Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A team we know – and should like

By Jeff Glauser
The Phanatic Magazine

We won’t get ahead of ourselves, but it’s at least time to start talking about it.

It is safe to say the Sixers won’t end the championship drought in Philly this year, one that began 25 years ago, after Moses, Erving and current coach Maurice Cheeks helped take a juggernaut to the Promised Land.

It was once safe to say that basketball in this town would have to be put on an extended hiatus post-A.I., with fans reluctantly allowing the team to stink first and address needs later. Win big in the draft lottery, let those gawd-awful contracts created courtesy of Billy King expire and then become a player in free agency.

Let’s be frank: Even in the horrendously mediocre Eastern Conference, this team was not supposed to come within sniffing distance of the playoffs this year. But that’s exactly what that strong scent emanating from the Wachovia Center is right now.

For those out there who went into pro hoops hibernation around here long ago, I have an announcement:

Wake up!!

Something special is ever-so-slowly taking place. And if a 26-32 record doesn’t necessarily make you want to rise up and dance a jig, consider a few other numbers:

- Like offense? A 14-7 record when they score over 100 points.

- Prefer defense? A 25-13 record (including their last eight and an astounding 20-6 in their last 26) when holding the opponent to less than 100 (sure, that also means that they’re 1-19 when the opponent scores 100 or more, but no reason to dwell on the negative).

- A 21-20 since Ed Stefanski replaced King - perhaps a sign of things to come?

- Appreciate veterans? Over 30 Andre Miller – thankfully still here after the trade – and Samuel Dalembert are both enjoying career years, while Reggie Evans has the energy on court of a crackhead in withdrawal.

- Prefer developing youth? Try a Lou Williams, finally beginning to show why he was a Naismith winner, or the athletic Thaddeus Young, who is turning it up a notch at the time when most other rookies begin to hit a wall.

- Need yet another reason to make a worthwhile trip? A winning record at home (which is sadly far too barren on too many nights)

But the best things about the Sixers right now are twofold:

1) The players are disgustingly likable. There is not one person who you can’t root for.

2) They are delightfully transparent. What I mean is, we know what to expect from them each night – good, bad and ugly.

We know that a gritty effort will be given just as much as we know that they’ll struggle to hold on to big leads late in the game.

We know that they can run the fast break as good as anyone, but can shoot themselves in the foot at the foul line.

We know that they can stifle opponents with man-on-man defense, but will get killed nightly by good shooting squads behind the arch. We also know they can use a shooter or two, themselves.

But that’s the thing: We know all these things. The 8-8 Eagles could have just as easily won either six games or 12 this season. The Phillies, as successful a season they had, were a sports version of a roller coaster ride. And the Flyers can either win ten in a row or lose ten in a row at any given juncture.

The Sixers we know. Which also means it’s easy to pinpoint what needs they have and what needs to be done to take the next step.

I’m making it official: Basketball is back in Philly. That doesn’t mean a return to the glory days of Big Mo, Little Moe, Dr. J – just yet. But it does mean that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel once more.

And isn’t hope a good thing to have around here?

Let’s start talking about it.

No comments: