No Andrew Bynum, no problem—we got Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes manning the middle, we got all we need. Okay, even John Mitchell probably wouldn't try to make that argument, but the Sixers put together an excellent pre-season performance against the Boston Celtics tonight (the first televised game of the pre-season) without their eventual starting center, with Allen and Hawes combining for 28 points on 11-16 shooting. The Sixers found separation in the third quarter and secured the win (and some free Big Macs, natch) by a comfortable 107-75 margin.
Of course, the usual caveats stand. Boston, a team that can barely even be bothered to show up to the regular season anymore, weren't exactly playing like it was Game Seven of the conference semis—KG sat, Rajon Rondo sleepwalked through the game, and Paul Pierce only seemed to care about hitting shots when there was a good chance of it pissing Evan Turner off. So all Philly mini-victories tonight must be taken with the necessary grain of salt.
All that said, there were some pretty encouraging moments to be had. Some notes:
- The Spence tonight certainly looks like the one we saw through the first few weeks of the '10-'11 season, with the Big GOPper scoring around the basket, hitting his outside jumper on the pick-and-pop, crashing the boards hard and making smart interior passes. Certainly not to say that we'll see a repeat performance by that Spence at the commencement of '12-'13, but good to know that guy is still in there somewhere. And holy shit, that hair! A mullet so glorious it's instantly impossible to picture Hawes without it—probably the second-best thing to happen to the Sixers this off-season.
- There was a lot of talk in the off-season that Nick Young was signed as a replacement for the ultimately departed Lou Williams, but it's clear to me that if there's a Lou.0 on this Sixers squad, it's Maalik Wayns. Pushing the ball with reckless abandon, taking ill-advised shots on the move, getting Malik and Zumoff inappropriately excited...it's like the Sweetness never left. Inconclusive thusfar on whether or not he'll eventually drive me as nuts as Lou did—the fact that he had eight assists tonight hopefully suggests he's a better distributor, at least—though if Coach Collins eventually ends up giving him the ball in late-game situations, I have a pretty good guess about that.
- Speaking of Swaggy P—who is this efficient, distributing Nick Young and where the hell is the remorseless gunner we were promised? My jaw was agape at some of the passes Young made tonight—not just because they were good (though most of them were), but because he was even attempting to make them. Young's lack of passing game has been a running joke among NBA statheads for virtually his entire career—Young averaged less than an assist a game last year, which as a guard getting big minutes is virtually impossible to do—but he was playing some seriously smart ball tonight, ending with 14 points on 5-7 shooting with two dimes (more if the bigs were able to handle some of his solid interior passes) and zero turnovers. The preseason offers no guarantees, of course, but this is really a sight to behold from our new two-guard.
- Young wasn't the only one doing some nifty passing tonight—an impressive eight players ended with multiple dimes, for 32 total assists on 43 total field goals, with special kudos going to Dorrell Wright for a couple ultra-pretty handoffs inside. Unselfish, high-IQ passing was such an important part of this team's success last year, and it's good to see signs that even with so many new roster pieces and the loss of a ball-handler of Andre Iguodala's capabilities, that might still be a hallmark of the '12-'13 season.
- I still love Evan Turner unconditionally and totally lack the ability to assess his play with any degree of objectivity.
Above all, it was great to see the guys in action on their home floor again, adorned this year with the 50th Anniversary insignia (which at first glance looked like a Dairy Queen "DQ" logo to me, but still), to say hello to the new guys and what's up to the old guys. Just over two weeks until the regular season tips off, and though there's no way to predict what the season's start will be like until we know for sure whether or not Bynum will be in playing condition, it's fun to have the Liberty Ballers back in our lives. Cleveland up next on Wednesday, than to the Barclays Center for a second game against the Nets on Friday. Let's go Sixers.