Well, that was fun. The Sixers won their third straight pre-season game
tonight against the Nets in Brooklyn, again without Andrew Bynum and
tonight without Evan Turner either, moving to 4-1 on the pre-season,
with two more games against the Celtics and Knicks early next week.
Seven players scored for the Liberty Ballers, with Thaddeus Young
leading the way with 24, in a game that the Nets made close late, but
which the Sixers led for the great majority and which they put away with
a couple big shots in the final minutes.
Though Thad was the
leading scorer, pouring in his 24 on 11/15 shooting (many on
second-chance opportunities, and holy hell did the Nets let up a lot of
those), the team MVP tonight was almost certainly Jrue Holiday, who
finished with just 11 points but handed out 12 assists, ten of which
came in an impressive first half. The Damaja was getting into the lane
with impunity and doing an impressive job of finding his shooters, also
locating Thad for a couple easy buckets underneath. He came up a bit
cold late, but played like a real team leader tonight, which he'll have
to early in the season especially if Bynum ends up missing a stretch of
And anyway, coming up big late is what we have Nick Young
for. Swaggy P was a total non-entity for the game's first three
quarters, but hit two huge jumpers in the fourth quarter, the second a
contested, late-shot-clock step-back three (the Nick Young specialty,
natch) that iced the game for the Sixers. Just having watched Young as a
Sixer for a couple games, I was still more confident in his
super-low-percentage shot going in than I have been with just about any
other Sixer hoisting in a late-game situation over the past five years.
It's gonna be an interesting season in Philly for young Nicholas.
were plenty other solid performers for the Sixers tonight—Spencer Hawes
and Lavoy Allen combined for 23 and 13 on over 50% shooting from the
pivot, Jason Richardson and Dorrell Wright each hit a couple threes and
grabbed a combined 17 rebounds, and Malik Wayns was again strong off the
bench, scrapping his way to ten points. The sudden depth on this team
is pretty interesting—it won't help them win that much in the playoffs,
but for the Sixers to come into Barclays minus two starters and steal a
game from a Nets team hungry to give their new fanbase a win...even in
the pre-season, that's pretty impressive.
Oh yeah, speaking of
the Nets and Barclays, you might want to hear a little bit about what
the arena is like. Of course, it being an NBA arena, the possibilities
for true personality are traditionally limited, but it's a very nice
building, modern-looking without coming off as ostentatious, and with a
floor that's absolutely gorgeous under the lights. The Brooklynness
comes through in the choice of concessions—a who's who of
foodie-approved Brooklyn vendors, from Calexico to Fatty 'Cue—and the
music, a Jiggaman-curated soundtrack that obviously emphasizes the
borough's hip-hop roots and will probably extend Maino's cultural
relevancy for decades longer than he would have otherwise been granted.
The corporate sponsorship is thick as advertised—the guy next to me in
press row pointed out that even the actual hoop stanchions still had
three different business logos on it—but otherwise, it's definitely one
of the more personable NBA arenas.
Perhaps most importantly, the
building has been totally scrubbed of anything relating to or
reminiscent of New Jersey. The look is different, the PA guy is
different, a whole lot of the team is different (WHAT'S UP REGGIE???)
and even the jerseys that hang in the rafters are almost entirely from
the Nets' ABA days in New York. The only holdover from the days in
Newark that I could spot was the continued deployment of this weird
truncated mashup between "Rappers' Delight" and "The Breaks" that still
makes absolutely no sense to me. It's Year Zero for the Nets franchise
in Brooklyn, and that's probably for the best.
For the record,
though, I'm not all that sold on this Nets team. Their interior defense,
exposed tonight by the undersized likes of Lavoy Allen and Thad Young,
is gonna be a huge issue for them moving forward, and though Joe Johnson
had a big third quarter for the team tonight, I just don't see him as
the kind of difference maker many seem to be projecting him as,
considering he's the only big addition to a team that's finished far out
of the playoffs in the two years that Avery Johnson has been head
coach. I could very easily see them finishing fourth in the Atlantic
Division and just barely sliding to a seventh or eighth seed in the
playoffs. We'll see.
Meanwhile, fun probably isn't good enough
for the Sixers this year—they've been "fun" for a while, it's time to
get good—but it's not a bad baseline to have as a team, and from early
returns, it does appear that now matter how good the Sixers end up being
in '12-'13, they should be a damn enjoyable team to watch. Once we
(hopefully) get Bynum into the fold we'll see what the team's potential
for greatness truly is, but in the meantime, they should be competitive
even without him, and always entertaining regardless.