Philadelphia 76ers: 2011-2012 Could Really Be a Special Year, No Kidding!
Watching this weekend's 76ers game again the Toronto Raptors, I was left with a couple of interesting thoughts regarding this year's edition of Philadelphia's professional basketball team.
While it is true that the impressive win was against a decidedly non-impressive opponent, the 76ers still showed why they could be more than just a proverbial thorn in the side of a contender this season.
Yes, Toronto is absolutely dreadful.
I have no idea how this team has already won three games in the young season.
Having said that, the 76ers' performance had more to do with their abilities than the Raptors' lack thereof.
Last year, the 76ers had a nice turnaround season, making the playoffs, and ultimately stealing a first round game against eventual Eastern Conference Champion, the Miami Heat.
In the shortened season, they proceeded to do almost nothing, re-signing hustling forward Thaddeus Young.
The re-signing of Young, coupled with the distinct non-trading of players like Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala, put out more than a few of the team's fans—many of whom did not think that the team could do any better than last year with the same lineup.
However, I think that now people might be beginning to wake up to the fact that there might just be a method to the team's madness.
How many games will the 76ers win in the 2011-12 season?
Make no mistake, as with the team's early success, it has almost everything to do with the head coach.
Doug Collins is a basketball teacher, first and foremost. If he can teach a player, he'll want to keep that player.
This is the team that Collins has molded in his coaching image.
They are a strong defensive bunch, never take a play off, and seem to really enjoy playing together as a unit.
They share the basketball, pick each other up both offensively and defensively, and now appear to be gelling as never before.
Anyone that lets Doug Collins coach him will be a better player for it, and it looks as though this entire team has bought into Collins and his methods.
For the same reason that I was initially skeptical going into this year's basketball campaign, I now have reason to be extremely optimistic.
Reason? Ask the Philadelphia Eagles!
Did he just say that? What could an under-achieving football team have to do with their basketball brethren?
One thing that the respective football and basketball seasons have in common this year was a very shortened off-season.
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One thing that a shortened off season does is that it helps teams that were already mostly or wholly in tact before the lockout.
The Philadelphia Eagles, going into the 2011 NFL season, made the biggest splashes with player movement and were the talk of the league.
However, they had quite a few new faces (including coaches) that really did not get a chance to play together until the season was under way.
The result? Yes, the Eagles finally started to gel at the end, but they yielded a very disappointing 8-8 season.
Ask anyone on the team, and they'll tell you why they failed.
Too many new faces, and not nearly enough time to learn to play/coach together.
This year's Philadelphia 76ers do not have that problem, not by a long shot!
They have the same coaching staff, the same team philosophy, and the same personnel to carry out said philosophy, and they are very, very much in the minority in the NBA, where player/coach movement has led to a lot of sloppy play out there.
What seemed a boring offseason to most of the fan base now seems like it could have been a stroke of genius.
These guys now seem to have a chemistry that is beyond what they had last year. Players like Evan Turner and J'Rue Holiday have grown by leaps and bounds, and are a cause for serious optimism.
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Elton Brand actually plays defense these days (thank you, coach Collins), and with Young, Lou Williams, and Spencer Hawes in tow, it is looking more and more like Andre Iguodala can start to relax and be the player that he is supposed to be.
Make no mistake Sixer fans, this team is going to play defense first, and when all is said and done, I believe that they will be regarded as one of the best defensive teams in the league.
However, that is not this team's only moniker. This lock-down defense leads to easier points, be they fast break points or simple easy buckets due to a team that is not as committed to D as the 76ers.
Could this team go all the way to the NBA Finals? Well, I don't know if I'd say that just yet.
Remember that the team that spanked the Sixers in the playoffs last year is bringing back their three megastars. The 76ers are in the minority, but they are by no means the only NBA team that is back largely in tact.
Chicago is formidable, Boston is still relatively strong, Orlando is still a good team, and if Atlanta ever lives up to its potential as a team, they'll be downright frightening.
Having said all of that, I seriously do not know if I could say that there is any team out there (aside from the Heat) that will definitely beat the 76ers in a 7 game set, and you never know, the teams that probably would could always knock each other out.
The main point here is that this team that left everyone so frustrated by doing next to nothing has now begun to win over its fan base for doing next to nothing.
The more the members of this team learn to play together and for each other, the more success this team will have as the season becomes not so young.
I'm thinking that Doug Collins has known this all along.
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