Weird But We'll Take It: Sixers Win Ugly Season Opener Against Nuggets

Weird But We'll Take It: Sixers Win Ugly Season Opener Against Nuggets

How many times are you gonna win a game when every non-frontcourt player
you have shoots a combined 17-57? Well, the answer is at least "once,"
as that's exactly what the Philadelphia 76ers did tonight in their
season opener hosting the Denver Nuggets. The Sixers shot a teamwide
35%, but forced 22 turnovers, blocked 11 shots, and held the much-hyped
Nuggets to a resounding 37.5% from the field themselves, leading for the
great majority of the game and fending off a fourth-quarter surge to
ruin Andre Iguodala's already-mixed homecoming at the WFC. No Big Macs,
but Sixers fans will have to do with an 84-75 victory.

The game
MVP—and the league MVP, if you believe the chants reigning down from the
Wells Fargo Center—was Spencer Hawes. The Big GOPper put up 16 and 12,
with two dimes, two steals and two threes (!!), eliciting cheers like
you wouldn't believe from the Sixer faithful. The most impressive stat
on the night for Spence, though, has to be his five blocks—legit blocks,
too, and in big spots—tying his all-time high for the Sixers. Hawes'
post defense tonight was certainly as good as I've ever seen
it—admittedly not saying much, but still. It appears that if last
season's early dominance was a fluke for Spencer, then it's going to be a
yearly fluke, since he was great all pre-season and looked like a
friggin' all-star out there tonight. (And by my count, this is his second-straight home opener where he's gotten his name chanted—one more and he must have the all-time Sixer record.)

The
second star for the Sixers tonight—relatively speaking, anyway—was Jrue
Holiday. Jrue had a rough night from the field, starting off with a
couple three-point plays but then drying up for the majority of the
second and third quarters. But even if he took his time rising to the
moment, he certainly did in the end, as a third three-point play, a dish
to Spencer and another timely hoop in consecutive possessions helped
ice the game for the Sixers as the Nuggets cut Philly's lead down to
one. Holiday also distributed excellently as a drive-and-kick offense
intiator, ending with 11 dimes and just three turnovers. (Coach Collins
suggested Holiday might finish the season top five in the league in
assists, and...well, it's not impossible. We'll see after more than one
game.)

Aside from those two, it was a lot of Yes, But and No,
But with our guys. Jason Richardson and Dorell Wright drained some
threes early but went Kanye West-cold for the game's remainder, ending a
combined 4-15 from deep. Nick Young was typically sloppy early but
redeemed himself with some timely fourth-quarter hoops. Evan Turner
was...Evan Turner, ending with five points, six rebounds, two assists,
three turnovers and four fouls. It wasn't exactly a championship
performance from our guys tonight.

Still, the defense was there,
and even if the offense didn't always work, at least it appears to be
coherent. Jrue Holiday has the keys to the offense, and makes most of
his plays penetrating and kicking to his bigs spotting up on the wings
and elbows, or kicking out to his shooters behind the arc, with the
pick-and-pop with Spencer and Lavoy as a back-up plan and Turner and
Nick Young as last-resort options if the play breaks down. You'd like to
see it run a little smoother than it was tonight—like it was in the
pre-season for instance—but as Collins himself said, credit is due to
the Denver defense, and even though they were without offensive dynamo
Danilo Gallinari, this is a good team the Sixers beat tonight. Let's not
ask for too much out of Game One.

Anyway, obviously a lot to
work on, but a win is a win, and it's the first one they've had on
opening night since 2006, when they beat the Hawks 88-75 behind 32
points from Allen Iverson. Next up is a home-and-home with the New York
Knicks over Sunday and Monday, with hopefully more of a chance (against a
division rival) to see exactly what's going on from this team. I
wouldn't read a ton into anything that happened tonight—minus that
Spence might really be due for another early-season kick—but again, 1-0
is pretty damn nice.

Oh, and about Andre Iguodala—I hope it
wasn't any of you at the game booing him. I'm not gonna launch into a
defense of his eight years spent with the Philadelphia 76ers—if you
don't get it by now, you probably never will—but he served this team
ably through eight years, a lot of then more thin than thick, and I
don't understand how right-thinking Sixer fans could have anything but
love for the guy. There were at least two nice moments for Dre amidst
the booing: Video played of his Game Six heroics versus the Bulls, which
got even some of the haters clapping, and a post-game embrace with Jrue
Holiday, later revealed by Holiday to be 'Dre saying the two were
"family for life." Damn straight.)

Photo From Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Jim Schwartz already gushing about Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod

052316_mcleod_on_dawkins_webbestvideo3_1920x1080_691407939580.jpg

Jim Schwartz already gushing about Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod

Anyone who follows the NFL knows to avoid reading too much into spring workouts. You don't gain valuable insight into a player's game-day ability by observing his speed in shorts or run-stuffing technique when tackles aren't being made.

First-year Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz sidestepped several questions after Tuesday's OTA about how specific players are fitting into his defensive scheme, but he made an exception for one position group in particular: his starting safeties.

The Eagles this offseason spent $35 million apiece to extend Malcolm Jenkins and sign Rodney McLeod away from the Rams. Jenkins got $21 million guaranteed, McLeod got $17 million, and they rank fifth and ninth among NFL safeties, respectively, in annual average salary.

"That was money well spent," Schwartz said Tuesday. "I'm sort of violating my rule of judging too much into this time of year — saying linemen need the pads on before we can judge, rookies let's not judge yet — but both [Jenkins and McLeod] are veteran players. And you can see that right away that both are multi-dimensional. They communicate very well, cover a lot of ground. They can blitz, they can play man (coverage), they can play zone. I'd be very surprised as the year went along if they're not one of the better safety tandems in the NFL. They've been very impressive so far."

