First of all, happy 30th birthday to Elton Brand. Word on the street is that his rehab is on schedule, so get healthy and we'll see you this summer.
Now, the matter at hand. I've spent the past couple of days alternating between shock, rage and disappointment in this team. I'm still having a hard time reconciling the fact that they had four days to prepare and rest for a two-game road trip against two very bad teams, and they looked wholly unprepared on both nights.
My list of who deserves the blame is growing by the day. You can't pin the whole thing on Iguodala, although I was certainly disappointed in him following the Thunder game, but he played an excellent game at Memphis. Andre Miller has been Andre Miller. Thad played fairly well in both contests. Dalembert barely played in either. Speights' minutes were up a tick, although not really enough in my book.
After going through the roster, I finally came back to the coaches. I'm not in practices, so I don't know what kind of preparations they're going through. They have some minor injury issues (Miller and Ivey both missed practice yesterday, but will be on the floor today). I'm not really sure I have a philosophical problem with DiLeo et al. I think my main issue is that they're so damned rigid.
This team played unbelievable basketball for about 20% of the season before the break. They did it with the starting lineup they continue to trot out there, but you know what, it just isn't working anymore. OKC used their subs to effectively cut off the lane and the Sixers had no answer. In fact, they seemed completely reluctant to even run plays against the defense. They resorted to isolation and bad drives to the hoop which were met with two or three OKC defenders each time.
They didn't utilize their mismatches, they didn't move the ball. They basically sat back and waited for the hot-shooting Sixers team from January to show up and punish the Thunder. It didn't happen, and honestly, if they keep waiting for it, they're going to miss the playoffs.
Kate Fagan wrote a piece last week calling for Speights to enter the starting lineup at the power forward, just as I had a week or so earlier. We still don't really know why the team is so reluctant to make the move. Both DiLeo and Stefanski hinted that Speights at the four was something they wanted to explore. Unfortunately, they have yet to properly explore it.
After four days of practice, you'd expect the Sixers to come out and show something new. I mean, they were coming off a 2-6 stretch after the break heading into last weekend. You'd expect maybe a shake-up in the rotation. You'd expect a renewed focus on the aspects of the game that made them so successful prior to the break. You'd expect something. Instead, we got nothing.
At this point, the team philosophy seems to be hampered by a false self image (read the player quotes if you don't believe me), and a stubborn streak. Look at it this way, if you can't admit what you're doing wrong, how will you correct it. If you won't change anything, how can you expect to get better.
Before the Grizzlies game, I firmly believed the Sixers would use the off days to address some key issues. I thought they'd come out and use the back-to-back as an opportunity to get the team kickstarted, and they'd parlay those two wins into a five-game winning streak. Even after the Memphis game I hoped they'd realize they were handed a gift and they'd refocus for the Thunder game. None of that happened, in fact, they played worse in those two games than they did in the first 8 after the break.
So, where do we stand now? Exactly where we did a week ago. The Sixers have spent the past two games, hopefully, figuring out what their issues are and how to solve them. They have two winable games coming up, and I'm sitting her shaken. I'm trying to figure out if the coaches have the answers, and more importantly, if he coaches know what the right questions are.
The headline to this post was the precipice because that's where the Sixers stand right now. At some point very soon they're going to have to decide if they want to be bold and make adjustments, or if they're going to sit back and wait for things to break their way. I'm afraid if the answer is the latter, we won't even have the opportunity to see the Sixers make a first-round exit.
The pregame will be up later this afternoon.