Idea: State of the LOUnion Address

Idea: State of the LOUnion Address

For fans who suffered through the post-Brown to Pre-Collins era (alternate names considered for this era included "The Chris Ford Era," "The Randy Ayers Era," and "The Eddie Jordan Era" just to name a few), Lou Williams isn't just one of the longest tenured Sixers, he's the emotional link from the fans to the organization.

Whereas Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday are still building their relationships with the city, and whereas Andre Iguodala's contract has previously been an obstacle to a full embrace from the fans, Lou has really become "the guy."

Once an under-sized high schooler named "Louis," Philadelphia has done what it does best for its athletes -- shortened his name as a sign of affection. Sure, I remember "Louis Williams," but I feel like I have a history with "Lou Williams."

Sixers fans were treated to a whole lot of hype prior to this season's home opener in regard to just how elaborate the festivities would be. There was the mascot vote (that has yet to materialize in a mascot), the makeover of the Sixers dance team (which has been just fine with us), and even the hiring of Broadway light designers (where actually, the improvement has been noticeable).

All of these things are "nice," but, as we've so often made the point over the past year, mostly unnecessary. For basketball fans, the real fun is in the product on the floor. And so, ironically enough for the new owners who had just sunk some cash into some new bells and whistles, I suppose it wasn't any surprise that the most exciting part of that evening's introductions was also the cheapest.

When Lou Williams addressed the crowd following the player introductions, it lasted no longer than six seconds. Still, those six seconds totally trumped, in every way, everything else that had come before or would come after. For six seconds, Lou thanked us for our support, informed us that he had and his teammates had been working extremely hard and promised that the team wouldn't let us down.

Read that sentence again. Watch those six seconds again. Really -- what more could you ask for from an athlete or his team?

Unfortunately for the ongoing events of that night's pregame ceremonies, the indescribable hype I felt after hearing Lou address the crowd was squashed by poor scheduling. It wasn't that I didn't want to hear from Sixers legends like Doc, Moses, Bobby and World or even from the team's new owners in Josh Harris and Adam Aron; I just wanted Lou's words to be the last thing I heard before the the 76ers went out and pummeled the Detroit Pistons. I was amazed how little it took to get me from "excited" to "out of my seat." And, just to clarify, that was from my seat at home; I wasn't even in the building.

So when I did make it down to the Wells Fargo Center for the team's MLK matinee against the Mikwaukee Bucks just a few weeks later, I was looking forward to finally seeing what all the fuss was about with the Broadway lights and everything else. But I sure as hell wasn't expecting another pregame address from Lou.

Astonishingly, I got it. In honor of the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., Lou Williams was handed a microphone shortly before tip-off to thank the fans for coming to the game in memory of King. Again, this took anywhere from 5-10 seconds and I went from wanting to watch a basketball game to screaming for Lou to drop 40 on Brandon Jennings and possibly break one of Jennings' ankles on a crossover.

Sometimes, it's the littlest touches that make the biggest difference. In the end, we don't need elaborate lights or a new dance team or free Big Mac vouchers. All we need is Andrew Toney to be welcomed back to the organization and for Lou Williams to tell us that he and his teammates won't let us down.

Given how The Flyers' "God Bless America" routine has become unfortunately over-exposed in recent years, I suggest that the Sixers develop a little tradition of their own, but only for special occasions. Call it the Lou Williams pregame monologue -- or, for you political junkies who are really revved up for tonight, The State of the LOUnion Address.

Potential topics for Lou's unexpected pregame monologues include (but are not limited to): "No one thinks we have a shot in hell to win the NBA Title, but we do. Thanks for your support," "This is a big one tonight, so we're gonna need y'all to get loud. Thanks for your support," and "There's just something about Nick Young's face that makes me want to go for 50 tonight. Thanks for your support."

Really, if Lou Williams can talk his way out of a mugging, imagine what he can talk you into just moments before a game.

Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

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Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

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NEW ORLEANS -- Joel Embiid shot just 5 for 15 from the field and the Sixers … wait … the Sixers won. 

Surprising? Actually, that’s just how the Sixers envision finding success.

It’s not about Embiid having a relatively quiet night on offense with 14 points, especially going 0 for 5 from three. It’s about other players getting involved and taking the burden off the rookie. Embiid has proved he can do a lot of things, but carrying a team each night in his first season isn’t what the Sixers have in mind. 

“I think that’s when we’re at our best,” Nik Stauskas said after the Sixers beat the Pelicans 99-88 (see Instant Replay). “Obviously there are a few guys in the NBA like a LeBron (James), KD (Kevin Durant) or Steph (Curry) that can single-handedly win a game throughout the entire season. But most of the teams are going to rely on bench players to step up and make shots and make plays. I think that’s when we’re most effective.”

