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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Sixers: An Early Evaluation

I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about “old times” at my age, but the current state of Philly sports kind of feels like a blast from the past. The Eagles are dead, dead, dead, . . . unless of course they win this week. The Flyers are contenders — just ask any of the 30,000 fans who watch hockey. And then there’s the 76ers.

I was embarrassed to realize how little I’ve posted about my beloved Sixers after the Inquirer’s Blinq pointed out the lack of Sixers blogs. I’m shocked there’s a lack of any type of blog, but the local pro hoops team certainly deserves more respect then it gets in this town.

Afterall, it’s the last team to warrant a championship parade around here. Maurice Cheeks — Mr. Class, and our last link to that title — is back on the bench as the head coach. And, by the way, Allen Iverson, a somewhat rejuvenated Chris Webber, and budding all-star Andre Iguodala grace the starting lineup. They even play the (I certainly hope still) hated Boston Celtics tonight.

Of course, an 82-game season is the likely culprit of the dearth of Sixers blogs. I love settling down to a Sixers game three or four times a week. But it’s the “settling down” part that makes it tough for most folks to get excited about the Sixers until at least February.

Then again, I thought the 76ers would be doing more then hovering around .500 by now. A bad loss to the Knicks didn’t help, either. And they still have the same problem they’ve had for a decade — Allen Iverson shoots too damn much.

No, I’m not one of those fat old guys that hates Iverson because he’s into hip-hop style. Who cares? I do, however, care that he’s shooting 45% — which is actually better than usual. But Iguodala is shooting 55% with 267 less shots! (Stats per Sixers site.) Webber is shooting 43% and has 160 more shots than Iguodala.

Iverson is averaging more assists per game than any other season in his career, at 7.9. It may be impossible, if not unwise, to get him to think pass first. We need Iverson to score. But, believe it or not, this team is built to win now. Billy King did a solid job of not losing the young core of talent when he brought in Webber, but then Allen Iverson window is well beyond half closed.

Getting Samuel Dalembert back is a huge plus. And, they are adjusting to their fourth coach in three seasons. But if the Sixers are going to win this year — maybe not a title, but enough for a deep playoff run — Iverson needs to score in the mid 20s, and average double-digit assists.

We’re only a month into the season, and Iverson likely has the one coach that can still influence him to change his game just enough to at least think pass second, instead of thinking to look for a good shot, a mediocre shot, then a pass.

If that happens, I think it really could feel like old times in Sixer land come May. Now, tonight, if Iverson could just slap a Celtic while Webber and Iguodala hold the guy . . . (Kidding!)

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