The Sixers face their second game of a five-game West Coast road trip tonight against Portland, hoping to quickly turn their season's fortunes around.
But, until coach Eddie Jordan sets a regular rotation for the Sixers, they will continue on their merry ways of losing in every game situation imaginable.
Injuries have forced the Sixers to play Russian Roulette with their lineup lately. After two of their young stars (Lou Williams and Speights) went down with injuries in November, the Sixers brought in Allen Iverson to ease the pressure on the other young bucks.
Now, Iverson has had his knee drained three times in the span of three days, is battling arthritis in the knee, and hasn’t played in over a week (although, the Sixers expect him back tonight against Portland).
In the meantime, Williams and Speights have both exceeded expectations and have returned to the court already. They were both expected out until January; instead, Speights returned on Dec. 16 in the 108-101 loss to the Cavs, and Williams returned three days later in the 112-107 overtime loss to the Clippers.
While it feels like the Sixers’ starting roster is rotating more than a turnstile at Six Flags, coach Eddie Jordan has remained steadfast in his decision to keep Elton Brand coming off the bench.
Disregarding the stomach punch Sixers fans must be feeling as their $80 million man sits on the bench at the start of every game, Jordan's attempt at establishing lineup regularity should be celebrated.
Without consistency in the lineup, this Sixers team will be in a foot race with the New Jersey Nets for the No. 1 overall pick next summer.
With Iverson theoretically coming back tonight, Jordan has his full arsenal of weapons at his disposal for what feels like the first time since preseason.
Now comes Jordan's most difficult task of the season yet: regulating minutes for his wealth of players.
We know that Iverson didn't come back to the Sixers to play spot minutes as a role player, so one can only assume that Jordan plans on keeping Iverson in the starting lineup. (Or dear God, if we thought the petulance that Brand's been emitting lately has been bad... see what happens if Jordan tries to bench Iverson.)
Iguodala, Thad Young, and Sam Dalembert are equally unlikely to be moved from the starting lineup, despite the fact that Sammy hasn't scored in two of the Sixers' past five games.
Interestingly enough, Dalembert also hasn't received 20 minutes in any of the last five games, with Jordan sticking with Brand/Speights to fill out his front court in the fourth quarter.
That leaves Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday jockeying for the starting point guard spot.
Considering that the Sixers immediately turned to Iverson (a sign of their desperation) once Williams went down with his broken jaw and left Holiday as the only point guard on the team, one could only assume Williams will regain his starting spot for good once he regains his playing form.
Coach Jordan opted to start Williams against Utah on Saturday (in the Sixers' latest 20-point blowout) and will likely continue to do so in the future.
If Jordan decides to leave Brand on the bench permanently, he has Brand and Speights to play with as front court reserves, Holiday as a backup point guard, longtime role player Willie Green as a replacement shooting guard, and 6'8" sharpshooter Jason Kapono as a three-point specialist.
Somehow, Kapono appears to be the one who has fallen out of the lineup as of late, despite being the best pure three-point shooter on a team utterly devoid of threats from the outside. (Thad and Sweet Lou are the team's best two three-point options.. and that says it all.)
Jordan needs to learn from a fellow Philadelphia team that was suffering from the same lineup consistency problems earlier this season—the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles haven't played a single snap with their projected starting offensive line this season, thanks to injuries to the Andrews brothers (Shawn was too busy "gettin' his Michael Phelps on").
Early on, that lack of consistency on the offensive line was killing the Birds.
After an inexplicable loss to the JaMarcus Russell-led Oakland Raiders, the Eagles finally set their offensive line for the season, starting Week Seven against the Washington Redskins.
The Eagles responded by rallying together for six straight wins, an 11-4 record, and an outside shot for the NFC's No. 2 seed. Don't underestimate the impact of establishing consistency on the line, as said so by Eagles players and coaches themselves.
If Eddie Jordan doesn't take the hint and establish a night-in, night-out routine for his players, he can't reasonably expect them to get into an in-game rhythm.
And with the Sixers running his version of the Princeton offense, a team-based, passing-heavy offense, if the Sixers don't get into a rhythm, they'll lose every game from here until June.
It's time for Jordan to do the only thing he can as a coach, and bring consistency and leadership to a team that's utterly lacking both.
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