Embiid entered Thursday night averaging 24.3 points and shooting 48.9 percent in Sixers wins (three games played). His 14 points against the Pelicans were his fewest in a victory this season. He also grabbed seven boards with four blocks and three steals as the team snapped an overall eight-game losing skid and an 23-game road losing streak. 

Instead of being powered offensively by their centerpiece, the Sixers received solid efforts from the starters and reserves. Ersan Ilyasova scored 23 points (along with eight rebounds) for the second straight game. Sergio Rodriguez chipped in 16 points and eight assists. Off the bench,  Stauskas hit three treys en route to 14 points while Dario Saric scored 10 points with five rebounds. 

Embiid’s teammates attribute their success to the fact he is such a focal point of the opponents’ defense. In comparison to the beginning of the season when Embiid was getting stifled by double-teams, he has been learning how to pass out of them. Embiid expects to see two defenders every game and has been making adjustments to create opportunities for others to shoot rather than committing turnovers. 

“We’re not standing around a lot and just focusing on what Jo can do,” Robert Covington said. “Jo is making great moves to find guys that are open. He’s willing to pass. We’re starting to build the chemistry that everyone’s been looking for.”

Ilyasova has noticed a change in the flow of the offense and has capitalized on defensive mismatches when opponents swarm Embiid. 

“We just share the ball well,” Ilyasova said. “I find myself open. Obviously Joel does a great job of as far as when there is a double-team, just kicking out. When I see the open look, I try to knock that shot down.” 

This style of play is mutually beneficial for both Embiid and his teammates. Just because Embiid is passing out doesn't mean he's not getting his looks. Oftentimes, dishing out of a double-team allows him to get a better look on the next touch. 

“It’s a team effort," Covington said. "We’re doing so much as a unit that we’re not just focusing on just get Jo the ball and let him do his thing. He’s getting the ball, he’s surveying the floor and then he’s making his moves. He’s reading the defense really well. He’s doing a lot of [kicking out]. Then we find him a lot of re-posts and finding the open shot and making it easy for him to find the easy bucket.” 

Embiid is capable of scoring 20-plus in spite of his 28-minute restriction. The Sixers are making strides, though, by finding ways to win when he isn’t the running up the scoreboard. 

“I think there’s no doubt Jo is our best player and our offense is going to revolve around him most of the time,” Stauskas said. “But we’re playing our best when he’s posting up and kicking out to guys and they’re hitting threes or we’re taking pressure off him by making plays and the defense can’t just be solely focused on him. In a game like tonight, that’s kind of what you saw.”

Connor McDavid: Brandon Manning made 'classless' comments about injury

Connor McDavid: Brandon Manning made 'classless' comments about injury

Connor McDavid scored his first power-play goal of the season in the second period during the Flyers' 6-5 win on Thursday night (see Instant Replay). After his 12th goal of the year, McDavid made a point to stare down and exchange words with Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning.

In the first period, Manning and McDavid were in the middle of a scrum after the whistle, chirping each other (see 10 observations). The battle between the two roots back to when Manning broke the rising superstar’s collarbone November 2015 during a play against the boards in Edmonton.

“You know what, I did all I could defending him last year in the media," McDavid said after Thursday's game. "I didn’t want to make a big deal saying he did it on purpose.

"He wanted to make some comments today about what went on last year and I thought it was one of the classless things I’ve ever seen on the ice. He said some things and our guys responded accordingly.

"We can put the whole 'he did it on purpose' thing to rest, because what he said out there confirmed that. It shows what kind of guy he is, how he doesn’t step up and fight some of our guys.”

Manning received death threats from Edmonton fans last season, and responded after the game Thursday, reiterating the play that injured McDavid was an accident.

"I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here," Manning said, "knows that I am not that kind of player. I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I'm a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that.

"I think going back to last year, it was a total accident. I mean, there were three players involved and there was never any intention of hurting anyone."

The injury ended up costing McDavid a few months, and a year later, the tension is still high between him and Manning.

As the second period moved along, McDavid continued to make plays for the Oilers. At the 4:35 mark in the second period, he took the puck away from the Flyers and then helped set up Andrej Sekera for a shorthanded goal that tied the game, 3-3.

The shorthanded goal helped give the Oilers momentum at the end of the period, but they could not carry it over to the third. The loss Thursday is the second night in a row in which Edmonton lost a game it looked like it was going to win.

“I’m not too sure what it is but I think we will figure it out,” McDavid said. "I’m not too sure what it is, like I said before. Something we need to figure out real fast here.”