Listeria / Clap Clap ClapClapClap: The Top Ten Reasons Why it is Stunning, Inexplicable, and Utterly Splendiferous That the Sixers Made the Playoffs This Year
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 18, 2008
One of the joys I’ve rediscovered about the ends of major sport seasons is that you get to go back to magazines you may have purchased at the beginning of the season and chuckle at the seismic differences between what was expected to happen and what actually happened. After going through my ESPN and Sports Illustrated NBA season previews, I have to say that while it’s perhaps regrettable that Acie Law IV did not have a Rookie of the Year-caliber season, that Andrea Bargnani is still maybe a year or two off from being the next Dirk Novitzki, and that the Bulls and Heat will not be enjoying home court advantage this playoff season (unless you count getting control over the remote while your friends come over to watch teams that were halfway decent this year in the playoffs, ZONG), it’s pretty hilarious and amazing that the 76ers not only didn’t come in the bottom two in their conference (as both magazines predicted), but they will in fact be suiting up for this post-season with the 7th-best record in the East. In fact, had certain games gone a little differently this past week, they might even have gone as high as #5. Forget the fact that this is an Eastern Conference that practically had to bribe teams into competing for the #8 spot, and that the Sixers would currently be sitting at #11 in the East right now with their 40-42 record–this is a season that exceeded expectations by any measure, and the Sixers deserve extreme props for it.
How they did it, of course, is anybody’s guess. Yeah, you’ll hear some hubbub about Mo Cheeks suddenly deciding to re-invent the Sixers as a run-and-gun team, a piece of likely apocrypha that ranks up with Nate McMillan’s infamous “let’s get physical” Trailblazer practice for Good Stories That Would’ve Won Their Coaches Awards if Things Had Ended Better. And you’ll hear lots of stuff about Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller really improving their game, which is probably true, but isn’t reflected in their stat sheets nearly as much as you’d think (Miller, despite being credited for stepping up as a team leader and distributor this year, actually averaged more assists last year, for instance). And you’ll hear plenty about how the young guys have started to play like pros, providing energy off the bench and coming through in the clutch, which is almost definitely true.
But none of that really comes close to explaining how it’s mid-April, and these guys somehow have engagements upcoming that are more pressing than getting manicures and planning their golf schedules. Here are ten reasons why this is so mindblowing:
10. Jason Smith. He looks like the exact halfway point between Jason Priestly and Luke Perry, he (allegedly) hooks up with porn star / political hopeful Mary Carey in clubs, and he sticks out like a well-groomed sore thumb on a team that mostly looks like they’d be filling up some basement pool hall in Cleveland if they weren’t playing basketball in Philly. He may cost the Sixers games with his bad foul timing and poor foul shooting (the last one, anyway), but we love our goofy back-up big-in-training nonetheless.
9. A.I.’d Be Better Off Back Here Now. Think about this–if Allen Iverson was a free agent next year, and the Sixers decided he was the best signing available, how would this not suddenly constitute both a really good idea and a potential elite team? Makes sense from A.I.’s standpoint–who would you rather have on your team, Andre Miller and an enthusiastic bunch of team-player young guys, or a bunch of think-later shooters and Eduardo Najera? Makes sense from Philly’s standpoint–imagine Allen and the two Andres making plays for themselves and each other with Reggie, Thad and Sammy around to play post, pick up rebounds and do the intangibles. It’d probably cause the world to fold in on itself, but that doesn’t make it a bad idea necessarily. Right? No? Maybe?
8. The Disparaty Between Their Pre-Break Losses and Post-Break Wins. Before break: Lost to New York. TWICE. After break: Beat San Antonio, Boston, Detroit, Phoenix, Orlando and Dallas. Unbelievable.
7. Even Their Unofficial Blogger Has Them Getting Swept. Forget Fo’, Fo’, Fo, Jon Burkett won’t even give us “One”.
6. The team has two members on the NBA’s All-Wire Lookalike Team:
Rodney Carney / Leandor Sydnor
Kevin Ollie / Norman Wilson
Not pictured: Deron Williams (White Mike), Josh Childress (Bubs) and Nate Robinson (Kennard).
5. Mo Cheeks’ Mono-Emotive Coaching Face. I can’t wait to see Cheeks in the playoffs. Dalembert gets called for a three-second violation with the team down two and half-minute to go. Cut to Mo with a stern, unimpressed look on his face. Andre Miller alley-oop from 35 feet to a racing Iguodala. Cut to Mo with a stern, unimpressed look on his face. He ain’t exactly Mike D’Antoni, but it’s working pretty OK so far I guess.
4. Finally, Some Nationally Televised Games. The Sixers, which when I last heard were operating out of a major market, did not have a single game that was nationally televised. Teams that were bestowed such honors include: The Seattle Supersonics, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and time and time again, the Miami Heat. Finally, I’ll be able to watch Andres & Co. operate in real time from my Brooklyn apartment, instead of just watching the ESPN update and seeing the replays later.
3. Reggie Evans is in the Starting Lineup. Fans, semi-including myself, love this guy for his scrappiness and heart, claiming he gives a “boost of energy” to the game. On a fantasy team, though, he’d probably be about half as useful as even Joel Przybilla, and there’s no surprise why–his truly horrific shooting. It’s so bad then he shoots, you’re not even angry at him for taking a shot, you’re angry at the other guys for letting him have the ball with enough time to consider making a play, something Reggie should never, ever do. Plus, have you seen that foul shot? I could probably do better. And maybe I could. Who wants to go bowling?
2. They still have this man:
Calvin, you may not be getting much time on the court, but you’ll always have my heart.
1. The Best Offensive-Rebounding Team in the League. They kept trotting this stat out during games I was watching at home in January, and it started to sound like a back-handed compliment of sorts. After all, you don’t get to be the number one O-Boarding team in the league without missing a ton of shots, something the Sixers never had a problem with doing. Their only half-decent three shooter (Kyle Korver) went to Utah shortly afterwarsd, and a month or two after he left, he was still leading the team in three’s made. This just didn’t seem like a team that’d be able to score, say, 85 points a game, much less finishing in the 100s (as I’ve often mentioned I’m sure), and leading the league in Offensive Rebounding–a stat which few ever actually use to judge a player by–is too perfect a summation of what could’ve and be probably should’ve made for a super disastrous ’07-’08 season.
Whatta series this is gonna be. Who’s excited for the weekend?!?!?!?