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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Live at the Wells Fargo Center -- 76ers 104, Jazz 91

Had a rare Friday night to sit at center court about half way up in the first level to watch this game, and have the following observations from a solid 76ers' win:

1. Under Doug Collins, the 76ers play with great effort and energy. He sets a good tone for the team, as do its leaders, and the players play hard to try to keep up with each other.

2. Utah's defense made it difficult for the 76ers' Andre Iguodala to get shots, so as with any good player, he improvised, scoring a double-double -- 10 points and 10 rebounds.

3. The Jazz have no guards. They have some bigs who are intriguing -- Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter (who is huge) -- but they have zero in the backcourt. Devin Harris looked lost, Earl Watson is outmatched, Raja Bell is past his prime, and Gordon Hayward is intriguing but is not as athletically gifted as many others out there. He had a good night, but it was a good night for a flawed team that needs more oomph from the PG position.

4. The player who struck me as having the highest ceiling out there last night was Favors. He is a large, strong guy, had some great moves inside. I know that he disappointed last year, but the 76ers had no answer for him inside. That said, the 76ers' problem is a lack of big, physical big men, so my measuring stick is imperfect.

5. It's hard to see how Doug Collins' current dalliance with Evan Turner as the PG will work in the long-run, given that they have a good-sized PG in Jrue Holliday (6'4"), who, especially if he can cut down on the turnovers (and not dribble between two defenders and give up the ball), seems to be the PG of the future. Then again, perhaps the organization is showcasing turner and working very hard behind the scenes to score Dwight Howard in a trade. Josh Harris, the 76ers' owner, has worked in the cut-throat world of deal-making for over 20 years, and he didn't buy the team to be an also-ran to a Russian oligarchs' Brooklyn Nets or the goofball Dolan family's Knicks. He looks like a nice guy, especially with all his kids sitting near him court side, but this guy plays to win. And, the 76ers have a bunch of intriguing players who they can give up in a trade.

Still, while Turner gave a good effort he doesn't seem to have the explosiveness of a Holliday and had trouble -- to me -- demonstrating an ability to penetrate the way Holliday can. That said, his length at the point (the 76ers announce him as 6'7" is intriguing).

6. You gotta love the 76ers' bench duo of Lou Williams (who is so smooth) and Thaddeus Young, who could be the most underrated player in the league (Young was +21 last night, Williams +18, and those plus/minus numbers were far better than any other 76ers last night and telltale of the difference they made in the game).

A small forward cannot guard Thad, and the bigs have trouble staying with him. He's a battler inside, and he just makes things happens with a hoops IQ that seems off the charts. As for Williams, well, he's terrific at creating space, and in the NBA space can be defined as creating a 6-inch window in which to get off your shot. Both played more than half the game last night, and both scored in double digits. That's the thing about the 76ers -- they get balanced scoring from the entire team and don't rely upon one guy. That said, they don't have the go-to guy who can bring it home routinely when the game's on the line, although I would say that Williams is an offensive force.

7. Jodie Meeks, the two guard whom the team acquired last year, seems to have fallen into irrelevance, and rookie surprise Lavoy Allen only played a minute last night. Then again, it's a grueling season, so it make me wonder how the team rations minutes with five games in a week. Some guys might flat-out get tired, although in Allen's case he's battling fellow rookie Nick Vucevic for minutes. Vucevic looked pretty good on the glass last night.

8. It was great to hear the "10-9-8-76ers" song from years past, but I still don't get the concept of the dancing girls, and it's gotten worse. Somehow, the team strips (pun intended) itself of its dignity by having its "dancers" and then "junior dancers" and then "little girl" dancers. That and the young men who jump on trampolines to dunk the ball after the third quarter all cheapen the overall product, which should be about compelling basketball. Sorry, but I could imagine the look on Bill Russell's face if he saw this hijinks going on while he was en route to leading the Celtics to another title (then again, Wilt Chamberlain might have enjoyed it).

9. The 76ers might have sold 18,000+ tickets for the game, but the arena didn't seem to have that many people in it.

All that said, this is a fun team to watch, and could it have been that the team was showcasing Evan Turner for a trade involving say another player (Young?) and some picks for Dwight Howard?

76ers' owner Josh Harris had made many successful bets in his career. Don't wager against him here.


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