I understand that even good teams have let downs here and there, but the Sixers seem to have them every other night. This team is confusing; they really are. One night they'll beat down a team from start to finish and other nights their play horrible basketball--even in victories.
Tonight the Sixers went into Minnesota and came out strong, building a 13 point lead behind their two best players, in order, Thaddeus Young and Elton Brand. Then Maurice Cheeks made yet another questionable substitution, as he has been doing all season. With four minutes and 18 seconds remaining in the first quarter the Sixers had a 9 point lead. Then Cheeks brought in everyone's least favorite player Willie Green for Thaddeus Young. Shockingly, the lead evaporated and the Sixers never recovered.
We've seen 11 games and I still cannot single out one specific problem with the Sixers, since they seem to have so many and a different one costs them a game on a nightly basis.
Mo Cheeks is the first person I blame. I've always been a big fan of Mo. I think he's a great dude. He seems to have a good feel for his players and does wonders with the team chemistry, but all of this does us no good if he cannot A) Motivate this team to play quality basketball every night or B) Make good decisions when it comes to the rotation. Willie cannot continue to be the sixth man. The team usually suffers when he enters the game, especially if he replaces Thaddeus Young. Thad has been our best and most consistent player this season. There's no reason to take him out after watching him dominate the first 7 minutes of games. Give Lou-Will more time, and make sure he has a true point guard on the floor with him. He cannot run the offense, but he can score with the best of him. Stefanski did not give Lou a 27 million dollar contract to play 10 minutes a night. I know he's had a bad season so far, but he is better than Willie Green. Marreesse Speights also needs more time, whether it be at Sammy's expense or Reggie's expense, or both. Speights is a rookie and he will commit some stupid (not Sam stupid) fouls, but he also does a lot of good things on the court. And for the record, I am not on the "bench Sammy D" bandwagon. He's a good defender and rebounder. He does a lot, and I repeat, a lot of stupid things, but benching him would be like waving the white flag on the season.
Another reoccurring problem is the disappearance of Thad throughout the game. I don't know if this is Cheeks' fault for not playing him enough/not calling any plays for him, Thad's fault deferring to his teammates or the veterans' fault for thinking they are so much better than the 21-year-old and they need to take their shots to show everybody that it's their team (Elton, Iggy and Miller). Whatever it is, it needs to be fixed. Thad's M.O. has been to come out of the gate and dominate the first six or seven minutes of the game, only to be taken out by Cheeks. Then when he returns the the game, he barely touches the ball. Keep the beast involved!
Andre Iguodala's jumpshot is another problem; it is horrendous. I have never seen an NBA player throw up so many bricks on wide open shots. Andre has started to come around as of late, but his jumpshot, his attempt of fancy passes and the mindset that he's a lot better than he really is has been getting on my nerves. I still love the guy, but he needs to realize he's not the team's go-to scorer and be satisfied contributing in other ways. He's still a playmaker, solid defender and great rebounder for his size.
This team needs a shot in the arm. They might not be championship contenders, but they are a lot better than they have been showing. If the season continues this way, either someone like Andre Miller or Samuel Dalembert needs to be traded or Coach Cheeks has to be fired. A team with this much talent cannot play below .500 ball and expect to just mosey though the season. Nine more games and I'll have definitive solutions. Until then, the Sixers need to turn it around and it starts with the head coach.
Player of the Game: Thaddeus Young.
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