The Other Side: Philadelphia 76ers (UPDATED)
The Washington Wizards have been a disappointment this season, but at least they have the excuse of being without Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood. The Philadelphia 76ers added Elton Brand last summer, yet they have lost three in a row - eight out of 10 overall - and are last in the Atlantic Division at 9-14.
What's their excuse? Sometimes, teams look better on paper than they do on the court. The situation was examined in a story I wrote earlier this week, but apparently, Philadelphia General Manager Ed Stefanski believes the problems fall on the feet of coach Maurice Cheeks. Cheeks has reportedly been fired, becoming the fifth coach to get canned this season.
Assistant General Manager Tony DiLeo will replace Cheeks on an interim basis and patrol the sidelines tonight. You have to wonder how long it'll be before former Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan has his reunion with Stefanski, whom he worked with in New Jersey.
The Sixers love making big moves before games against Washington, huh? Remember when the Wizards met Philadelphia in December two years ago? Allen Iverson was sent home, told not to report to the arena and owner Ed Snider announced that their franchise player had played his last game for the 76ers. Crazy times, indeed.
Here is what else you should know about the 76ers:
1. Brand Doesn't Look Right - Yet
Brand seemed to be the missing piece to a possible Eastern Conference contender when he signed last summer. The plan was for Brand, a two-time all-star, to help the 76ers score in half-court sets whenever the running game halted. Brand doesn't appear to be fully recovered from the ruptured left Achilles that limited him to just eight games with the Clippers. He also missed two games with a strained right hamstring, which may have been caused by compensator for the other injury.
Brand is averaging just 6.7 points in his past three games since returning. His presence has basically eliminated the uptempo offense and left the rest of his teammates - most notably Samuel Dalembert, Andre Iguodala and Louis Williams - befuddled and underachieving.
2. Samuel Dalembert Is Lost
Andre Iguodala has struggled adjusting to playing shooting guard, so Maurice Cheeks recently moved Iguodala to small forward and started Willie Green, pushing promising forward Thaddeus Young to the bench. But no player has been more perplexing than Dalembert, who is averaging just 5.8 points, his lowest scoring average since his rookie year. He has complained about not understanding his role, and he has played three games without scoring a point this season. There are murmurs that rookie Marreese Speights could replace him in the starting lineup, yet he still ranks second in all-star balloting for centers.
3. The 76ers Can't Win At Home
Philadelphia has lost five games in a row at Wachovia Center. Their last home win came on Nov. 23 against Golden State that pushed the 76ers' record to 7-6. Since then, they have lost to Orlando, Chicago, the Los Angeles Lakers, New Jersey and Cleveland. Although Cheeks has been dismissed, his presence will be felt in the building tonight. His No. 10 jersey hangs in the rafters.
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