No Bynum, No Problem In Philadelphia
The big move in Philadelphia this off season was the addition of All-Star center Andrew Bynum, but often forgotten were the losses of the team’s top three-point threat, Jodie Meeks, leader in blocks, Elton Brand, leading scorer, Lou Williams, and All-Star, Andre Iguodala.
Not unexpectedly, Bynum still hasn’t suited up for the 76ers due to on-going knee issues and may not see the floor for some time yet. The 76ers’ other big additions, Kwame Brown and Jason Richardson, have played a total of 86 minutes, but at least Nick Young and Dorell Wright have suited up for every game so far.
While the Sixers have yet to play at full strength, they haven’t exactly been struggling as the returning Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young are thriving in their new roles. The team is off to a 4-3 start with two of those losses at the hands of the unbeaten New York Knicks.
“A different dynamic,” Holiday explained. “We used to have three or four ball handlers and now we are down to two. We have guys who can handle the ball, but we improved our shooting. We space the floor. We got bigger and longer. I think we got tougher.”
The changes to the 76ers lineup have done more than just provide new opportunities for players who may have been held back by the veterans on last year’s team. The changes have also provided better role definition.
“In the past, there were a lot of different roles that could account for two different people,” Holiday said. “But each guy has his own role this year.
“Especially for Evan. I think Evan being out there and getting comfortable in his role as a starter has definitely helped. We have accepted our roles and how to play on this team.”
Where Turner and Young have been inserted into the starting lineup, Holiday’s role as the starting point guard has expanded. Through the first seven games, Holiday is playing 4.8 more minutes than last year and has increased his scoring by 5.6 points per game to 19.1 and doubled his assists to nine.
“[Holiday] is older and acclimated to the way we do things around here,” 76ers head coach Doug Collins said. “We have made some changes to our roster and all of a sudden Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams, Elton Brand, guys who have been here a long time, now those guys are gone, so Jrue’s voice now needs to be heard.
“I am very pleased with Jrue. I think he is doing great. He knows how much I value him. He knows I want that ball in his hands and we are going to grow together. We have made a commitment to him for a long time and we want him to be that guy that has the ball in his hands making plays for us over the next few years.”
The only knock on Holiday’s game has been a significant increase in his number of turnovers.
“[Holiday] has a lot of responsibility,” Collins said. “We were a team last year that [Iguodala] would handle the ball a lot in those situations and also Lou Williams, so Jrue has a lot of responsibility to be our number one quarterback. With that goes a lot of growth and he knows he has to take care of the ball because I have seen him do it.”
Without Brown or Bynum available, rebounding might have been a concern, but Young has taken advantage of his additional minutes to grab 2.1 more rebounds a game and Turner is averaging 8.7 boards, primarily from the shooting guard spot. On average, the 76ers have been able to out-rebound their opponents so far this season.
“[Turner] has always been a great rebounder,” Collins said. “He has always been a great competitor and now he is finding where his offense comes from. He is a tremendous foul line and under player and he rebounds the ball and pushes the ball in the open floor.
“We count on Evan. He and Paul George of Indiana are probably the best rebounding guards at their positions. I said to him there are going to be many nights when I am not going to look at your points, but what are you doing in the other phases.”
Between Holiday, Turner and Young, the trio has added nine points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists to their season averages and it looks like the 76ers’ young core was ready to take the reins from the veterans who led this team last year. The team may have been excited about the addition of an All-Star caliber center, but they are not waiting for Bynum or anyone else. It’s been no Bynum, no problem so far for the 76ers.