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.

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 22 points in a triumphant Chicago debut, Jimmy Butler had 24 and the Bulls won their season opener, beating the Boston Celtics 105-99 on Thursday night.

Wade nailed a 3 from the corner in the final minute to make it a five-point game. Taj Gibson added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the new-look Bulls got off to a winning start after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 25 points. Avery Bradley had 16, and Jae Crowder 14 points, but the Celtics came up short after opening with a win over Brooklyn the previous night.

The Bulls remade their roster in the offseason, jettisoning one hometown superstar and welcoming another when they traded Derrick Rose to New York and signed Wade to a two-year deal worth about $47 million in a move that stunned Miami.

The three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star is off to a good start with the Bulls after 13 seasons with the Heat.

Wade hit 4 of 6 3-pointers in this game after making just seven all of last season (see full recap).

New-look Hawks roll past Wizards
ATLANTA -- Dwight Howard dominated the boards in his Atlanta debut, Paul Millsap scored 28 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. ignited the new-look Hawks to a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards in their season opener Thursday night.

Howard grabbed 19 rebounds to go along with 11 points, just what the Hawks expected from their new center, and it certainly wasn't unusual for three-time All-Star Millsap to lead the way in scoring.

But Hardaway's performance was totally unexpected given the way he struggled in his first season with the Hawks, when he was largely confined to the bench and even forced to spend time in the D-League.

He scored 21 points, matching his high in an Atlanta uniform, and broke open a close game with back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth. The Hawks, who led only 81-80 heading to the final period, outscored the Wizards 33-19 over the final 12 minutes (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty scored the tiebreaking goal in Montreal's three-goal third period as the Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Thursday night for their sixth straight win.

Alex Galchenyuk and Torrey Mitchell also scored to help Montreal improve to 7-0-1. Carey Price made 29 saves to win for the fourth time in four starts this season.

Alex Killorn scored the lone goal for the Lightning, who lost against an Eastern-Conference opponent for the first time this season. Ben Bishop stopped 23 shots.

With the scored tied 1-1, Pacioretty got the go-ahead goal at 10:23 by beating Bishop glove-side. Blown coverage by the Lightning left the Canadiens' captain all alone on the edge of the face-off circle, and Bishop couldn't see the shot with Andrew Shaw posted firmly in front of goal.

Montreal remains the only NHL team still undefeated in regulation (see full recap).

Crosby's late goal gives Penguins win over Islanders
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel also scored -- each getting his third of the season -- to help the Penguins win for the third time in four games and improve to 5-0-1 at home.

Crosby, playing for the second straight game after missing the first six with a concussion, scored with 2:25 left as he caught a pass from Scott Wilson at the top of the crease and quickly turned to his forehand to put the puck behind Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Kessel added a power-play goal to cap the scoring 32 seconds later.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots while starting for the eighth straight game.

Travis Hamonic and Shane Prince scored for the Islanders, and Halak finished with 31 saves (see full recap).

Streaking Red Wings win marathon shootout vs. Blues
ST. LOUIS -- Henrik Zetterberg scored in the eighth round of a shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Zetterberg's goal gave the Red Wings a six-game winning streak.

In the shootout, St. Louis' first shooter, Alexander Steen, scored but then Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk, David Perron, Nail Yakupoc, Robby Fabbri, Patrick Burgland and Dmitrjij Jaskin all came up short.

Gustav Nyquist scored on Detroit's second attempt but Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheehan and Darren Helm all missed.

St. Louis had the better chances in overtime. Center Jaden Schwartz missed a wide-open net early in the extra session. Jori Lehtera was stopped on a breakaway midway through the period by Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek (see full recap).