We are on the eve of the first meeting between the Sixers and the Blazers and it's time to o my ambassador duties. I have to work myself out of the Eagles NFC Championship frenzy that I am in and talk about this match-up for a minute. Honestly I have been paying a lot more attention to football lately, so you may know a lot of what I am going to say, but I'll put down what I got.
First off, the Sixers have been winning a good bit lately. The teams they have been playing haven't been of the highest caliber, and they have been going through a lot of changes. The big story for them coming into the game is the possible return of Elton Brand. He has been out of the line-up this last month, and the Sixers have been winning since that happened. That's a shaky correlation though, due to a number of other factors.
One is the firing of a head coach we're all familiar with, Mo Cheeks. Poor Mo. He's such a nice guy. Since Mo has been out, the feeling is the new coach Tony Delio is doing some things well. He lost Brand at the very start of his head coaching duties, so it will be interesting to see how he gets him back and clicking with the team. One thing that Delio decided to do was make Theo Ratliff the starter and Mo Speights (8s with an "Sp" at the beginning) the back-up, leaving Sammy Dalembert the #3 guy at center with an enormous contract. You would have to give massive props to the GM Ed Stefanski if he figured out a way to move that guy for something worthwhile or even an expiring contract.
The fans and the guy over at Liberty Ballers love the kid Speights, and they love Stefanski too. Speights is a rookie who they think will be the next Amare. They are also really big on Lou Williams and Thadeous Young. They are both young players who seem to have some good potential. If all of these guys work out this will be a team that could be quality for while.
Some things to keep your eye out for are how well Brand transitions back to the team. I honestly think if he is used as the primary offensive threat, that would play well for the Blazers. That seemed to be the problem before, and Iggy was confined to a lot of outside jumpers, which is not his strength (in the least). Since Brand has been out, Iggy, as well as a lot of the team, has been playing a lot better. Of course without a solid 4 in, everyone's roles were a lot more flexible. Regardless, a gradual transition and a role playing type of performance would probably be the best way for the Sixers to utilize Brand despite all the hype surrounding his return.
Something that may be telling of the future is how Oden stacks up against Speights and how (if we see it) Bayless matches up against Louis Williams. The last two are guys who seem to relate, that the play more of a shooting guard brand of ball, but are suited size wise for the 5 spot. Of course different players mature in different ways at different times of their careers, but a match-up is a match-up and can help to portend a little piece of the future for what it's worth. Of course a lot of attention will be paid to Iggy and BRoy. The cameras will be on them, the announcers will talk about them, I'm sure you'll get your share there. Also, who can cover Thadeous Young at the 3 is a big question in my mind. He is a solid defender and he has the potential to explode on the offensive side of the ball. His 3 has been an effective weapon this season (I think he is shooting it the best on the team, so if he's on it helps to open the middle up), and he is dangerous from nearly anywhere on the floor. One thing the Sixers are (or were, I'm not sure about very recently) terrible at is defending the 3. That could easily work out well for us. I would love to give a more detailed examination of the game, but my mind is stuck on football, and I haven't seen a Sixers game since they got the new coach. Also, I don't pretend to be a great basketball mind, I'm just trying to be a better Blazers fan. Besides, I'm sure Dave will lay it down like no one's business as usual. Update: Since I originally posted this, he has, and he showed me up on the quality of opponents the Sixers have faced. That's what I get for listening to a sixer fan rather than doing my homework.
One thing, If you do go over to liberty ballers, be nice. The site is pretty new, and the guy who runs it is a proclaimed Cowgirls fan. As far as the average Philadelphia fan stands concerning extremities on the continuum of emotions relevant to the 4 major sports teams, it goes 1. The Eagles (on either the good or bad end, depending on the month) 2. The Cowgirls (on the bad end of that continuum) 3. Whoever can help the Eagles or beat the Cowgirls and 4. the other teams that share the city with the Eagles. So an admitted Cowgirls fan is a notch or two below an Al-queda member and a baby seal killer kicking the crap out of Rocky as far as the fans are concerned. Putting TO's picture on the site and saying he hates Eagles fans may not have been the best way to endear himself to the fanbase either, regardless of the trip that the Eagles took them on a few weeks ago. Point being that the readership is not that strong and adding to any negative feelings over there wouldn't be doing anyone any favors at all. I'm sure the guys would love to answer any questions you have about the Sixers and would engage in a little trash talk, but kid gloves if not handshake gloves. He is also a youtube junkie, so his links and his fanshots are usually worth checking out.