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Identity Theft

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deepsixersuede on Nov 24 at 7:03
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Brian, I place the blame on 2 people, you and E.S., not our new coach. You, for not presenting this article to E.S. BEFORE HE HIRED A NEW COACH, it is dead on. And E.S. for not looking for the right young mind to put this plan in place. A leopard can!t change his spots, though I expect slight adjustments as the year goes on, but we may never get IT back.

At this point, I believe the Eddie Jordan signing and how the situation is handled will be the defining decision of Stefanski's tenure w/ the Sixers.

EJ's previous teams were horrible in their first year. Sure they lacked talent, but they still had brutal records (24 and 26 wins.)

Maybe this suggests he likes to break down a team before building them back up with his system? Or maybe those teams were not salvageable. Like most fan's I wanted a more defensive minded coach and not a failed retread, so I'm less willing to give EJ the benefit of the doubt.

To EJ's credit, I think once in place the system can get the most out of marginal talent (look at Washington with all of its injuries.) Not sure that alone is enough to buy into his scheme.

Overall I agree with your premise that a non-coach could get more out of this team than a coach like Jordan who pushes them in the wrong direction.

So Washington was 10 games worse in Jordan's first season than they were the previous year, but Jordan was gone and the roster was a mess. I think that's to be expected.

Sacto didn't have much roster turnover and they were 7 games worse in his first full season as head coach than the season before.

Washington improved quickly in their second season under Jordan, he didn't get another year to work with Sacto.

Here's the thing that worries me, click through his career in Washington. Each season the offense got better, I mean significantly better, and the defense got worse, significantly worse. Until the injuries started to pile up. The 07-08 season was impressive when you take into account the heavy minutes he had to get from middling players, and the defense did improve that season, but going from 29th to 24th, well, I'm not sure how impressive that is.

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eddies' heady's on Nov 24 at 10:04
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"That team is still there. If you don't believe me, take a look at the tape from the second and third quarters of the Cavs game."

You are exactly right, that team is still there. The only thing I see missing is that they can't make an open shot (which present themselves by the bunches). The article on Thad yesterday was insightful and interesting but after reading it, it all boiled down to one thing for me with him (aside from his needs-work handle and cream-puff-like effort at times on D and the boards) - he doesn't knock down the open looks he is getting, and once again there are plenty.

As for EJ, I think it is way overblown and an overreaction to say the "team's barometer for success is their ability to run the PO." EJ has flat-out said from the preseason that he hopes they don't even have to run the PO b/c they will be getting run-outs and fastbreak opportunities. And we all saw proof of that in the CLE game Sat. night. All this Princeton offense hub-bub is coming from inquiries from the media and the short leash it is being given by some fans.

I think we are still going with the identity forged from the last two years and going to use the PO as a crutch to prop things up when in the half-court. If only the media, fanbase, and most importantly, the players would just be patient and give it an ample amount of time. To much rush to judgment has been going on with the whole team, particularly the head coach.

Take the CLE game for instance, if we just had made two or three of the many wide open looks the guys had we'd be a bit more optimistic. This offense is a thing of beauty when executed properly and crisply, the only thing that's missing is someone, anyone to make a mid-range jumper somewhat consistently. While I agree that we have sporadic, mediocre shooters, at some point these younger guys have to put in the time and work to get their jumpers to round into form and get better at it. It is a lost art in today's game. It's a product of the roots (the summer AAU circuit and street ball) of American basketball today. Shooting is still a fundamental of basketball and most kids today coming up through the game sorely lack it. And that is about what we have - a bunch of kids.

I'm not in the camp yet that we need to change systems overall to fit our personnel, I'm still of the belief that these guys haven't given it a chance. From player quotes early on about how great the system was to now admitting that they don't know how to process thoughts and decision-making, the offense suddenly hasn't become a bad thing - it's just that they haven't put in the time to master and learn it. You know, spending time thinking of what to tweet instead of looking at some film or diagrams of sets.

