Friday, June 12, 2009

Sixers Bring In Locals Ellington and Christmas

Yesterday, the 76ers brought locals Wayne Ellington from UNC and Dionte Christmas from Temple to workout at the Philadelphia College of Orthopedic Medicine. How would these two guys fit in the Sixers' system? The 76ers are adament about getting a guard and needing a shooter, and both these young men are big guards who can shoot. Both Christmas and Ellington are proficient shooting and handling the ball, making them capable of filling in at the 2-guard spot or even the 3.

Despite the promising workouts, I don't think Wayne Ellington will be around by the time the Sixers draft at Madison Square Garden less than two weeks from now. With Ellington's deadly 3-point shot and outside versatility, I believe some team will take a shot at him before the Sixers get to pick. Christmas, although a great prospect, is probably not mid-first round material and the Sixers only have their one first round pick (17th) and no second round picks. Will the Sixers make a bold move and pick up a second round pick or another first round pick? Haha. What am I thinking? This is the Sixers I'm talking about...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sixers Still Lack Superstar Talent Needed for Title

As another off-season begins to take shape in Philly once again, the 76ers are out looking for promising draft prospects and making trades to get solid role players. That's well and good if you have a team that is on the verge of an NBA Championship, needing a certain shooter or bench support to push your team over the edge. The Sixers are not such a team. They are a team that crawls to the playoffs every year, and then are mercifully defeated. The Sixers need a superstar.

Yes, Philadelphia 76ers' fans will argue that Andre Iguodala is the Sixers' superstar, and Elton Brand is a superstar too. Sadly, they are not. The Sixers are TRYING to make Iguodala their superstar. Iguodala is a great talent and perennial NBA All-Star, but he's more of a Scottie Pippen than a Michael Jordan. Same thing with Elton Brand: he's Pau Gasol-esque, not your team's Kobe Bryant. If the Sixers hope to make a run to the NBA Finals, they need an NBA superstar. Look at the top teams in the NBA. Lakers: they have Kobe. Orlando: 3 headed attack in Howard, Turkoglu, and Lewis. Cavaliers: Lebron James. Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand just do not fall in the same category. Here's to hoping the Sixers actually think outside the box this year, and draft/bring in another talent like Allen Iverson (without the drama).

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sixers Swap Evans for Kapono

The 76ers finally made one of hopefully many offseason roster moves today, trading Reggie Evans to the Toronto Raptors for Jason Kapono. Kapono, a career 45.4% three-point shooter, helps address the Sixers' urgent need for outside shooting. Hopefully Jason Kapono delivers more than Donyell Marshall, Royal Ivey, and Kareem Rush delivered this past season.

Although Reggie Evans has been a fan favorite in Philly for the past couple seasons, it was the right move to let him go. Yes, he hustled and represented a blue-collar Philadelphia mentality, but how much did he truly bring to the table? Evans averaged 3.3 points and 4.6 rebounds last season. The Sixers need more production than that if they hope to make a run deep into the playoffs. ALso, with the return of Jason Smith and Elton Brand this season, the Sixers have a full rotation of big men. If the Sixers decide to stay with Samuel Dalembert at center (God help us...) and Elton Brand returns to his All-Star form, there is limited minutes left for a backup big man, and the Sixers seem to be going with Jason Smith.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Lakers Extend Series Lead to 2-0

Courtney Lee was one second away from tying the series up at one game a piece, heading back to Orlando, stealing a game away from the Los Angeles Lakers. Well, let's just say he flubbed it. Courtney Lee received a high backscreen and a perfect alley-oop pass with one second left in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, but he missed the open layup, sending the game into overtime. In the extra session, the Los Angeles Lakers prevailed 101-96 behind 29 points from Kobe Bryant.

After being lost in Game 1, Orlando's prime players returned to present a threat to Los Angeles in Game 2. Rashard Lewis led the way for the Magic with34 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists, while Hedo Turkoglu had 22 points and 6 rebounds. Dwight Howard continued to struggle. Yes, he had 17 points and 16 rebounds, but for being an all-NBA player, it was an average night for him. If the Magic are going to come back in this series, they are going to need Howard to be more of a force in the paint.

I predicted the Lakers would win the series in 6 games, but I expected the Magic to put up a fight. Game 1 was embarassing, Game 2 was respectable, but Game 3 is pivotal for the Magic. If Orlando loses Game 3, Kobe should start looking for a place to put ring #4.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Kobe Leads Lakers Over Magic; Are The Magic Going To Fight Back?

The Los Angeles Lakers solved all the problems the Cleveland Cavaliers had against the Orlando Magic and crushed the Magic last night 100-75. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 40 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists, while Dwight Howard struggled, only hitting one field goal on his way to 10 points and 15 rebounds.

