The Sixers have played half of their preseason schedule and we have 13 days until they tip it off for real in Orlando. Let's take a look at the big questions we had heading into camp, and see if we're any closer to answering them now.
- Lou the PG - I started here because my two previous posts have been laced with sarcasm and scorn. Lou has been a pleasant surprise through the first four games. Coach Jordan said Lou wouldn't have to play the traditional point guard role, because one wasn't necessary in his offensive system. This has proved true thus far, with Iguodala handling most of the lead guard duties. Lou has played within himself, scored efficiently and taken pretty good care of the ball. If Lou can maintain this level of play throughout the season, the Sixers will be in good shape at all five positions in their starting lineup.
- Elton Brand's health - So far, so good. In NY on Tuesday night Brand was a dominant physical presence. Granted, he was playing against the Knicks. Still, it's all the evidence I have to go on. Notice I said Brand's health, rather than his return to "stardom." Honestly, if he's healthy and he can stay on the floor for 70+ games, no matter what level he plays at is going to be a monstrous improvement for this team over last year's version at the four.
- The Princeton Offense - I'm going to give this an incomplete and move on.
- Willie's diminishing role - After watching Eddie Jordan almost gush about Willie's "calming influence" and defensive acumen in a video yesterday, I'm going to say this is not going well.
- Team defense - Again, hard to tell because of the erratic nature of the rotations in preseason games. Overall, I think the first unit is locking teams down. The second unit is putrid. It all starts with rebounding, and right now, I don't see even an average rebounder coming off the bench.
- Thad and Iguodala: continued development - Iguodala's turnovers are alarming, but considering the new role he has assumed, I'm willing to remain patient. His jumper has looked better. Thad's rebounding is still an issue (apparently unless the coach calls him out to the press), but he's still an alarmingly efficient scorer. With growing confidence and teammates who will feed him when he's hot (something he didn't always have last season), 20 ppg is not out of the question.
- Speights and Smith - Will one of these guys step up as the third big in the rotation? By default, one will have to. So far, I haven't been impressed with either.
- The three ball - When you look back at games I'm not sure how impressed you're going to be with the Sixers' three-point prowess. Results have been a mixed bag so far. One thing has definitely changed, however. With the addition of Jason Kapono, they now have a guy capable of delivering a dagger. Last season, Donyell Marshall filled that role for handful of games, but he was never an every-day part of the rotation. With Kapono on the floor, they have a guy who can and will drill threes at big times to either step on the opponent's throat, or stem the tide of the other team's run. This is a huge psychological advantage, and I've already seen it in the Knicks game and the Nets game.
- Coach Jordan - I'm not thrilled with how he's handled Jrue. The Willie situation leaves me saddened, as does the abandonment of the PO Tuesday night. But, I do respect the fact that he's trying to teach his team how to finish off teams. I'm still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I want to see tangible improvement in a couple of areas. (1) Motivating Speights. I don't know what he needs to do, but the kid needs a fire lit under him. (2) Defensive identity. The personal screams top defensive team, I need to see that happen. (3) Smarter rotations. I don't want to see the entire second unit on the floor together in a real game unless the Sixers are up or down by fifteen or more points. There isn't enough talent on that squad to tread water. Use them to press if you must in dire situations, but I'd prefer to mix subs in with starters throughout.
4-0 isn't a bad way to start the preseason. The remaining four games don't exactly strike fear into me (Phoenix in Phoenix, Phoenix in Mexico, Washington in Philly and New Jersey in Queens).
What do you guys think, so far? Have you gotten any kind of visibility into the main issues this team is facing through the first four preseason games?