Nocioni was an easy choice over Kapono for Philly.
The Jason Kapono experiment is over.
Midway through Friday night's 104-101 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Sixers' coach Doug Collins realized that something was missing from his team. Less than one week into the season, with his charges trailing at the half for the second time in as many games, he knew that he needed a spark.
Enter Andres Nocioni.
In the second half of Friday night's game, Nocioni provided the energy and toughness that had been missing from the Sixers for most of the first six quarters of the young season. All told, he chipped in 15 points and 5 rebounds off of the bench, while providing solid defensive presence against the Hawks' athletic swingmen.
For that effort, Collins named him the team's starting small forward, beginning with Saturday's game in Indiana.
With Nocioni playing most of the 3rd and 4th quarters, the Sixers, who went into the break down by 10 points, had a chance to send the game into overtime. And despite the fact that Nocioni's potential game-tying shot was blocked at the buzzer, Collins was effusive with his praise of his newfound starter.
"He has to start for us," Collins said to reporters after the game. "It's nothing Kapono did or did not do. We just need more physicality."
Change was inevitable. It was clear to anyone paying attention that the negatives of starting Kapono far outweighed the positives. In his defense, for the 21 minutes that he has played this season, Kapono did an adequate job defensively.
However, with the plethora of quality small forwards in the Eastern Conference (Lebron James, Paul Pierce and Danny Granger, to name a few), starting him on a consistent basis would put the Sixers at a distinct disadvantage at the beginning of most games.
If nothing else, this is a clear indication that the Sixers have upgraded at the head coaching position. Last year, Eddie Jordan would trot out starting lineup after starting lineup (16 in all) with no regard to how the pieces fit together.
Now, each of the five starters has a defined role, and none of them are a liability on either end of the court.
Sixers fans can only hope that Collins -- who spent most of the preseason testing out different combinations of starters -- has finally found the right formula.