And I'll leave the mentions alone of EJ not emphasizing defense, as I have already mentioned it multiple times on here this weekend and feel it is way off base. The defense was not bad in the CLE game and I don't think it had to do with EJ's schemes suddenly working, it all came down to the players communicating (EB in particular), giving decent effort (J Smith hedging on that P and R and then hustling for a block), and the will to want-to. Just like rebounding, you have to have some want-to when playing defense because it certainly is not as sexy as a break-away dunk or beautifully arced three pointer.

I know this was long, but in short we just need to make these open shots that we are getting and give effort and full-game intensity like 3/4 of that CLE game because it is telling when Dala makes statements of the sort - "we seem to play to our level of competition." Those damn players again...

The point is not that the set Princeton offense is flawed. Its that the team has somehow lost its way in terms of defense and rebounding. If anything they should be upgraded in those areas but have been worse.

One issue is that Thad is not good as a wing defender right now. I think that he will improve with experience and coaching, but it does weaken their perimeter defense right now.

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Alvin reply to tk76 on Nov 24 at 10:58
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The first team should be better at rebounding than last season, but the bench is filled with poor rebounders (Jason Smith, Willie Green, Jason Kapono). Only Speights is rebounding well off the bench this season, and he won't be playing until 2010.

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eddies' heady's reply to tk76 on Nov 24 at 11:01
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I never said the PO was flawed. I just mainly opined and counter-pointed what was written and offered up some opinion of what I see may be wrong. There was a lot more in there.

And to keep saying the defense 'should be upgraded' is silly. You insert Lou (never known as even a passable defender) with major minutes, you shift Thad to the wing vs. quicker, more perimeter-oriented and drive-type players, Dala at times appears to be giving half-effort (see the PHX and UTAH games), EB has faced tall tasks being matched up vs. perimeter-oriented 4's that hover around the arc, and you still have the headcase that is Sam.

Where does the illusion come from that the defense should be upgraded? And that isn't even taking into account a new system being implemented by the staff, specifically Ayers.

I think maybe I misread your post.

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Rock Strongo reply to tk76 on Nov 24 at 12:26
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Knocking down open shots is not what this team does... it's not built that way. That's why good defense leading to fast break points is such a necessity. Brian's point exactly.

So, please don't take offense when I say this, but you're conceiving things exactly wrong. Open shots are meaningless for a team that lacks guys who can shoot.

See, this is part of the problem. The PO, or at least the version they're running right now (or maybe the version they're being forced to run) is producing open 20-footers for guys who can't shoot open 20 footers. A 40-45% open two-pointer is not a good shot. Especially not when it has basically zero chance of drawing a foul. If you have a roster full of shooters who can knock those shots down at 50% or better, then it makes sense to play for those opportunities, but that's not the Sixers.

The best offense I've seen the Sixers run this season has revolved around Brand getting the ball in either the high or low post, or simple pick & rolls usually working with Iguodala.

They've run give-and-goes with Iguodala taking the pass on the baseline for an easy dunk. Brand has gone right at his man. Brand has drawn a double and kicked diagonally across the court for an open three (btw, an open look for a 33% three-point shooter is far preferable [.99 points] to an open look at a mid-range jumper for a guy who shoots them at 42% [.84 points]).

Two final points (1) Ayers' defensive schemes are a joke with this personnel. The over-helping is systematic and it's taking any natural feel for defense completely out of the equation and making this roster over-think on both ends of the floor. You have athletes, you have to challenge them to stick with their men and use simple principles to cover up any individual weaknesses. (2) You can say Jordan doesn't value execution of the PO over defense, but his substitution patterns tell a different story. He goes small because he believes he needs another "shooter" on the floor at PF. Those lineups compromise the team defensively, and just doesn't care.

A perfect diagnosis and indictment of this team as currently constructed and run. And why I didn't renew my season tickets this year. I still love the Sixers and like watching these guys play, but have no faith in this management/coaching/player combination.

Totally right, I don't care if the Princeton Offense takes awhile if we could rebound the damn ball. Then it wouldn't have to score 100+ every night.