The problem isn't that the Magic lost. The problem is how the Magic lost. Orlando looked utterly defenseless as Kobe Bryant sliced and diced his way to 40 points. Orlando's "impressive 3-point shooters"? Non-factor. Hedo Turokglu: 3-11. Rashard Lewis: 2-10. Orlando, one of the NBA's top 3-point shooting teams, managed to shoot a surprisingly average 8-23 from 3-point land and a woeful 23-77 (29.9%) from the field. Let's just say the Lakers defense is a little better than the Cavlier's D. Dwight Howard, who had his way against the lead-footed Zydrunas Ilgauskas last series, seemed baffled by the defensive duo of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. The Laker's strategy against Howard? Play behind him. Force him to make a play, not just dunk, and if he catches the ball right under the rim? Hack him. And frankly, it worked. Multiple times, Howard rolled his way inside, ended up about eight feet away from the basket with defense still around him, and ended up missing the layup. Orlando needs to find a way to get him the ball deeper, or Howard has to find a way to make a move to get himself open. Orlando is not going to win an NBA Championship with Dwight Howard scoring 10 points in a game.

In a brief side-story, Chester native Jameer Nelson returned to action in Game 1. Nelson shot 3-9 and finished with 6 points, 4 asssist, and 2 rebounds in 23 minutes. Not too shabby for a player who just returned from a long injury. We'll see how much and how well he plays in the rest of the series.

Orlando has plenty of questions to answer heading into Game 2. Mainly: How Can We Stop Kobe Bryant? Magic fans better hope that the team can find answers soon, otherwise it will be over before they know it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lawson and Meeks Headline 76ers' Draft Workout Set For Friday

On Friday, the Sixers are set to hold draft workouts for five possible selections: Ty Lawson from UNC, Jodie Meeks from Kentucky, Stefon Jackson from Texas El-Paso, Toney Douglas from FSU, and Terrence Williams from Louisville. With guard Andre Miller's future in Philadelphia up in the air, the Sixers are hoping to draft a guard in this year's upcoming 2009 NBA Draft. Of these five players set for workouts, the best probable fits for the 76ers are Ty Lawson and Jodie Meeks. Both players can add immediate help to the Sixers lineup and hopefully bring them ever closer to winning an NBA Championship.

Ty Lawson: Lightning-quick, Lawson is the optimal selection for the Sixers. Although plagued by foot injuries for part of last season, Lawson managed to heal and guide UNC to a national championship. Even if Andre Miller returns next year, Lawson could immediately provide key minutes for the Sixers and be molded towards being their point guard of the future.

Jodie Meeks: Meeks proved this year that he is deadly from beyond the arc, and three-point shooting is in dire need in Philadelphia. Since the departure of Kyle Korver, the Sixers have yet to find a true shooter to stretch opponents' defenses. Donyell Marshall, Royal Ivey, and Kareem Rush were brought in for this reason, but failed to fill their roles. Meeks can come in and reprise Korver's role as the 76ers' shooter. Meeks also possesses the athleticism that Korver lacked, not making him the liability on the defensive end that Korver was.

Overall, the Sixers still have a lot of work ahead of themselves this postseason.They have free agents to deal with, contracts to negotiate, and a whole new coaching scheme to implement. However, the draft is looming ever nearer and the Sixers can't flub it this year. Look for the Sixers to draft a guard in the first round of the draft June 25th in hopes that he can run an Eddie Jordan offense for years to come.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

NBA Finals Preview

The NBA Finals are finally here, albeit with an end to the Most Valuable Puppets advertisements . The Lakers held off the Nuggets and the Magic's versatile lineup befuddled the Cavaliers, despite amazing outputs from Lebron James. This might not be the media's ideal NBA Finals, with Kobe v. Lebron no longer relevant, but Kobe v. Superman is still going to have high viewer ratings. The Lakers were seemingly destined to be heading to the NBA Finals, with no team providing a serious threat to their season except a Yao-less Rockets team (which was an anomaly in and of itself), but the Magic have been the true dark horse of the playoffs. After winning a series against the Sixers which was more one-sided than a six game series usually seems, the Magic held off formidable foes in the Celtics and the Cavaliers. Now, the Lakers and Magic are expected to clash in yet another epic NBA Finals. However, my prediction is that the series is not going to be that even.

Analysis: Orlando is a great NBA team, but has survived thus far by creating matchup difficulties for opposing teams. Dwight Howard is an animal on the post, but teams are having trouble doubling down on Howard with Orlando's impeccable shooting from beyond the arc. Also, versatile forwards Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis have created defensive nightmares for their opponents this offseason. Both are tall and athletic, capable of either shooting the three over their opponent or driving to the rim. The Cavaliers struggled with these matchups, putting an athletically inferior Anderson Varejao on Rashard Lewis and a smaller guard on Hedo Turkoglu. Unfortunately for the Magic, the Lakers do not have matchup problems with Orlando's forwards. Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza are both long enough and athletic enough to cover Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, and a rotating center duo of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are capable of at least slowing down Dwight Howard. Which then leaves a major concern for the Magic: who is going to stop Kobe Bryant? Michael Pietrus and others tried to stop Lebron James, but no one seemed to be able to stop James in any game in the series. Orlando will be in serious trouble if Bryant starts putting up the numbers James just did.

Questions Surrounding The Series:
Can anybody on Orlando stop Kobe Bryant?
Can Los Angeles contain Dwight Howard and get out on Orlando's shooters?
Will Dwight Howard pick up two more technical fouls and be suspended for a game in the series?
Can Jameer Nelson return and have an impact on the series?

Despite Orlando's success in this postseason, they will run into a unique beast in Los Angeles. Orlando's forwards struggle and Kobe shines on the way to ring #4

Lakers in Six Games