Lavoy Allen struggles to take next step in second season

slideshow-041013-sixers-allen-uspresswire.jpg

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.

Sixers-Knicks 5 Things: Sixers hope to remain hot after All-Star break

Sixers-Knicks 5 Things: Sixers hope to remain hot after All-Star break

The Sixers (22-35) finish off a back-to-back set out of the All-Star break when they the New York Knicks (23-35) at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. Starting out strong
So much for having nine days off and players in new roles negatively impacting the team.

The Sixers stormed into the home stretch of the season with a 120-112 win over the Washington Wizards. Seven different players scored in double figures for the Sixers, as they knocked off the Eastern Conference's No. 3 seed.

Perhaps no player had a bigger impact on the game than Richaun Holmes. The backup big man notched the first double-double of his career with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He also added a career-best five blocks.

"I try to approach every game this season the same way, whether everybody was playing or people were hurt," Holmes said. "Prepare like I'm going to play 30 minutes a game. I think having that mindset helped me to stay ready at all times and be aggressive when I had a chance."

2. Young guns
Injuries will prevent another juicy clash between Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis, but there will still be two other young players to keep an eye Saturday night.

Dario Saric and Willy Hernangomez have been two of the most impressive rookies this season, especially since the calendar flipped to February.

Saric has averaged 16.4 points, 7.3 boards and 2.2 assists this month. He's coming off a 20-point, 11-rebound performance against the Wizards for his third straight double-double.

Hernangomez has put up 11.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists a night in February. The center, who was actually drafted 35th overall in 2015 by the Sixers before being traded, recorded 11 points and 10 rebounds in the Knicks' 119-104 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

Saturday's clash could go a long way toward determining Rookie of the Month honors for the East.

3. A Rose is but a Rose
Derrick Rose will never be considered among the league's top assist men. That's simply not his style of play.

When the oft-injured Rose has his game flowing, it starts with scoring, particularly against the Sixers.

In 18 career matchups with the Sixers, Rose has averaged 20.7 points. He's also put up 6.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds in those contests.

Rose scored 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting in the Knicks' first meeting with the Sixers this season back on Jan. 12.

That typically would have been enough to say he won the point guard battle that night, but T.J. McConnell's buzzer-beating jumper stole the show in the Sixers' 98-97 win.

4. Injuries
Embiid (knee), Tiago Splitter (calf), Ben Simmons (foot) Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Joakim Noah (hamstring) is a game-time decision. Porzingis (ankle) is out for the Knicks.

5. This and that
• The Sixers' win over the Knicks in their last meeting snapped a five-game skid in the series.

• The Sixers had 28 assists in their win over the Wizards. They are eighth in the NBA with 23.6 assists a night.

• The Knicks are fourth in the NBA in rebounding with 46.0 boards per game.

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

When Ersan Ilyasova was traded to the Hawks on Wednesday, it became Dario Saric's time to shine.

And shine he did in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In the first game coming off the All-Star break, Saric got the starting nod at power forward. He certainly looked the part, posting 20 points (10 of 19 from the field), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Saric, now the only true four on the roster, was proud of his team's performance against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of veterans who can share the ball and that's how you're supposed to play," Saric said. "For me, I'm not surprised if we [beat the third-best team] in the East, but I believe these guys can play very good basketball."

Saric was excellent in the starting role, but his exceptional play dates back before the All-Star break. Including Friday, he's averaged 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists over his last six games. The Sixers are 4-2 in that span.

Head coach Brett Brown is seeing what he expected to see from the Croatian rookie.

"He's a professional basketball player," Brown said. "He has been that for a while. His love of the game, his passion for the game is contagious. It's a thing that we loved maybe more than anything about him when we did the deal with Orlando, knowing however many years ago with the trade with Elfrid Payton and Saric. That was a calculated move."

Saric played almost 33 minutes Friday night. So what did Brown do to give Saric a breather? He sent out Robert Covington.

Covington has played the position most of his life but has spent his entire Sixers career on the wing. In a time of need, he stepped up for a team still adjusting to roster changes.

The 6-foot-8 Covington held his own against the likes of Philly native Markieff Morris. It didn't seem to faze his offensive game, either. Covington scored 25 points on 9 of 14 from the field (5 of 9 from three). He also added 11 rebounds and three assists.

Covington has also been a catalyst for the Sixers during their recent success. He's averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his last six. He's also shot a ridiculous 46 percent from three (19 of 41) in that span.

"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days."

Saric continues to show that he was worth wait while Covington continues to prove that he's a keeper.

They've certainly had different paths. Saric was a lottery pick and regarded as one the top young players in Europe. Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State and spent the 2013-14 primarily with the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Bryan Colangelo has identified Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the team's "transformational players." That's likely true, but every NBA team needs guys like Saric and Covington to complement their stars.

Covington is impressed with the progress of Saric in his rookie season.

"Dario's a very special player," Covington said. "He's able to do so much on the court. Tonight, you saw every aspect of his game. He'll guard, defending, rebounding and making plays on the offensive game. That's what Dario does. Now that he's going to play more in the starting lineup, it's really going to help him."

Saric may be the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Month for February. He's second only to Joel Embiid in double-doubles (seven) and 20-point games (six) among rookies. Whether it's Saric or Embiid, it appears the Rookie of the Year will be a Sixer.

His promotion to the starting lineup and wins against teams like the Wizards should only help Saric's cause.

"Maybe you see [me start consistently], maybe not," Saric said. "The game first time here I try to find myself. I got a couple rebounds, but still, I try to find myself with the new role. I've tried to move around, catch the rhythm of the game, that's the most important thing in basketball."

He appeared to find himself just fine Friday night.