11/14/12 9:36 am EST
The 76ers brought a shiny new, sleek, trendy and swanky SUV, otherwise known as Andrew Bynum. While, the SUV was coveted and much desired, it did come with a strong manufacture’s warning. Despite this, the buyer, a.k.a. the Sixers, still believed that if they made the purchase, they’d have the best set of wheels on the road; or at the very least the best ride they’ve had in nearly 7 years.
Now, two weeks into the NBA season, their much ballyhooed new vehicle will not leave the dealership for at least another month, and once again they are forced to depend on their old, dependable 4 door sedan with dents on the side. It’s a car that still gets you to and fro; but at the very best of times the ride will ultimately be a bumpy one.
It’s a car that has been forced to be powered by its engine, Jrue Holiday, who has morphed into the 76ers leader, playmaker. Holiday has become the heart, soul and the pulse of the Sixers. While, it was anticipated that Holiday would emerge after Andre Iguodala’s departure, not many could have foreseen Holiday being the glue that holds this team together.
Holiday is averaging just over 18 points and 9.5 assists per game. That’s well above his career averages of 12 and 5 respectively. His aggressiveness has been the catalyst to his growth as a player. While, his patented drive –stop-and-shoot has always been his go to move, it has been new found interior penetration that has propelled him to another level. That added dimension has not only helped his offense, but it has helped his teammates. For the first time, Holiday must demand focused defensive attention, creating scoring opportunities for others.
But, Holiday’s new offensive emergence has been accompanied by an intense spike in turnovers (Jrue leads the League in TOs) which played a critical role in the 76ers’ loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night. He coughed up the ball 8 times, including untimely turnovers on 3 straight possessions late in the 4th quarter of a tight ball game. Overall, he’s averaging 6 turnovers per game, well above his career average.
Still, Holiday has been the Sixers’ early bright spot thus far. The same can’t be said for Evan Turner, who was supposed to be the biggest benefactor of Iggy’s departure. Other than his monster performance against the Celtics, Turner still has appeared to be the disappointing shell of what many hoped he would be when he was taken with the 2nd overall draft pick in 2010.
Turner’s rough start to the season has been a highlighted low light to the Sixers’ laborious effort to score points. They are 27th in the League in point scored, and without Bynum they are abundantly reliant on the jump shot.
This season, at least, they can actually shoot the rock. But, even that has a caveat. They have become a team that too often lives and dies with streaky shooting from the likes of Dorell Wright, Jason Richardson, and the exhilarating bewilderment that is Nick Young. Spencer Hawes has even gotten in on the act, shooting 3’s at an alarming right. After all, he is a center – supposedly.
On the interior, it has been a front-court by committee as the Sixers continue to await Bynum’s return/debut, for Kwame Brown to get healthy and for Lavoy Allen to find his game. Without them, DC actually was forced to play Thad Young at the 5-spot the other night against the Bucks. Coming into this season, the Sixers’ interior was thought to have finally been an area of depth. As of right now, it is an area of obvious weakness.
Despite all of these issues, the 7-6 stand at a respectable 4-3, including a well played 3-0 road trip. So, some credit ultimately must be given to Doug Collins. It is Collins, who has once again got his ball club to buy into grinding and maximizing their defensive effort (though it didn’t look like it against the Bucks). It is because of DC’s’ coaching and Holiday’s efforts (with help from Dorell Wright every night & Spencer at times) that the 7-6 seems to be poised for another playoff bound season, no matter what assistance they get from Bynum.
The bottom line is that 76ers are making due with their beat up 4 door sedan, while the shiny, sparkling new SUV is being made ready for a smoother more rewarding ride.
Yet, the biggest question is, ‘Can the old faithful car hold up long enough to give the mechanics time to get the SUV on the road?’