"They say if you feed the dog, he'll guard the yard." Andre Iguodala speaking about the coaches' approach to Samuel Dalembert. In the past 24 hours I've read more positive articles about Samuel Dalembert than I read over the entire second half of last season. This may seem like a PR machine spinning out of control, but viewed from a different angle, it could be the key to a successful season for the Sixers.
The pessimists among us will view Iguodala's and the other quotes from the past couple days as one of two things, an effort to build up Dalembert's trade value and/or rote praise of a teammate/player. Even if these quotes fall into either category, it doesn't matter one bit. The only meaningful effect of the quotes is their impact on the player himself. To put it lightly, Sammy is happy.
Should we care about Dalembert's disposition? In a perfect world, probably not. But we're Sixers fans and it's been decades since we lived in a perfect world. With the hand we've been dealt, Dalembert's state-of-mind is of the utmost importance, simply because having an effective Sammy on the floor is the difference between being able to compete with anyone in the league, and being a borderline playoff team.
Sammy isn't the most talented Sixer. He isn't their best player. But he is their best rebounder and their best shotblocker. If he can't play the five effectively for more than 25 minutes a night, this team will suffer on the glass and on defense. They'll suffer much more on that end of the floor than they'll benefit on offense by having a more skilled guy playing the five (Jason Smith or Marreese Speights). Without a stifling defense to key the running game, I don't believe the Sixers have the pieces to compete in any meaningful way.
So here's the key: The quotes we're reading aren't simply pumping up Sammy's confidence. They don't seem like lip service, saying he's a big part of the team and then running the PO around him, they've carried weight so far in the preseason. He's probably averaging too many shots through the first two games (12.5/36 minutes), it obviously remains to be seen whether he'll be able to handle the new responsibility, but it seems as though Coach Jordan has an open mind, and we need to as well.
So far, Sammy's averaging about 2.5 turnovers per 36 minutes and 1.33 points per shot. The turnovers seem a bit high, but they're actually in line with the better centers in the league. 1.33 PPS is more than efficient enough. Sam is far from a perfect player, his basketball IQ is highly questionable, his hands aren't ideal, his shot selection is sometimes sketchy. All these things have to be taken into account, obviously, by the coaches and the players he's sharing the floor with. That being said, there is absolutely something to be said for having five guys who can contribute on the offensive end. If Sam can reach that minimum level of competency where he isn't a liability on the offensive end and his involvement in the offense is enough to keep him happy and productive on the other end, the Sixers will be in a much better position to win.
It's going to be a delicate balance all season long, played out both on the floor and in the media. I think everyone's handling it pretty well so far, of course the games don't start to count for about three weeks, though. So stay tuned.