. “You kind of take some bits and pieces from the great guards in the league like Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Jason Kidd you know those types of guards. You take bits and pieces from their games and you try to add it to your game. Like I said I’m just trying to become the best player I can be.”
To say the he Sixers front office has NOT been very active in acquiring free agents this summer is an understatement. In fact outside of trading for Jason Kapono in early June and deciding against resigning Andre Miller, the Sixers have made no transactions of any type. Thus Stefanski now will have a lot of cap room to spend on a big time free agent down the line. However the more I think about it, the more the free agent class of 2010 sounds more appealing to me. Maybe this is what the front office has up its sleeves. The Sixers should make the NBA Playoffs this season regardless of if they sign someone or not, so why not save some money for the biggest free agent class in recent history next summer? In any case, I asked Lou if he was worried about the lack of signings in the off-season or if he is fine with the team the way it stands.
“I think we’re going to be fine,” said Lou. “We’re a young basketball team. We’ve gotten to the playoffs now two years in a row with a team that people said was still rebuilding. We’ve got another year of maturity under our belts so I think we’re going to be fine with the squad that we have.”
If you take a look back to the Sixers weaknesses last year it was three-point shooting / defending all season and the lack of a post scorer / defender in the playoffs. Well the Sixers added Kapono which should help tremendously with three-point shooting, and with Speights maturing and a healthy Elton Brand and Jason Smith coming back next season to fortify the post on both ends of the floor, it seems as if Lou may be right. Plus with the new coaching style of Eddie Jordan, maybe the best will be shown from all of our players. Only time will tell.
Eddie Jordan obviously wants his team to work together first and have the veterans of the team really step up and lead the younger guys next season. Brand is a great mentor for Speights and Smith, Iguodala is a great mentor for Thaddeus Young, Willie Green and Jason Kapono already should know their positions by now, while Lou Williams at least can show the Sixers newest addition Jrue Holiday what he’s learned under the guidance of both Allen Iverson and Andre Miller. Lou told me that Coach Jordan has been talking to him about his new starting role lately and there has been one thing that he’s been making a point before the start to next season.
“He wants me to work, wants me to stay focused, and mainly he just wants me to be a leader,” said Lou. “That’s been the big message I get from him every time I speak to him is just be a leader, be a leader, be a leader so that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Being a leader is a huge thing for Lou next year. He is running the offense for the first time in his career, and he has a potentially great player working under him in Jrue Holiday. If Lou can really thrive in the offense and run it the way its supposed to be run than the Sixers front office will look like a bunch of geniuses for giving Lou the reigns to the team. Lou is already very aware of this and told me what he expects to accomplish in the offense next season.
“I want to make us quicker,” said Lou. “I want to put some focus on getting the ball out quicker and running the offense. Coach Jordan has put together a very good offense that’s going to fit our basketball team and that’s going to be successful for us so if I come out and run that to perfection than I think we’re going to be fine.”
As a Sixer fan next season will be a new experience for all of us. There are a lot of the same faces, but there are a lot more questions that are left to be answered. Will Brand ever be the same? Is Thaddeus going to be an all-star? Will Iguodala ever be a serviceable shooting guard? Will Kapono fix our perimeter? Was Holiday the right draft pick? Is Dalembert going to sit the bench? Does Eddie Jordan’s offense work for our team? Will Willie Green finally be the odd man out? Is Jason Smith going to surprise us? Should we have gotten a point guard to replace Andre Miller?
The question of who is going to play point guard for the Sixers next season is answered however, and based on what he showed on the court and what he said off the court at the Charlie Mack game it may have just been the right move to go with Lou Williams. He seems to have his head on straight about what he needs to accomplish and hopefully he can keep his word. The Sixers have a nice mix of veterans and youth, and it is Lou’s job to make the team run together.