Sixers Extras: Career Years for Thad and Dre?

Sixers Extras: Career Years for Thad and Dre?

The list of reasons why the Sixers are playing so much better this year than last is a long one, from the second-year leap of Jrue Holiday to the resurgence of Elton Brand to the new leadership of coach Doug Collins. But two of the biggest reasons are players who have been the core of the team's offensive attack since the first time the team made the playoffs in the post-Iverson era. It's been an awesome season for both Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young, one which has seen both players playing their role on the Sixers better than ever before. And the people have begun to take notice.

Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News writes about Thad's rise in Philly this season, and calls him "perhaps the primary reason for the Sixers' meteoric rise from bottom-of-the-standings dwellers to one of the best teams in the league over the past month and a half." Cooney points out Young's career-high field-goal percentage (55%) and his wise decision to stop launching so many threes (only 18 attempts after 302 his first three years) as evidence of his better fit with the Liberty Ballers this season. "This year, I've laid off the jump shot a lot because I know what my strengths are and what to do to get where I need to be," Young is quoted as saying. 

Meanwhile, Coach Collins salutes Thad in the same article for his effort on the other side of the ball. "The one thing about Thad is his defensive growth has been the key to our team,'' quoth Collins. "He has done an amazing job with his quickness and his speed and guarding screen-and-roll and covering space with speed. He has been a huge part of why we're a good defensive team." Interestingly, the article barely even makes mention of Thad's move to the bench this season--good to see that the Sixers are above getting hung up on such roles these days.

As for whether Young, whose contract expires at the end of the season, has earned himself a place in the team's future..."We hope," says GM Ed Stefanski. Fair enough for now, I suppose.

While Thad's improved numbers speak for themselves, you have to dig a little deeper to appreciate the year that Andre Iguodala has been having, writes John Finger of CSN Philly. Finger acknowledges that 'Dre has dipped in most conventional statistical categories, seeing his points per game drop from 17.1 to 14.1, his free-throw percentage from 73% to 71%, and his field goal rate hover once more around an uninspiring 44%.

But, Finger points out, these metrics don't tell the whole story. "In the realm of advanced metrics," he writes, "Iguodala is charting the best Win Shares per 48 minutes, assist percentage, the best defensive rating and best rate of turnovers given in a season for his career." Indeed, Coach Collins supports the idea of 'Dre having a career-best year in '10-'11. "Andre is a playmaker for us. He’s a rebounder, he’s a defender and I think he’s been terrific," says Collins. "I never judge a guy like that based on his statistics. I judge him by the value to his team and how well he plays and if he gives you a chance to win."

Defense and leadership seem to be the buzzwords when describing 'Dre's impact ont he Sixers this season. The defense should be obvious to Sixers fans by now, as Finger and Collins point out the excellent job that Iguodala has done defending such all-world scorers as the Celtics' Paul Pierce and the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, but the leadership has been somewhat new to this season--something attributed by many to his experience with Team USA over the summer. "I’ve been trying to be a leader and do what I can to make some of the guys become better,” says Iguodala.

Whether or not you agree that this is a career year for either player, you have to agree that this feels pretty far away from the 'Dre and Thad that sulked through a 27-win season for Eddie Jordan last year. And for that, we should be very thankful.

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

There's your Philadelphia 76ers season in a nutshell, huh? Nerlens Noel gets traded for an all-lemon pack of Starbursts, Ben Simmons' right foot is still apparently stuck in a beartrap, Joel Embiid can't get himself dismissed from the nurse's office, and Jahlil Okafor is forced back into +1 status after everyone else passed on going to the concert with Bryan Colangelo -- and the Ballers still go out and beat one of the best teams in the East in their first game back from the All-Star break. Nearly everything about the Sixers is depressing right now, except for the team themselves. They're cool. 

Kudos to Brett Brown, man. The team is playing with such fluency and energy right now that it can withstand some losses in personnel without the drop-off being particularly dramatic -- at least for the moment. Replacing Embiid and Noel with Okafor and Holmes for as long as we'll have to do it will catch up with us in time, but for now, all you can do is marvel at the pace, cohesion and (with some mildly glaring moments of exception) discipline that Brown has the guys playing at the moment. I doubt there are five coaches in the league having a more impressive season than him right now. 

But the players were pretty good in this one, too. Dario Saric had 20-11-4 in his first start in three weeks, continuing his unlikely Rookie of the Year surge with his third-straight double-double and fourth game of 20-plus in his last six games. The All-Star Break hasn't cooled Robert Covington's hot hand, as the shooter went 5-9 from deep last night and is now 17-31 on threes over his last four games, also posting a 20-10 night with his 25 points and 11 boards. (Also three assists and four steals, whatever.) Richaun Holmes dunked over some people and reminded a handful of fans why they've gotten way too excited about him at various points earlier in the year. Good times were had by all. 

Games like last night's also just remind you how marginal the difference between winning and losing is. As they've been wont to do forever, the Sixers blew their considerable lead to the Wizards late in this one, which would've undoubtedly resulted in a tragic loss in years past. But these days, the leads are a little bigger going into the Sixers' fourth-quarter tailspins, and their defense is just a little tighter on critical possessions, and that's the difference between losing on a Bradley Beal buzzer-beater and hitting just enough free throws to squeak out a mildly secure 120-112 victory. 

Anyway, after an impossibly discouraging week of Sixers happenings, it turns out some actual Sixers basketball is just what we needed. Hopefully their level of play will continue to get better as news of their off-court developments invariably keeps getting worse .

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored a career-high 43 points and the Toronto Raptors rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 107-97 on Friday night.

DeRozan shot 15 of 28 from the floor as he surpassed his 42-point effort against the Houston Rockets on March 30, 2015, helping the Raptors overcome the absence of fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry. Lowry sat out with a right wrist injury.

Serge Ibaka, acquired by trade from the Orlando Magic last week, scored 15 points in his debut, while fellow newcomer P.J. Tucker, picked up from the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, had a game-high 10 rebounds and nine points in his first game for his new team.

Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points for Boston, which also got 19 points each from Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart (see full recap).

Westbrook triple-double lifts Thunder over Lakers
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 17 points in his 28th triple-double of the season, and his new teammates fit in seamlessly as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-93 on Friday night.

Westbrook also had 18 rebounds and 17 assists for the 65th triple-double of his career.

It was the first game for new Thunder players Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. Gibson scored 12 points and McDermott added eight, even though they arrived Thursday night and weren't even available for shootaround on Friday.

Alex Abrines and Andre Roberson each set a career high with 19 points, and Steven Adams added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

D'Angelo Russell scored 29 for the Lakers (see full recap).

Pacers beat Grizzlies to snap six-game skid
INDIANAPOLIS -- CJ Miles made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, Paul George had nine points and nine rebounds after remaining with Indiana following the trade deadline, and the Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 102-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Monta Ellis finished with 16 points, Myles Turner scored 12, and Lavoy Allen, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young each added 10 for the Pacers.

The Pacers outscored the Grizzlies 64-42 across the middle two quarters and never relinquished their lead, leading by as many as 27 points in the second half. The Grizzlies finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor (35 for 84).

Troy Daniels had 13 points for Memphis and Marc Gasol scored 12. Indiana outrebounded Memphis 50-39 and scored 29 points off 17 Grizzlies turnovers (see full recap).