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Friday, May 1, 2009

Gutless

Pick your own adjective from last night’s close-out playoff series loss to the Orlando Magic by the Philadelphia 76ers, but I’m going with gutless.

The Magic were without 3 out of 5 of their regular starters, and waltzed into the Wachovia Center (or whatever it’s being called today) and simply destroyed the Sixers. Dwight Howard, their superstar center, was suspended, while Courtney Lee and Jameer Nelson sat out with injuries. Granted, Nelson’s been out a while, but if anyone wants to use that as an excuse they need to get a grip on reality.

The Sixers didn’t just lose, they got crushed, 114-89. The Magic was the team with a Game 7 at home in their back pocket, and their center back in the hotel, but the Sixers played like that. Andre Miller was the only Sixer who made more shots than he missed. Andre Iguodala’s final stat line actually looks acceptable, but he only shot 4 foul shots, which is a clear indication he wasn’t nearly aggressive enough. Willie Greene, your town your team your 76ers’ shooting guard, shot 2 of 8 for 4 points. Of course, he didn’t miss any free throws – because he didn’t take any. Thaddeus Young, the supposed budding star, also didn’t bother himself to get to the free-throw line, and scored 8 points. Samuel Dalembert actually had a statistically decent game with 13 rebounds, 5 offensive, and 8 points on 4 of 9 shooting. The fact that this constitutes a decent game for the Sixers’ starting center should say it all.

But it’s not just about the stats, or the fact that they came against guys like Marcin Gortat and J.J. Redick. Or the fact this is the second year in a row the Sixers bowed out in the first round after taking a 2-1 lead.

Well, yes it is. But the troubling thing for the future is that there’s little reason to think anything is going to change any time soon.

I actually heard a sports talk show host refer to “little Tony DiLeo” when chiding Stan Van Gundy for barking at him about the Sixers coach’s complaints about the officiating. Normally, no one should care too much about what any talk show host (or blogger) says, but the team’s effort and comments after the game from players made it clear DiLeo doesn’t garner enough respect to be a coach in the NBA.

Iguodala, a guy that hardly ever says anything outside of the company line, is quoted by philly.com as calling for a team overhaul.
"It's going to be a busy summer," Iguodala said. "I'm going to sit down with Ed [Stefanski] and discuss what I think will get us over the [hump]."

As for coach Tony DiLeo, the team's assistant GM who replaced Maurice Cheeks in December and led the club to the playoffs, well, Iguodala didn't exactly endorse his soft-spoken boss.

"We'll see about that," he said, when asked whether DiLeo should return. "We'll talk. We'll try to get the best-case scenario."

In fact, Iguodala went as far as to criticize Dileo.
Iguodala didn't mention the Sixers' loss of Elton Brand to a shoulder injury in midseason.

What he mentioned was overeager, inexperienced players who were allowed to err again and again: "We weren't always there."

"We had mental lapses."

"We had inner turmoil."

"We have a young team. At times, I think we have a tough time understanding the importance of communication as a whole," Iguodala said.

When mistakes were made by the younger players, he said, "Instead of trying to make it up for the team, they'd try to make it up for themselves."

My only question would be where was this type of criticism all season. I would respect his desire to keep it within the team, but I’m not sure what sense it makes to go public now. It suggests DiLeo was tolerated as an interim coach and nothing more. Even Theo Ratliff criticized DiLeo. The aging free agent in waiting with bad knees clearly wasn’t worried about burning bridges with his remarks after the game:
"It's distasting to go out like that, to be on the bench watching," the veteran center said. "It's not a good feeling."

Asked whether he felt he could, as a veteran presence, have helped, he said, "It ain't about veterans."

"The coaches are responsible for guys [being] prepared and playing," he said. "They have to hold guys accountable. It's been that way all year, so you couldn't expect anything different.

"You have to step up and get into guys. If [as the coach] you don't have that type of personality, to be able to go at guys . . . "

He let his thought trail off, paused and added: "At the same time, it's your position. You've seen the mistakes and all that going on. Was anybody getting talked to about that? To me, this is losing if you have situations like that."


Along with Miller, another free agent to be, Ratliff didn’t even bother showing up for the traditional end-of-season meeting on Friday. Miller’s absence may be the worst thing about this collapse, which let’s not forget began with a 7-game losing streak right after they clinched a playoff spot. It seems clear he has no desire to re-sign with the team, and he will be very difficult to replace.

Once again, it is time to blow-up the Sixers and start over.

Week-in-Review:
· Sal Paolantonio trotted out the ridiculous notion that the refusal of Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook to speak to the media at this weekend’s mini-camp was a refusal to speak to the fans. This is such a ridiculous assertion. No one but reporters gives a damn what these guys say in May, and McNabb rarely says anything beyond the company line anyway. He even suggested that the quarterback’s silence would lead to months of speculation about his future. I guess Sal Pal hasn’t notice that such speculation has gone on for years regardless of anything McNabb or the organization says.
· Paolantonio did report something worthwhile today. Jeremy Maclin was already running with the first team in his first workouts with the Eagles, and is faster than DeSean Jackson. You gotta like that.
· Congress is having hearings on the BCS and the possibility of a college football playoff. Glad there aren’t more pressing issues in our country.
· People keep claiming that the Bulls-Celtics playoff series is one of the best ever. I just don’t buy it when the Celtics are missing their best player. Is the series, with multiple over time games (and multiple overtimes within more than one game), unbelievably exciting? Obviously. I just can’t say historic when Kevin Garnett is wearing a suit.
· The first round of the NBA playoffs ends Sunday — more than two weeks after it started. Ridiculous.
· Kudos to Mike Missanelli for taking on Colin Cowherd, a national host ESPN 950 tolerates an hour a day — I’m guessing — to fulfill some requirement of taking ESPN programming. Cowherd blathered on about Andy Reid’s expertise only to have “Joey from the Docks” question him, which Cowherd simply wouldn’t allow. This is just the type of pompass garbage that makes his and most national shows a waste of time. The hosts simply don’t know anything specific about any situation, considering such local details beneath them, and they survive on interviews and a love of their own voice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

MDefl posting:

Great stuff! I am generally a fan of Sal's work but he has clearly become enamored with himself as a "celebrity". Your right - who cares what they have to say in May.

From the moment they mentioned Di Leo as head coach, I did not buy it. He last coached a women's team in Europe 15 or 20 years ago. Still, his team made the playoffs and did so without Elton Brand. How about the players? Sammy needs to go. Lou and Willie Green can follow him out the door. The players would have been whining had they had a coach like Larry Brown who was all over them. They need a real leader on the floor who is not afraid to get in someone's face.

The Bulls/Celtics series was a classic despite KG being injured. That did not take away from the drama of the series. I am sure that the eventual champion is coming from the west this year. The east is very weak.

Cowheard is a blowhard. I heard the aftermath of that call on Mikey Miss's show. Thank God for Miss. I never have to listen to Eskin again for the rest of my life (hopefully).