NBA PM: Sixers Not Waiting On Andrew Bynum
When an NBA team loses a significant player to injury, there are several possible results. First, the team can hang their heads and feel sorry for themselves, no matter how much their head coach might try to maintain a level of confidence. Second, they can tread water and do just enough to stay around .500, waiting for the star to return. Third, they can push each other even harder to pick up the slack and just win anyway, which is the route the Philadelphia 76ers have taken in the absence of Andrew Bynum.
“I think we’re doing well even without Big Fella down there,” starting point guard Jrue Holiday said to HOOPSWORLD. “Other guys just had to pick up. I guess we’re not waiting, we just got to move forward. We want Andrew to be out there, but again, trying to do our thing.”
Though the full impact of the Sixers’ offseason moves have not yet been felt due to Bynum’s ongoing knee issues, one side effect has been the brilliant play of Holiday and Turner, who have garnered more minutes and more responsibility in the wake of the departures of Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams.
“For sure, I think that’s just the process of us growing into a pretty good back court,” agrees Holiday. “We’re just trying to get comfortable with each other, trying to be leaders like Coach wants us to be. I think he made the right moves to do that.”
Sixers head coach Doug Collins couldn’t agree more.
“I think we’ve seen Jrue make progress every single year and what’s happened is that added responsibility this year because two guys that he shared the back court with for a long time are not here, Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala,” Collins said to HOOPSWORLD. “So we put a lot of responsibility on Jrue and Evan this year. With those guys gone and new faces, we expect a lot. Jrue’s done great, really solid. He started the year turning the ball over a lot and then I think he’s settled down with that. He shot the ball well, he shot the three ball well. The thing to me and I think the next step, which I tell him a lot, as much as he’s in the paint, he’s got to get fouled.”
One thing that has benefited Holiday is that he was drafted by a team that understood they he would need to be groomed, helped through the maturation process, and even allowed to make mistakes before he could become the best player he could be.
“For sure, having coaches like Aaron McKie, Mike Curry and even Doug, who through the process taught me, but at the same time just let me go out there and make mistakes,” agrees Holiday. “It is a blessing in disguise just knowing, I didn’t even work out for Philly and still ended up here. To be in the position that I am, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Simply put, Holiday is having the kind of year that should warrant some All-Star consideration, averaging a career-bests of 18.4 points and 8.9 assists per game while also corralling 3.9 rebounds per game. Holiday wouldn’t mind being in Houston for the mid-season festivities, but it’s not the first thing on his mind.
“I think about winning [first],” says Holiday. “Yeah, I think about being an All-Star, which would be awesome. I think that’s something that everybody wants on their resume, but I think first and foremost is winning. I think being here and being comfortable with the coaches, some of the core guys, I already know the system. I’m just coming out and playing, just being me and we’ve won a couple games.”
There’s a long way to go between now and the end of the season, but the Sixers were off to a solid start before a foot injury sidelined Holiday briefly. With Holiday due back tonight and Andrew Bynum not far behind him, don’t be surprised if the Sixers are among the best teams in the Eastern Conference come playoff time.
Steve Nash Tempering Expectations
Fans of the Los Angeles Lakers are on the edge of their seats today in eager anticipation of the return of Steve Nash, tentatively scheduled for Saturday night. Nash, however, is eager to temper expectations, pointing out that he’s been out for a while and doesn’t expect to be in MVP form right away.
“I’m not in great condition after being inactive for the past seven weeks,” Nash said Thursday after going through his first full contact practice since the injury. “But that’s just kind of the harsh reality is that it’s going to be a painful period where I try to not only get myself back in shape but try to find my game and rhythm and timing.”
Nash has never shied away from playing through pain, which he will absolutely have to do in his return, but he is concerned about the possibility of doing further damage and impacting his play for the long haul.
“The pain is not the issue,” Nash said. “I don’t mind playing through the pain. It’s more, am I doing damage to it? And is it going to prevent me from playing the rest of this season, so we’re going to just measure that as the next two-three days go by.”
After losing six of their first seven games to start the month of December, the Lakers have started to turn things around. Due in part to a break in the schedule, LA has won three games in a row, beating the injury-riddled Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers and then surviving a scare from the Charlotte Bobcats. Saturday’s test will be tougher, as they pay a call on the red-hot Golden State Warriors.
Nash’s return is expected to trigger a dramatic turnaround for the Lakers, and taking out the homestanding Warriors would certainly be a huge step in the right direction.
Paul George Turning the Page
Like the aforementioned Philadelphia 76ers, the Indiana Pacers started the 2012-13 campaign without one of their primary weapons. Unlike the Sixers, the Pacers had a hard time finding themselves without theirs. As Danny Granger sat on the sidelines watching, his team limped out of the gate, winning just four of their first ten games. For a team that was expected to contend in the Eastern Conference, it was a dismal start, one that had fans talking about firing head coach Frank Vogel, questioning the re-signing of Roy Hibbert and all the things that fans do when their team falls well short of expectations.
With Hibbert struggling and Granger out of the lineup, much of the pressure to pick up the slack fell on the shoulder of Paul George, who is widely believed to be the next star player for the Pacers. Unfortunately, he didn’t hold up very well under that pressure . . .not at first, anyway.
Through 15 games in November, George managed to average just 14.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game while shooting 39 percent from the field and 39 percent from three, clearly missing the distraction that Granger generally provided opposing defenses to keep them from keying on George.
December got off to a rough start, as well, with George going 0-7 and failing to score in a loss to the Golden State Warriors, but that poor showing seemed to ignite a fire in George. He followed that dismal performance by playing his basketball of the season over the next six games. He poured in 34 of his team’s 80 points in a win over Chicago, then scored 22 twice in games against Portland and Denver, got roughed a bit against OKC, but still scored 17, and then scored 27 and 28, respectively in back-to-back wins over Cleveland and Philadelphia, garnering Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors in the process.
Even with his 0-for-7 start to the month, George is having a fantastic December, averaging 20.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game while shooting 48 percent from the field, 42 percent from three and even 85 percent from the line.
In a perfect world, this is how it should work. When one significant player misses a stretch of games due to injury, others should step up, making the team that much better when the injured player returns. The best-case scenario for the Pacers is that George will continue to play at a higher level once Granger returns, making them that much more dangerous come playoff time.
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