With Andrew Bynum sitting idly by, the Sixers took the floor against the refurbished Boston Celtics (sans Garnett) last night for our first glimpse of the post-Iguodala era in Philadelphia. The game had a strange kind of feeling at times, at other times it felt eerily similar to the past couple of seasons. Most of the time, I was just letting the differences sink in. There are things to like, definitely, foremost among them is the road kill perched atop Spencer Hawes' dome. Seeing him wear that mullet in public is almost worth the pain of having to watch him play.
From a window dressing standpoint, Jrue looks pretty much the same physically, as does Turner. The former isn't much of a concern, I was hoping Turner would be noticeably slimmer, though. Thad definitely looks like he added some bulk, but it's weird. Like his arms and shoulders are bigger, but on the same frame. He doesn't seem like he filled out all that much to me. Hawes looks like he's in shape. The new wings all look fine to me, Wright is a bit on the slight side. Think he's going to have problems playing the four unless it's against a real stretch four. Jeff Green isn't going to hurt you, so I can live with him playing the four against the Celts if they go with that alignment.
On the floor, ball movement seemed fine to me. There was too much of Hawes out on the floor handling the ball for my liking. I also still think playing Hawes at the four is a terrible, terrible idea. Last night is a perfect example of why. Even when he's got five or six inches on his man, he's too weak to back him down. Last night, he had Jeff Green on the blocks a couple times and could only muster one of his patented sissy hooks, falling away from the hoop. On the defensive end, he's got no prayer of sticking with even an immobile power forward, let alone a guy who can extend out to the three point line. Thad or Lavoy are my choices to start at PF, still leaning toward Thad, though maybe not as heavily now as before.
I don't really want to talk about Turner, but I kind of have to. I'll start with the good. He was definitely more aggressive than we've seen in the past. In fact, after every make/miss, he's literally sprinting to the rebounder (if he doesn't grab it himself) to get the ball and then he's pushing it up the court as quickly as possible. It's great to get the ball up the floor quickly, but he pretty much nullified that advantage most times by dribbling with his head down, right to the elbow, where he was overwhelmed by defenders. In fact, that seemed to be the sum total of his game. A lot of aggressive dribbling minus the ability to finish. Or, to put it another way, a more aggressive version of the same guy we've seen since he first set foot on the floor in Orlando for a Summer League game two summers ago.
Turner and Jared Sullinger actually looked a lot alike in last night's game. Both earthbound. Both athletically challenged and overwhelmed when they got near the hoop. The main difference between the two was Sullinger actually hit a three.
Speaking of disappointments. Jrue had no problem getting into the lane and to the hoop, but yet again failed to draw contact and get to the line. I liked what I saw from Jrue running the offense, early in the game, they ran some really nice pick-and-rolls where he found Thad in the lane. Jrue's jumper looks good, he seems to be stepping into the leadership void, but as a scorer, it's just not going to click with any regularity unless he can get to the line.
On the good side of the ledger, Lavoy was very active on the defensive end. Challenging more shots than he did last year, throwing his weight around a little. Encouraging. The main thing that struck me about the Sixers offense, though, was the shooters. Having two legitimate threats out there most of the time just changes things. It makes defensive gambling such a risky proposition. It turns penetration into such a weapon.
The other big positive was the play of Maalik Wayns. He's a blur with the ball, and did a superb job of spreading the ball around last night. If he can be more of a facilitator than a gunner, he should see minutes this year.
Overall, still waiting somewhat patiently to see this entire squad on the floor together. Still missing Iguodala's defense, but I can see some light at the end of the tunnel. I can see the benefit of getting those shooters. I guess I just have to cross my fingers that Turner will someone wind up being someone other than the Turner we've seen in his first two seasons and Jrue will figure out how to get a trip to the line on those forays to the hoop.