As of now, it seems as though it’s all systems go for the start of the 2011 season as the NBA players and owners have reach a tentative agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement---CBA--- and to end the lockout.
All of the specifics of the new CBA have yet to be fully disclosed. What is known is that there will be a 66-game season beginning on December 25, training camp that has started, as well as free agency.
With only a little over a week left until the start of the season, teams will have to work quickly to prepare rookies for the season, absorb new plays, critique their skills and build on the camaraderie and chemistry formed from last season.
The Philadelphia Sixers are one of those teams.
They are coming off of a season with a new head coach, Doug Collins, who brought his own basketball philosophy and improved the team to a 41-41 record and the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Sixers had a rough start to the 2010 season, but they finished strong by making the playoffs. However, that can’t overshadow the fact that the nucleus of their squad is largely composed of young players, who have loss significant practice and training time due to the lockout.
In conjunction with the dilemmas that this extended off-season has brought, the Sixers are faced with altering a roster that inconsistently showed up on both sides of the ball last season.
But unfortunately for the Sixers, they don’t have the necessary salary to make many moves to improve their roster, leaving them short of the playoffs this season.
Last year, the 76ers customarily started a game hitting on all cylinders to take an early lead. As the game progressed, the number of shots made began to dwindle; the opposing team gained momentum; the Sixers collapsed and lost the game in the fourth quarter.
Coming down the home stretch in the fourth quarter, the SIxers tried to find multiple shooters to end the scoring droughts: Jodie Meeks, Evan Turner, Louis Williams and Thaddeus Young. None of them were the answer.
Andre Iguodala, the player who was initially slated and paid super-star money to deliver in those situations, disappeared before the fourth quarter of many games. He averaged 14 points per game, and has not lived up to expectations since Allen Iverson left Philadelphia.
Even if the Sixers wanted to trade him, they would have to find a team wanting to take on the remainder of his contract: three years worth $44,154,750.
To add to the matter, The Sixers’ Power Forward Elton Brand still has two years left on his contract worth $35,220,800. It may not be an easy decision for the Sixers to part ways with him seeing as though he was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, but his age and contract does not make him an attractive acquisition for many teams.
The team cannot make too many moves to improve when the money isn’t available.
Playing alongside Brand in the paint is Spencer Hawes, who finished out the season last year as starting Center.
The Center position was solidified by Hawes last season, and he did a mediocre job at best. He lacked aggression and force while playing in the paint. He possesses the body type of an NBA Center, but he just doesn’t have the fundamentals and skills that an ideal starting NBA center should have.
Players entered and scored in the paint without any fear of Hawes rejecting or contesting their shots.
To add to the team’s interior, they drafted Center Nikola Vucevic from the University of Southern California. He’s listed as 6’10” 260 pounds and has a huge wingspan.
According to Draftexpress.com, he has a good perimeter and mid-range shot, for a big man. He also has the fundamentals of a good rebounder, averaging 11 a game. He has the potential to be a great post player and overall center, but this is the NBA where the center position is not simple.
It’ll take a couple of years in the NBA before Vucevic is where the Sixers need him to be in terms of caliber. The lockout hindered him from being to be a starter now and work with the Sixers’ coaching as much as he needed to develop quicker.
The lack of moves and off-season this year does not bode well for the upcoming season.
Evan Turner has worked on his jump shot during the off-season, so he should be able to contribute this season, as well as local big man, Lavoy Allen.
However, by the time the Sixers start hitting on all cylinders, it will be too late for them to clinch a playoff spot. They’ll start the season off slow until they rebuild chemistry during games.