A quick note to start the day and kick off the conversation heading into tonight's game against the Wizards. And, yes, I'm going to avoid any Gilbert's got a gun puns and commentary.
Washington, the team that fired Eddie Jordan a little over a year ago, is coming into the Wach tonight sporting a 10-21 record, in the midst of a four-game losing streak and embroiled in a potentially disastrous controversy. A win tonight for Flip Saunders' crew will give them a clean sweep of the Sixers this season. The Sixers are responsible for 20% of Washington's wins on the year (much like how the lowly Nets are responsible for 20% of the Sixers wins).
Last seasons, the Sixers swept the Wizards 4-0, and didn't really have a whole lot of trouble doing it (wins by 15, 10, 8 and 6 points). You could probably say Washington is a better team this year with Arenas back and a new coach, but they're 10-23, just like Philly. We aren't exactly talking about a powerhouse.
We're really talking about two sides of the same coin here, in my mind. Washington, a team who a lot of people picked to not only go to the playoffs but challenge for a top-four seed, was a mismatched, older roster with questionable pieces heading into the season, and a new head coach who was a drastic improvement over their jettisoned lead man. It turns out the talent wasn't nearly enough to compete when you had a coach who understands you need to defend to win.
The Sixers, on the other hand, were a team on the rise with a young nucleus who had the ability to defend and simply needed to figure out a way to be more efficient in their half-court sets to take another step up the standings in the East. Instead, they got a coach who believes you don't have to defend to win, their strengths have been completely ignored and their coach has tried to turn them into something they're clearly not meant to be, a jump-shooting team who can only win when they're hitting an obscene percentage of those jumpers. Enough jumpers to negate the obscene number of points they're giving up on the other end.
What I wouldn't give to turn the clock back, send Eddie Jordan back to Washington and hire Flip Saunders to coach our roster. But you can't turn the clock back, and apparently the Sixers front office is not willing to admit they made a crucial mistake so tonight we're going to get the pleasure of seeing two teams ruined by Eddie Jordan duke it out on the court. One team who is only suited to play Jordan's way, but coached by a man who realizes the folly of this approach, vs. a team that is wholly unsuited to play this way, but being forced to by the man himself.
This is a game Eddie Jordan desperately wants. He can shrug it off in quotes to the press, but take a look at him on the sideline. His dismissal by the Wizards is still something that bites, and he pulls out all the stops in games against the Wizards. The only problem is that for Jordan, pulling out all the stops means more offense, not going out there and making a stand on defense. Not putting his best five defenders on the floor, but playing small. Weakening his current team to match up with his old team. The irony is that the Sixers, as coached, are pretty much the only team the Wizards are capable of beating right now.
From a basketball purist's perspective, I think this is probably the worst possible matchup in the NBA. 12 players on one side who could care less about defense, and one coach on the other who's doing his best to accomplish the same with his new roster.
Do you guys think the Wizards will complete the season sweep tonight?