Lost amid the Sixers amazing win streak and their GM's protestations that defense is of the utmost importance is the aspect of the Iverson signing I feared most, stalled development. Upon further examination, I have to admit that not a whole lot of the damage being done to the Sixers is directly related to Iverson's presence.
He's been a net positive for the team on the floor so far. He's gotten them away from the meaningless Princeton offense and he is showing the young players on the team the benefits of involving the bigs, near the hoop. On the defensive end, he is what he is. Horrible.
If we're talking about development, there's one man to blame for the lack thereof. Eddie Jordan. His rotations remain mind-boggling. You know the rest. Jrue's minutes are way down, Thad's minutes are way down, even Speights has seen a dip in his minutes recently, but I'm starting to come around to the idea that minutes don't even matter. I'm starting to think that the damage Jordan is doing to this roster goes way beyond a lack of development. There's evidence out there that Jordan could actually be making these players worse.
Last week during a post-game tirade, Flip Saunders basically said Washington was a defensive laughing stock under Jordan and he simply cannot believe exactly how bad the players on that roster are defensively. With rare exception, these are all players who cut their teeth under Eddie Jordan.
Last night, I read this quote from another guy who spent his formative years under Jordan, Roger Mason Jr.:
"I can't say that I really was the most experienced defender when I left Washington, I did the best I thought I could do. But when I got in this system [with the Spurs] that first year really stripped me of a lot of my bad habits, and I've learned how to compete defensively."
Looking at the numbers, you can clearly see not only Jordan's disastrous effect on the team's defense, but even how his asinine system is affecting individual players. Compare Andre Iguodala's PER against from the previous two seasons for one example. Here and here. See how playing mostly out of position, and being forced to rotate out on point guards from the center position is decimating Elton Brand's defensive rebounding rate here. As a side note, if you think it's diminished skills that are hurting Brand's defensive rebounding numbers, explain his rate from last season, then compare the rest of his numbers, especially recently, to those marks. Why would he drop off only in that category if it's directly related to playing the five (against larger opponents) and being drawn away from the hoop, not by bigs who can shoot the three, but by the rotations dictated by this defensive system.
The deleterious effects of Eddie Jordan on established players is a problem, but it's hardly the most ominous side effect. Consider, for a second, the young core of this team. Guys who, for the most part, spent a year in college learning to defend. A cold, hard fact of early entry into the NBA is that these young players learn the finer points (mostly defense) at the pro level now. They don't come in with four years of training, and a sound understanding of defensive fundamentals anymore.
So of the core, you've got Thad Young who spent a year and change under Mo Cheeks, mostly out of position, then three-quarters of a season under Tony DiLeo, who did his best to at least emphasize defense. Now he's got Eddie Jordan, teaching him the wrong way to do just about everything. Marreese Speights got tough love from DiLeo, a message was clearly being sent that he would have to defend to get onto the court. Now he's got Eddie Jordan rewarding nothing but making shots. Jrue Holiday actually spent a year learning how to defend in college, now those skills are meaningless to his head coach, and he's finding that the only way to get minutes is to hit jumpers. Lou Williams has been here a while, and I think the damage has already been done, but Jordan certainly isn't helping matters.
For me, the question isn't really how many minutes these guys get anymore. Obviously, I want to see the young guys play, and playing isn't going to hurt them anymore than sitting on the bench for Jordan will. The question is how long is it going to take for the young guys on the team to un-learn everything Jordan is "teaching" and will the bad habits be so deeply ingrained that no coach will ever be able to correct everything.
Every day Eddie Jordan is here is setting this franchise back in so many ways, some obvious (losses) some extremely hard to quantify, like the reinforcement of horrible defensive habits. I'm afraid that if the Sixers wait too long to replace him, we're really going to have no choice but to blow the whole thing up and start from scratch. Whoever comes in to replace him may just find himself in the same spot Flip Saunders has in Washington.
The decision to hire Eddie Jordan will live in infamy in the Sixers history. Of that I'm convinced.
Tip is at 8pm tonight, in Denver. Ty Lawson will probably explode against the Iverson/Williams back court and at least for a day distract some people from the tragic mistake Ed Stefanski made last summer. Lawson vs. Holiday isn't even close to meaningful when you consider the man who was brought in to coach this team. My preview will be up some time in the afternoon. Let's go Birds!