The Sixers/Rockets game tonight scares the bejesus out of me, and I'm going to share a little secret with you, it has nothing to do with Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Juwan Howard, Rafer Alston, Dikembe Mutombo or anyone else wearing a uniform. No, the thing that scares me about the Rockets is a 5 foot-nothing balding gnome of a man named Jeff Van Gundy.
I'm ashamed to admit that I fear this man more than any other in basketball. Too many times, my favorite team has been burned by Van Gundy's basketball black magic. I don't know how he does it, I don't know that it has any affect on the other 28 teams in the league, but something about this little man makes the Sixers wilt. He made Allan Houston into a God, Patrick Ewing into a warrior, Tracy McGrady into a defender, Yao Ming into a 7'6" ballerina. I can't explain it, but you can't deny it. Jeff Van Gundy can flat out coach the game of basketball, especially against the Sixers.
The happiest I've been as a Sixers' fan over the past decade, other than the Sixers' game one overtime win at LA in the 2001 finals, was the day the Knicks jettisoned Van Gundy. This guy gave me nightmares, still does, only now it's limited to two times per year. No matter how confident I was that the Sixers had the Knicks' number, Van Gundy would find a way to make Iverson a non-factor, with players like Charlie Ward and Chris Childs guarding him. He'd lock the doors and hold the Sixers to about 20% from the field. Patrick Ewing would absolutely bury them 10 years past his prime. On several occasions I traveled to Philly with a Knicks fan in tow, talking trash the whole car ride down, eating crow the whole way home after Van Gundy's Knicks buried the Sixers.
I'm going to watch when the Sixers take the floor tonight, I'm going to root for them. I'm going to go crazy when Iguodala drives the lane and finishes with two hands over Yao. What I cannot do, and on most occasions I can do this, is find one legitimate reason to predict a Sixers win. Jeff Van Gundy has me mesmerized. The only hope is that he gets tossed early, or his deal with the devil expires and his coaching voodoo somehow fails him.
I usually abstain from predictions when I think the Sixers don't have a chance, but when Jeff is on the opposing bench, abstention seems futile. If I were a betting man I'd take the Rockets and give 20 points. Unless a minor miracle happens, this one is going to play out like so many before, too much Van Gundy for the Sixers to handle.