NBA AM: Blatant Disrespect Fueling 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers have raced out to an 18-7 mark to start the 2012 campaign.
Based on their early season results alone, the Sixers currently possess the fourth-best record in the entire league and rank third in the Eastern Conference.
Yet despite their strong start and the club’s torrid finish at the end of last season to earn a trip to the playoffs, the team still hasn’t been able to generate much respect from either experts or fans.
Skeptics lay the discredit on a few items, saying the Sixers lack the necessary star power to compete with the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade led Miami HEAT or Derrick Rose’s Chicago Bulls, or imply the team’s start is based on beating tired squads in this lockout shortened season or point toward the notion a veteran laden but struggling Boston Celtics squad would overwhelm the Sixers in a playoff series just on experience alone.
Sixers starting point guard Jrue Holiday readily admits the lack of mainstream respect the team receives has been serving as one of the rallying cries within the locker room throughout the season and has inspired them to prove the doubters wrong.
“I definitely think it does,” Holiday told HOOPSWORLD on the lack of respect serving as extra motivation. “We’re definitely the type of team to compete. I think we earned our stripes. We played really hard last year. We started off slow, came back and made the playoffs. We gave Miami a good run in the playoffs. This year we’ve kept it rolling. So when you hear that talk, yeah it’s definitely motivation but we came into this year knowing what we wanted to do and that’s what we’re going to accomplish.”
If you’ve been watching the NBA over the past year it’s clear the Sixers aren’t a flash in the pan, finishing the 2011 season as one of the league’s hottest teams and earning a trip to the playoffs.
And while the Sixers don’t possess the prototypical star player in today’s terms, their rise up the Eastern Conference ladder has been built on two things – strong team chemistry and a commitment to defense.
The prolonged lockout which raged throughout last summer and delayed the start of this season served as an opportunity for the team to get closer and bond in many ways.
Simply put, the Sixers used the time to build team chemistry while many other teams chose not to do so – some not even staying in shape.
“My team got together during the lockout,” Holiday said proudly. “We all met up. We’re all really close. We all met up in LA, played with each other and hung out together just to keep our chemistry.”
This chemistry serves as the underlying reason the club is able to boast six guys on the season averaging double figures in scoring – without gripes on the amount field goal attempts to go around. Note, another two guys are averaging at least nine points per game.
The second part of the Sixers’ foundation for success early on revolves around their commitment to defense.
The team leads the league in points allowed per game, giving up only 86.6 per contest.
In fact, in thirteen contests this season the Sixers have held their opponents to 85 points or less.
With Philadelphia’s offense averaging 96.7 points per game, the club has a league best point differential – an average win margin of 10 points per game.
While not having an upper tier scorer on the roster, their defense and the willingness of guys to get after it on that end of the floor has clearly been a catalyst for their offensive effectiveness.
“The way we defend is where I think it starts off,” Sixers starting center Spencer Hawes told HOOPSWORLD. “We know we’re going to be able to hold teams and take them away from what they want to do. And then offensively with so many different weapons it’s hard to key in on one guy.”
Holiday agreed with Hawes’ assessment, but also praised the team’s second unit for their stellar play off the bench.
“We’re really just focusing on what’s been working, while trying to attack more,” Holiday said. “Our second team is definitely crucial to our game and how we play. Defensively, going over schemes I think we concentrate much better. We really grew together. Last year we had some mental errors, but I think we’re getting over those little mental things this year. “
The club is at the end of a seven game stretch against seven tough squads in Orlando, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Most predicted the Sixers would win one or maybe two games tops before the stretch started, but the Sixers have compiled a 4-1 mark through the stretch’s first five games by knocking off Orlando, Chicago, Atlanta and the Lakers within a week.
Maybe it is time to stop blatantly overlooking this Sixers squad and finally give them a little r-e-s-p-e-c-t.
Nets Lobbying For Deron Williams All-Star Nod: The New Jersey Nets are a woeful 8-17 on the season and have only seemed to generate media attention when discussions turn to whether or not the club can swing a trade for Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard or acquire the big man in free agency at season’s end.
With reserve selections [made by the coaches] for this season’s NBA All-Star game set to be announced on Thursday, Nets head coach Avery Johnson still believes there is an obvious All-Star on his roster in point guard Deron Williams despite the club’s horrendous start to the season.
“I think it’s been [one], especially under the circumstances,” Johnson said referring to Williams’ season to Tim Bontemps of the New York Post. “You have to look at the whole body of work this year, and look at how injured we’ve been and all of the different challenges and obstacles we’ve been in. I think it’s well-documented where we are. And I think, under the circumstances, what he’s had to deal with on the court, in terms of all of the adversity, the injuries, the way he’s played this year, it’s definitely an All-Star year.”
Williams is averaging 20.2 points and 8.8 assists per night on the season but also leads the league in turnovers at 4.4 per game.
The seventh-year veteran would welcome an All-Star nod, but is also at peace if the call from the league doesn’t come this season.
“It’s definitely an honor to be selected, especially by the coaches,” Williams said. “[If not], it’s not the end of the world … [I’ll] have a nice vacation.”
So what do you say? Should Williams be selected by the coaches despite the Nets’ slow start this season?
Chauncey Billups Done For Season? While the star duo of point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin receive the majority of headlines for the Los Angeles Clippers’ strong start to the season, veteran guard Chauncey Billups has been just as instrumental in helping to usher in a winning culture to the franchise.
But after the former Finals MVP went down in third quarter of Monday’s win against the Orlando Magic, injuring his left Achilles tendon, there is a growing sentiment that the club will be without his services – long term.
Nothing is official, but the team has scheduled a MRI for Tuesday in Cleveland to get the full extent of the injury.
As HOOPSWORLD’s Steve Kyler reported from Orlando last night, after the game there was a very real sense in the Clippers’ locker room that Billups was finished.
Keep in mind full tears of the Achilles typically take more than a year to fully recover from and return to the court at full strength. Some estimate a twelve to sixteen month recovery period.
For the 35 year old Billups, this raises the question on whether he’d willingly go through the brutal rehabilitation process after already accomplishing plenty of success – championship, All-NBA and All-star appearances – throughout his fifteen year career.
With Billups serving as the team’s shooting guard this season losing him would be a huge blow for the Pacific Division leading Clippers as the team would be forced to promote either Mo Williams or Randy Foye to the starting lineup, thereby losing valuable bench depth and firepower in the process.
Reports after the game indicated that Billups left the arena on crutches and in a full walking boot.
Not a good sign, especially with 12 of the team’s next sixteen contests on the road.
NBA Chats: There are three NBA chats scheduled for today starting with HOOPSWORLD’s Anthony Macri at 11am. Coach Macri works with NBA players year around with developing and improving their games and will do his best to answer your questions. Senior NBA writer Eric Pincus will hold down his weekly NBA chat at 4pm EST. Eric covers the Western Conference from LA with the Lakers and the Clippers. Closing the show is Stephen Litel who covers the emerging Minnesota Timberwolves and Western Conference. Stephen gets started at 8pm EST. You can always find a list of our upcoming chats HERE