By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Oct 16 2009 1:26PM
In recent years, Philadelphia 76ers have always played hard. Now, it's time for them to play smart.
"They were aggressive, they were athletic, and they never gave up," says Sixers coach Eddie Jordan of the Philadelphia teams he faced while he was Washington's coach from 2003-08.
"They were always competitive to the end. And I think that's a good base to work with."
The problem was that those Sixers didn't have much of a plan, especially on offense. When Elton Brand was signed last summer and given the ball in the post last season, his teammates mostly stood around, unsure of where to go.
"We just didn't have a good flow," Andre Iguodala admits. "We were always a little bit out of position."
Even after Brand was lost for the season to shoulder surgery, the Sixers' offense was not going to be confused with that of the Lakers or Jazz. The team was best when it was on the run and when forced to execute an offensive system, the Sixers often struggled.
Enter Jordan, who brings with him just what this team needs: a system. Jordan's Princeton offense will give the Sixers structure offensively, keep them moving and put them in better position to score in the halfcourt.
"We have an offensive system that they can believe in and will be consistent," Jordan says. "There's not going to be a lot of random basketball."
The Princeton offense is flexible and meant to work for any type of player. Each set has countless options, making it tougher to defend. The offense is initiated by a pass, which means that the loss of point guard Andre Miller will be felt on the fast break, but his departure won't be so damaging in the halfcourt.
"Everybody touches the ball and we've got movement and spacing," Brand says. "It's not just 'Here's the ball,' and everbody's standing around."
"Now, we know where we're supposed to be at," Iguodala adds. "Once we get it, it's going to work."
Learning the Princeton takes time, and it will be a while before the offense is running full throttle. In fact, Jordan says the Sixers will be at their best offensively "late in the season." But he got a head start by introducing pieces of it during the summer, which puts them a step ahead of where they were in previous years.
"Coach [Jordan] was here all summer implementing the plays, and going through the offense," Brand says. "Last year, it started at training camp."
As the season goes along, Brand will need to learn the center position for the Sixers to be at their best. That will add to the learning curve, because in the Princeton, the center has entirely different responsibilities than a forward. If everything goes as planned, Philly's most effective lineup will likely have Jason Kapono or Willie Green on the floor and last year's starting center, Samuel Dalembert, on the bench.
Philly traded for Kapono, a 3-point specialist, to give Brand more space to operate. Replacing Miller with former sixth man Louis Williams will also help in the shooting department. Still, a lineup that will likely have Iguodala and Thaddeus Young as starters and Kapono on the bench lacks the perimeter punch the Sixers need to be effective.
Defensively, the Sixers use their length and athleticism to force turnovers and get out on the break, but they were often caught out of position and unable to control the defensive boards. While they've been a terrific offensive rebounding team the last two seasons, they're a terrible defensive rebounding team in that span.
Jordan's teams in Washington were similar, so his challenge is to get the Sixers to finish off possessions and let the defense to continue to feed the offense. Even with an offensive system in place, Philly must still get out and run as much as it can, and Jordan would prefer if it didn't have to run the Princeton.
"I don't want to be in the offense," he says. "I want to get stops and get open floor opportunities. I want our defense to take precedence over the half-court offense."
There's no doubt that former coach Maurice Cheeks (and for half a season, Tony DiLeo) took the Sixers about as far as they could go. By last season's end, though, they clearly needed something different. If Philly can combine Jordan's new offense with their existing ways, it has a chance to take a big step forward.
1. NICE TO MEET YOU
Brand, Iguodala and Young, Philly's top three players, must develop chemistry.
2. GIVE IT UP, LOU
Louis Williams needs to be himself, but also keep his teammates happy.
3. BOARD WORK, TOO
The Sixers have been a good defensive team that doesn't finish off possessions, ranking 25th in defensive rebounding last season.
-- John Schuhmann
LAST YEAR: 41-41, Second Atlantic
FINISH: Lost 1st Round of Playoffs
2008-09 TEAM LEADERS
|Complete 2008-09 Stats|
LOUIS WILLIAMS, GUARD
12.8 PPG | 2.0 RPG | 3.0 APG
Williams isn't a real point guard, but the Princeton offense doesn't need a real point guard. The fast break may suffer without Andre Miller though.
ANDRE IGUODALA, GUARD
18.8 PPG | 5.7 RPG | 5.3 APG
When Iguodala's not on the floor, the Sixers are a far inferior team. He's a do-it-all wing and probably deserves an All-Star nod.
THADDEUS YOUNG, FORWARD
15.3 PPG | 5.0 RPG | 1.1 APG
Like Iguodala, Young defends and runs the floor well. Playing more off the ball and the absence of Miller may stunt his development.
ELTON BRAND, FORWARD
13.8 PPG | 8.8 RPG | 1.3 APG
He's got plenty to prove this season and his teammates must prove that they can play with him, too.
SAMUEL DALEMBERT, CENTER
6.4 PPG | 8.5 RPG | 1.8 BPG
Enigmatic and inconsistent, Dalembert's run as a starter may be over if Speights or Smith step up (or if Brand moves here).
|R. Carney||6-7||205||G-F||Maybe the team's second-best perimeter shooter.|
|Willie Green||6-3||201||G||The back-up point guard if Holiday isn't ready.|
|Jrue Holiday||6-3||180||G||Rookie will get every chance to play.|
|Jason Kapono||6-8||215||F||The shooter the Sixers have always needed.|
|Jason Smith||7-0||240||F-C||Returns from a torn ACL.|
|M. Speights||6-10||245||F-C||Could eventually take Dalembert's spot.|
ADDED: Jrue Holiday, Jason Kapono, Rodney Carney, Primoz Brezec
LOST: Andre Miller, Reggie Evans
Stefanski inherited Iguodala, Young and a whole lot of cap space. He's the man responsible for giving Brand an $82 million contract, letting Andre Miller walk away and replacing Maurice Cheeks with Eddie Jordan. We'll find out this season if those were the right moves or not.
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