Jenkins, who has emerged as the Eagles' most vocal leader, is coming off two terrific seasons. He set career-highs last year in tackles (109) and forced fumbles (three), intercepted two passes and returned one 99 yards for a touchdown. He graded out as the best safety in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. 

McLeod ranked 10th, eight spots ahead of Walter Thurmond, Jenkins' partner last season.

"I think we all believe that," Jenkins said when asked about the safety duo's chances of being one of the NFL's best. "The way that practice has been going so far and just what Rodney adds to the secondary, I think we're real excited about that tandem and what we'll be able to do. Both of us are very versatile, both of us know the defense and can get guys lined up and can problem-solve. All the rest of it we can do, but when you have guys that can quarterback the defense and problem-solve, it gets you out of a lot of bad looks."

Jenkins had watched McLeod on tape so he knew the type of player the Eagles were adding. What stood out most to him was how "violent" McLeod played in St. Louis, how he played much bigger than his 5-10/195-pound frame. But what's impressed Jenkins most in OTAs with McLeod is how he sees the field and reads situations. Those instincts are what Jenkins thinks can make the pairing special.

"Now playing next to him, you really start to see the smarts and his football IQ, knowing different defenses, ways to adjust things, having the ability to use tools for different situations," Jenkins said of McLeod. "He's an extension of a coach on the field. Talk about a guy being able to quarterback your defense on the field, he's somebody who understands the totality of the defense and has that ability to communicate and get guys lined up. It's just good to have two guys back there now that can do that.

"I think from what he brings to the table and what I bring to the table from a football standpoint, I think our talent level can put us in that conversation (of the NFL's top safety tandems). But once we really get in tune with each other as far as calls, tools that we can use ... when you got two guys with high football IQs, you can really be special."

Jenkins and McLeod have been playing left and right safety interchangeably so far in practice. McLeod says that this voluntary workout period for the safeties has been about figuring out which of them does what better. He'll have a better idea of their specific roles once training camp comes.

Jenkins and McLeod were in constant communication on the sidelines after coming off the field for certain plays at Tuesday's practice. Jenkins was doing a lot of the talking and McLeod a lot of the listening. McLeod would explain what he saw and why he broke the way he did, and Jenkins would coach him up and advise him what to do next time they see a certain look. 

"Big competitor, man. Just from Day 1, offseason drills and things like that when we compete, even in the weight room you can just see how he gets after it," McLeod said of Jenkins. "It carries over into the field, big trash talker. He carries a swagger about him. Very smart and instinctive player.

"Me and Malcolm, I think we're gonna build something great here and you can see glimpses of it in practice now."

Sixers reportedly covet additional high first-round pick in 2016

052316_colangelo_sot_webbestvideo3_1920x1080_691483715839.jpg

Sixers reportedly covet additional high first-round pick in 2016

The Philadelphia 76ers haven't found themselves in a position of power much on the hardwood over the past few seasons, but when it comes to the 2016 NBA Draft, the Sixers are in the driver's seat.

As longtime NBA reporter David Aldridge put it in a column on Monday, the Sixers are one of four teams that will "run the show" on draft night. The Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, and Phoenix Suns are all poised for a big draft night as well.

Not only do the Sixers have the first gigantic decision of the evening but they have a handful of assets, in the form of additional picks as well as moveable players, to make another big splash on draft night (Thanks, Sam Hinkie).

The first debate in Philly will clearly be Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram. Once that decision is made though, things could still be very interesting for Bryan Colangelo.

Aldridge goes on to discuss the logjam in the Sixers frontcourt that Sixers' observers have been talking about forever, but he also adds that, "There is strong support within the organization for Nerlens Noel, who provides defense and rebounding that none of Philly's other bigs provide."

Not only does Aldridge state that there is strong support for Noel, he also says that the team would like to get back up into the early portion of the draft.

Yet the Sixers already have Okafor at the four, and possibly Saric next year. Taking Simmons wouldn't make sense unless they were determined to trade Okafor, whose up and down rookie season hasn't adversely affected his value around the league. And trading Okafor would be the easiest and best way for Philly to get another high first-round pick, which the Sixers covet.

Coveting another high first-round pick and actually obtaining it are clearly different things. Unless the front office finds a way to put a package together involving the 24th or 26th picks this year and some sort of future considerations, the player who can certainly get you back near the front of this year's draft is clearly Jahlil Okafor.

The Sixers fan base is mixed on the idea of trading Jahlil Okafor. Boston seems like an obvious fit with their No. 3 overall pick being the prized target.

June 23rd will be a very interesting night to see how Bryan Colangelo, his father, Josh Harris, and his co-owners feel about such a deal.

Savon Goodman transfers to La Salle for 2016-17 season

usa-savon-goodman.jpg
USA Today Images

Savon Goodman transfers to La Salle for 2016-17 season

Forward Savon Goodman has enrolled in graduate classes at La Salle and will play the 2016-17 season with the Explorers.

“Savon is the perfect addition to our team next year,” La Salle head coach Dr. John Giannini said in a statement released by the school. “He shoots a great percentage and rebounds and defends with a tough, athletic style of play. He was a key part of an Arizona State NIT team and has had big games against great competition.”

Goodman, a Philadelphia native, graduated from Arizona State and is not subject to transfer rules. 

He averaged 9.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in 28 contests as a junior in 2015-16. He shot 55 percent from the field overall.

In leading Constitution High School to the PIAA State Championship as well as the Philadelphia Public League title during his senior year, Goodman earned Public League MVP honors.