He scored over 1,600 points at LaSalle, is a member of the Big 5 Hall of Fame, earned an MBA from The Wharton School and is married to a former Eagles cheerleader. Basically ESPN analyst Tim Legler is almost as Philadunkia as Dr. J, Allen Iverson and The Spectrum.
As a bonus, he still lives in the Philadelphia area, attends numerous Sixers games each year and is actually somewhat of a 76ers fan, so he keeps a keen eye focused on our home team.
Recently Legler gave Philadunkia scribe Tim Parker some 1-on-1 time to discuss the 2011-12 Sixers and the hometown guy was very candid about his views on why the Sixers have struggled so badly of late.
Philadunkia: What has happened to the Sixers since the start of season?
Legler: I think that ultimately when you don’t have the type of star power at the top of your roster, you can sustain certain levels of play for so long. But at some point that’s gonna come back to hurt you. I think not having the consistent guy that can give you 20 every night – I think can hurt that team when they play better defensive teams – and you adjust to a team like Philadelphia – that’s what’s happening right now. (It’s) hard to win every night playing great defense and hoping somebody gets hot. That’s just not a great formula for success.
Philadunkia: What has changed between their hot start and now?
Legler: Well, injuries played a big part of it as well. Spencer Hawes has missed a lot of time. He had a great start to the year, playing exceptionally well. I think some of the guys that were playing really well early have tapered off a little bit. I don’t think Jrue Holiday has played as well since he did the first month or 2 of the season. Andre Iguodala’s scoring has dropped. Elton Brand – I don’t think has played as well. So, collectively I just don’t think they’re playing at the level they were at the start of the year.
Philadunkia: You mentioned Hawes. Since he returned to action, he has not played at the same level? What’s are your thoughts on his struggles?
Legler: I think he lost his rhythm. Sometimes, when you are in a great rhythm and playing well and you get taken out of the lineup for a while you have to come back and find your way because they learn how to play without you – and now he’s trying to figure out where he’s gonna impact the game again. His minutes have been way down since he came back – he’s not playing the minutes he was. So, there’s some going (on) with his ability to fit in right now. They have to incorporate him. If they wanna be a serious playoff team they have to get Spencer Hawes involved in the game.
Philadunkia: Do you think Doug Collins and his intensity, especially on defense is wearing down his team in a shortened season?
Legler: I don’t think so because for the most part Doug is a positive coach. The guys that you typically get burned out on are the guys that focus on the negative all the time and harp on that. You don’t even wanna come to practice anymore and hear that voice. Doug has changed the way he has coached. He’s more positive right now. It’s all about defense and reinforcing that. But, I think he does it in a way that guys really still respect him and enjoy playing for him. Again, to me it gets down to when you look at the other teams at the top of the East; they all have at least 1 if not more premier scorers and the Sixers really don’t have that player. I mean – Lou Williams is their version of a closer – and you compare that to what other teams have with what they can to when times get tough – they’ve got a lot more talent and scoring power than the Sixers have – so they are trying to hold every night and do it by playing hard defensively – and doing it with a balance. Sometimes that can be tough.
Philadunkia: Do you think Coach Collins shortening the rotation of late and not playing Nik Vucevic and Lavoy Allen has worn out the starters?
Legler: That’s a great question. There’s no doubt it takes a toll on you when you’re playing 6 games in 9 days a lot of times in this season. Why he doesn’t play Vucevic anymore? I have no idea, because I’ve started to become a big fan of his. His production was great. Then he got got hurt and since he’s come back he hasn’t really played. So, I think it’s something Doug Collins needs to look at because if you wanna have anything left in the tank when the playoffs start I think you need to go ahead – even if it costs you a couple of games – playing some of your bench players extended minutes right now. The most important thing is to have some fresh legs when you finally get to that point because then it’s a sprint. So, I think it’s something Doug Collins need to look at for sure.
Philadunkia: With Sixers having a favorable schedule plus a matchup with the Celtics this week, do you think they could catch Boston for the Atlantic Division Crown?
Legler: Personally, I think the Celtics are gonna end up with that spot. I just think their momentum is great right now. I think they’re healthy – beating the Heat without Ray Allen in the lineup. That sent a strong message to their team that they could play with those guys. I think the key to their team is Rondo. But, I think Boston right now is understanding they don’t wanna be a road team for three rounds in the playoffs and they know how important it is to try and jump up and try to get to maybe the number 3 seed if they can. I think they’re gonna get it even though Philadelphia’s schedule more favorable.
Philadunkia: So that means the Sixers are one and done then?
Legler: They’re gonna have a hard time. They have to get a home court series. I said from the beginning of the year, I thought they could win a playoff series this year. That’s really contingent on them getting a home court series. But even if they went on the road – if they get the right matchup… like if they could play Orlando, Atlanta, Indiana – those are teams they could certainly play with and could beat – but, you start dropping down to 7 or 8 – you got Miami or Chicago in the first round on the road, they’re not gonna get out of that series.
Philadunkia: Gotta get 6 or higher, huh?
Legler: I agree
Our thanks to Tim Legler for his time and thoughts.