This bit of news about Sixers rookie Rodney Carney's injured shoulder may seem like a non-issue for the Sixers, but it comes with more ramifications than you might think.
Carney was playing a key role for this team, albeit an unsung role. Carney has played great defense since being inserted into the starting lineup, his emergence on that side of the ball has allowed Andre Iguodala to slide over to the lesser of the other team's perimeter players. In crunch time, Iguodala would match up against the other team's best perimeter player, but for the 20 minutes or so that Carney was on the floor, Iggy could rest up a little bit on D. With the load he's been carrying on offense, this was key to him being fresh down the stretch, and his legs have looked more lively at the end of close games recently.
On top of Iggy's workload, and probably of greater import, is the fact that Willie Green has been inserted into the starting lineup in Carney's spot. I got an email this morning from Heat apologist Brandon basically saying that Willie Green is much better than I give him credit for. He couldn't have possibly been more wrong, and the biggest issue is that Mo Cheeks sees things the same way as Brandon.
Yes, Willie Green had a lot to do with the Sixers win against the Suns the other night. No, this does not mean he needs more playing time. Green played his best game in months, finishing with 20 points, but let's take a look at his effect on the team as a whole. In the first quarter, Green came out on fire. He was 6 for 6 from the floor for 14 points. The Sixers scored 35 points. Green was shooting contested shots early in the shot clock, basically short-circuiting possessions. Any possession in which Green touched the ball, everyone else could've run back down the floor to play defense, because he was putting a shot up. In this quarter, he was making his shots, so it didn't hurt the team. In the second quarter, Green played his game again, but he wasn't making his shots. The result: 19 points in the quarter for the Sixers and their lead shaved down 11 points at the half. Green was even worse in the third quarter, going 1-5 from the floor, killing possession after possession. Again, the Sixers managed only 19 points for the quarter. Green sat out the fourth quarter, and finally the Sixers offense was allowed to create some kind of momentum. The ball was shared, the shot clock wound down and the Sixers scored 26 points to close out the win.
When Green is in the game, the Sixers go as he goes. Everyone else stands around watching Green take on multiple defenders, and heave up difficult shots. No one gets into the offensive flow of the game. His quick shots turn into fast breaks for the other team. The only way the bigs touch the ball is if they can corral an offensive rebound, but this hardly ever happens because (a) he shoots so quickly and (b) he has no touch, meaning the rebounds wind up coming long, usually starting a break in the other direction.
This is something we're going to have to live with as Sixers fans over the coming games, if Green is hot, the Sixers will have a shot. If he isn't, it's going to be a long night. It's a shame that the team's fortunes are riding on the shoulders of its 6th or 7th best player, but as long as he's getting significant minutes, that's the case.
The Sixers play host to the Memphis Grizzlies, the team with the worst record in the league, tonight. The Grizzlies tore the Sixers apart in Memphis not too long ago. Everyone is calling it a potential let-down game, but I don't see how much lower either team can go. The good/bad news is that we should be able to tell the outcome of the game in the first five minutes (or in Willie Green's first five shots, whichever comes first).