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Hey Philadelphia, the Sixers are fun to watch again!


It’s been a long time coming, but you no longer have to make a choice between watching that hilarious T.J. Hooker rerun and a Sixers game.

Of course, this began late last year, as the team finished strong with a .500 record after a dismal 3-13 record, and put up a valiant effort against the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Miami Heat  in the first round of the playoffs.

So far in this young season, the Sixers have not only picked up right where they left off from last season, they’re better. Under the watchful eye of head coach Doug Collins, the Sixers are off to a surprising 7-2 start after losing two of their first three games. Moreover, the team leads the entire NBA in offensive AND defensive efficiency.  

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the new Sixers ownership group  and their genuine attempts to spread good will to the fanbase. Owner Joshua Harris and Chief Executive Officer Adam Aron seem to be saying all the right things so far, and it was nice to see Dr. J,  Moses Malone, and other Sixers legends come out and support them last Friday night. Ultimately, the quality of the product on the court will determine how this town supports the Sixers, but the group is off to a good start.

There are several bright spots in the first eight games for the team. Center Spencer Hawes  could be a candidate for the NBA’s Most Improved Player if he continues to tally double-doubles, and Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, and Nic Vucevic have been strong off the bench. They have also have picked up the sometimes inconsistent play of the starting five several times in the early going. This mainly applies to Elton Brand, the team’s most consistent player last season. Brand will be 33 in March, and the injuries over the years seem to be taking its toll on him. With the exception of Brand, Tony Battie (35), and Andre Iguodala (27) however, the majority of this Sixers team is 25 years of age or under.

There’s plusses and minuses to this. In this sprint of a shortened NBA season, the Sixers’ youth could come in handy with the multitude of back to back games most teams will be playing until April. It could also come in handy come playoff time against aging teams like the Celtics.

On the downside, this is still an overall inexperienced team who has trouble putting teams away in close games. The Sixers blew out the Pistons by 23 in their home opener and the Raptors by 35 the next night. On the contrary, the teams’ two losses this year have been by a combined score of seven points, and it’s not like both of those games weren’t winnable. Crucial missed free throws and overall sloppy play in crunch time are what cost them. Jrue Holiday is a great talent who can take over a game, but he’s still only 21. Jodie Meeks is scorching hot, or stone cold. Iguodala is always an intersting case. I don’t care what anybody says, he is not a number one type player, but he's usually been in the middle of everything so far this season and the team is winning, so who am I to argue? At least at this writing....Andre Iguodala has been playing well of late. Photo: US Presswire

Which leads me to the proverbial elephant in the room that (in my opinion) will ultimately lead to the Sixers’ downfall: the lack of a true legitimate superstar- that go-to guy who can help them close out games. With the exception of the 2004 Pistons, it will be hard pressed to find a recent NBA champion that hasn’t had one.

Just take a look at virtually every contending NBA team today. The Mavericks have Dirk Nowitzki, the Bulls have the MVP of the league in Derrick Rose, the Heat has arguably three (definitely LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but calling Chris Bosh a “superstar” might be a stretch), Orlando (for the time being) has Dwight Howard, and despite his wrist injury, Kobe Bryant  is still one of the game’s best.

Don’t get me wrong, the Sixers are a really good team and play exciting ball, but until you can compare their best player to any of those mentioned above (and that includes Bosh), the Miami’s and Chicago’s will reign supreme in the Eastern Conference, while the Sixers will most likely face perennial second round exits. Truth be told, the hand’s of the new ownership are currently tied. They won’t be able to make any serious moves until the contracts of Brand and/or Iguodala are off the books. Not only that, but they are too decent to land a high lottery pick, and even if they do eventually land a superstar, who is to say they can play well with the team? What the team has now is almost the reversal of when Allen Iverson patrolled the (whatever the name of the place was then) hardwood floor and wouldn’t get anybody else involved in the game!

Are the Sixers for real? Can they stay consistent? I don’t think anyone is sure just yet. The real test could be their gruelling schedule of 13 games over the next 21 days.

One thing is for sure: after almost half a decade of relative obscurity, you are finally watching  meaningful and exciting Sixers games.

Take that, Captain Kirk.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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