Lavoy Allen struggles to take next step in second season

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Lavoy Allen struggles to take next step in second season

A lot of folks had some decent-sized expectations for Lavoy Allen this season. With Andrew Bynum expected to anchor the middle and Allen inked to a two-year contract after a strong performance in the playoffs against the Celtics last May, higher expectations seemed reasonable.

But as the Sixers limp to the finish line of a disappointing season, Allen might not be quite ready for prime time.

Headed into Wednesday’s game against the Hawks, Allen averaged 5.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in 74 appearances. Though that’s up a bit from his rookie season but it hasn’t come close to matching the numbers posted by Nik Vucevic, whose minutes fell to Allen when he was traded to Orlando in the Bynum deal.

Like a microcosm of the Sixers’ season, Allen was sometimes brilliant and sometimes even good. But mostly he was underwhelming. After Allen pulled down a career-high 22 rebounds against Charlotte on Feb. 9, he was nearly shut out on the boards the next night.

In the course of two games Allen set the team season high for rebounds and then nearly became the first player to follow a 22-rebound night with a goose egg.

It could have been a better season, Allen admitted.

“Basketball-wise, I didn’t have a great year,” Allen said. “I was up and down here and there.”

But there is promise for Allen. Selected with the 50th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft out of Temple, Allen went from starting his rookie season on the inactive list to playing significant minutes against the Boston Celtics in the playoffs. When the 2012-13 season began and Bynum wasn’t ready to go, Sixers head coach Doug Collins put Allen into the starting lineup.

Allen started 37 of the first 42 games, but fell to a role on the bench when Spencer Hawes emerged as the team’s best option in the middle. As always, Collins said, it got back to one element of Allen’s game.

“I go back to when we drafted him -- play with a motor,” Collins said.

“I remember in the playoffs the job Lavoy did to match up with Kevin Garnett and how we wanted him on the floor because of the job he did with him,” Collins continued. “We need him to have a much better year. We need him. We need our bigs for what we’re trying to do and obviously Thad [Young] and Spencer are two guys we count on heavily, but over the course of a long season, Lavoy can shoot, he has size and a good feel for the game. Arnett [Moultrie] has all of those capabilities too, so he’s going to have to take a big jump, too.”

Though Allen says his performance could have been better this season, he didn’t have an answer when asked what he learned about his game this year in comparison with his rookie year. He also said there were very few folks whose expectations he tries to live up to.

In fact, when asked which elements of his game he planned on working on this summer, Allen said he plans to work on his overall game. As far as increased energy goes, what you see is what you get with Allen.

“I only thought automobiles had motors, not people,” Allen said with a laugh.

Still, Collins believes Allen has a lot to work with and the problems he has on the court have nothing to do with his talent.

“With Lavoy it’s never about whether he’s talented or not,” Collins said.

Collins often points out that it often takes a player three years until they settle in to the NBA life and get their games together. For big men, however, sometimes it takes longer than three years. When Collins coached the Pistons he had a big man who showed all the signs of becoming a great player, but didn’t put it together until he joined the Sixers.

“I remember I had Theo Ratliff where all of a sudden he started taking off,” Collins said. “You have to be patient, but unfortunately in this business when winning and losing on a nightly basis are so important, it’s sometimes tough to have that kind of patience.

Collins seems to hint that the Sixers will have some patience with Allen.

“I think as long as guys show that commitment and you see it every day, that patience is longer,” Collins said.

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent — hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in — he’ll try to put me in — to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel is the only one among the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.