Brian you bring up some interesting things to think about. So much so that I think I might have to write a quick post in reply to this.

We've always been somewhat on the opposite sides of the fence regarding the talent level and potential of the Sixers as constructed. I think you were always more hopeful, and positive. And I've been more pessimistic.

I think this might be a perfect example of that. I tend to think the 07-08 team might have been more flukish than something to expect more of in the future.

Great post.

You know, it's funny. I was really, really down on this team when I first started this blog. That's really why I started this blog. The team was in the process of trading Iverson and I was a huge proponent of tanking to get Oden, I even created a graphic for it. It was really late in that season that this group converted me. I saw them trying something unique and playing balls-to-the-wall even though they were grossly overmatched on a nightly basis. People forget they finished the '06-07 season on a 17-9 run.

After a rocky start the following year, that team returned and they looked a little bit better at playing the defend and run game. Then last season we had the abortion of a gameplan, the injury, and then they picked up right where they left off.

I don't know, I can't help but think about the core of this team and the way they played for significant stretches of really the past three season. The pieces are there to execute that type of system, in fact, it's really the only type of system I see this roster as being capable of executing to the point where they can be a winning team.

If I'm a hopeless optimist, which you'd find extremely ironic if you knew me in my day job or regular life, it's because those teams made me this way.

I'm being pushed by the team in the opposite direction. The last couple of years I've projected a few less wins than the consensus. And yet they've underperformed even my pessimistic calls (last year I expected 46+ wins, this year 39.) I'm more of the mind that their late runs these last 3 years are not a good indication of the team or their direction. More a product of a young team catching more vet teams unprepared late in the season.

Where I keep vacillating is over their long term rebuilding. I was much higher on their future upside last year than I am now. But I guess that can change depending on Brand's play and how the young players develop.

These last 3 years have certainly been a roller coaster.

I completely get where you're coming from. This type of system, or at least what I'm perceiving it as being, really speaks to me. I love unorthodox approaches, I love cases where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, I love imaginative ways to flip things on their head.

Think about the ideal possession in this offense. Pressure the ball up the floor, force teams to burn time on the shot clock before they get into their half-court set. Force them to run through their set and finally get a contested look with less than 10 seconds left on the shot clock, secure the rebound, sprint out on offense, get to the rim for a make and/or a foul with 15-20 seconds left on the clock, then get right back in the other team's face, force them to grind through another offensive possession with a low percentage shot on the end. Frustration sets in, teams get out of their comfort zone and all of the sudden you're getting turnovers which only feed the running beast.

Anyway, I'm getting carried away. The point is, this is possible if you have a team capable of getting stops, forcing turnovers, grabbing defensive rebounds and running the floor. Perimeter shooting is a nice-to-have, and it should be the type of roster you can piece together out of spare parts, parts that might be undervalued by other teams, like the Pistons for example, who overpay for guys who can shoot but won't contribute in any of these other areas.

I look back to teams like the Show-Time Lakers or the old time (60's) Celtics as teams that would D you up and then run over you. I guess the 83 Sixers also fit that mold although they could beat you in every conceivable way.

Most modern running teams are not strong on defense. AJ tried to add defense to the running game inin Dallas, but fell short of a championship.

So I agree, they could be special if they could combine running and intense defense. The problem still remains that unlike the Showtime Lakers they might have a Worthy (Iguodala/Thad) but are sorely lacking a Magic, Kareem or even a lock down SG with range like Cooper.

So all they need is Holiday to blossom into a smaller Magic and Carney to become a lock down defender with range like Cooper. I'll let you guess which is more likely...

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Sean reply to tk76 on Nov 24 at 13:39
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Those are exactly the analogies I used to draw when people talked about them becoming a defensive-minded running team. Russell's Celtics and Magic's Lakers both fit that mold.

I understand EJ's "love" of the PO, but he needs to focus hard on defense, while letting the offense progress naturally. What many players of his have said is that he focuses hard on the offense most of the time. In contrast, Phil Jackson, when he initially installed the Triangle, still put a major premium on defense.


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