Philadelphia 76ers: Will They Rule the Atlantic Division in 2011-12?

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Philadelphia 76ers: Will They Rule the Atlantic Division in 2011-12?
Chris Chambers/Getty Images
Nov. 3, 2009: Andre Iguodala goes in for a score in Philly. K.G. can only watch from behind.

Could the Philadelphia 76ers go from Boys II Men in a short span of two seasons and do the seemingly impossible—win the Atlantic Division next season? Perhaps…If there is a next season.

Who’s got next on the division championship throne? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’ll make some sense of this burning question by the end of this discourse.

The entire conference could fall back, and the Atlantic could be a mumbled-jumbled mess like the National League Central in MLB has been for most of this year. Since the Big Three arrived, the Boston Celtics have ruled the division named after an ocean.

Quoting producer/spitologist supreme, Dr. Dre—featuring the then-Snoop Doggy Dogg—in the song "Lil’ Ghetto Boy" from the album The Chronic: “Things done changed on this side.”  

Boston’s stranglehold on the Atlantic coastline is loosening. The Big Three is getting older and softer without Kendrick Perkins’ enforcement in the paint. The rest of the division—except for perhaps Toronto—is waking up and getting hungrier.

The previously starving acrobatic Knicks somersaulted into a 42-40 record last season—a complete back flip from their 2009-10 record (29-53). Remarkably, they still finished barely ahead of the 76ers (27-55).

The same thing happened in 2010-11.

New York (42-40) finished in second place ahead of third place Philadelphia (41-41). Both teams apparently grew up, and their souls became enlightened.

I expect New Jersey to become NBA men under Avery Johnson. I have even bigger expectations for the goings downs inside Wells Fargo Center—home of the Arena Football League’s Philadelphia Soul, the NHL’s Flyers and the Sixers. These days are trying men's souls.

Rhythm and blues barons Boys II Men followed in the footsteps blazed by the producers and mixers of the “Philadelphia Sound”—the R&B and jazz-tinged music of the disco night 1970s.

Philly Sound solo singers like Patti LaBelle and Teddy Pendergrass and groups such as The Delfonics, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes and Blue Magic remain relevant. Ditto for The Intruders, The Three Degrees, Billy “Me and Mrs. Jones” Paul, The Jones Girls, The Stylistics and the world famous O’Jays.

The stylish Dr. J, Mr. Julius Erving, was the soul of Philadelphia basketball during the 1980s.  The team now needs a body whose mind is strong enough to be the spirit of the 76ers.

For Philly to win the Atlantic, all intruding teams coming into the Wells Fargo Center need to be accordingly dealt with. On the road, the Sixers will need to conjure up magic in their old school blue uniforms if they want to stop the recent runs of mediocrity and take Philadelphia basketball to its highest heights and website hits since 2001.

Chris Trotman/Getty Images
February 6, 2011: Landry Fields, right, and Spencer Hawes, left, battle in New York’s lane.

R&B duo McFadden & Whitehead is known for their hit single “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now.” After being recorded at Sigma Sound Studios for the Philadelphia International soul music label, the smash hit will perhaps live forever in radio land.

It has been a theme song for more famous people than the theme for Sylvester “Sly” Stallone’s seemingly never-ending movie series “Rocky.”

Then-Senator Barack Obama used McFadden & Whitehead’s famous single for his theme song on the night he accepted the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States.  With tailored lyrics, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Eagles and the 76ers have all used it.

Even former heavyweight boxing champion—and Easton, Pennsylvania native—Larry Holmes used it at one point. I’m thinking about using it as the theme song for this article.

The 76ers theme must be outstanding defense and boxing out on the low blocks if they want to win the election, I mean the division.  Otherwise, their playoff dreams could sink in the nearby Delaware River along with Sarah Palin’s never buoyant movie career.

Boys II Men became world famous in 1992 after their signature song “End of the Road” dominated radio airplay and music charts. Insert your own Palin joke, or deficit negotiations zingers here.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
January 6, 2008: The 76ers' dancers put on a Rocky-themed show in Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center.

Philly hopes their trod down the road through the first round of the playoffs ends with a championship in the near future.  Finishing ahead of Boston and New York could be a key indicator of playoff success.

In dissecting the NBA schedule released last week by the league, available on both NBA.com and the Sixers’ website, Philly could start the season with a lot of wins. If this is the case, they’ll have momentum and confidence to handle the rough part of the slate.   

I envision the Atlantic Division race going down to the last few days of the season—even the final game of the year—a Wednesday night in Miami for Philadelphia. Boston is confident enough to intentionally squander first place in favor of resting for the playoffs.

In my estimation, the Knicks will be scratching and clawing to get into the playoffs down the stretch. New York will have their backs to the wall, I believe, because of their lack of defensive game-planning and intensity. 

The Sixers will play 18 sets of back-to-back games in 2011-12, down from 21 in 2010-11. Back-to-back games usually hurt older teams more than younger units. I’m concerned, though, about the timing of the consecutive days games in Philadelphia’s case.

Seven of the 18 back-to-backs take place March 13-April 8. The 76ers will only play three back-to-backs before 2012. They’ll be travelling to play 12 of their last 20 games.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Dec. 21, 2010: Doug Collins and Evan Turner discuss strategy in Chicago. Both men hope for a division title in 2012.

Twenty-two out of 31 games will be at home from January 6-March 9. Now, this home cooking comes after Philadelphia’s longest stretch of the season away from their castle—nine games from December 18-January 4. 

This is the equivalent of the San Antonio Spurs’ annual Rodeo Road Trip, when they have to travel because cowboys and cowgirls take over the AT&T Center. The Wells Fargo Center welcomes a Disney on Ice production running from the week before Christmas, through and past New Years Day. 

It could be a new day in the Atlantic Division. I believe the Dare to Dream ice show could be an appropriate name for the Sixers possibilities of winning it. 

Those who are afraid to chase their dreams often end up with nightmares. Dreams do come true, and I believe they can for the 76ers this season. At the end of the season, I could be writing about them being the 2011-12 Atlantic Division champions.   

Stay reading, my friends...stay reading.

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