For the Sixers, Exceptional Effort Just Isn't Enough

Written By Roy Burton On Monday, November 01, 2010

Improvement is clear, but not enough for the Sixers.

Near the end of Friday night's 104-101 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers' official Twitter feed offered the following declaration:

"This Sixers team does not and will not quit."

To date, that statement has been completely accurate - the Sixers have, in fact, played hard in each of their three games so far this season. But that effort has yet to produce a victory, and losses like these can quickly take a toll on a team as young as this one.

While addressing the media following Saturday night's 99-86 loss to the Indiana Pacers, Sixers' coach Doug Collins summed up his team's play very succinctly: "It's like the same old movie."

In short, this is a team that is struggling to find its identity. In three games, Collins has already used two different starting lineups, giving Andres Nocioni the nod over Jason Kapono before the game in Indiana. Fittingly, Kapono didn't even take off his warmups against the Pacers.

This is a team that played more than 51 minutes of basketball this season before one of their starters even attempted a free throw. While the Sixers' coaching staff wants Andre Iguodala to attack the rim more, he appears to content with accepting what the defense gives him, often settling for jump shots instead of driving to the basket and drawing contact.

Whether it be rebounding, spacing, or just running a basic offensive set, this is a team that often looks out of sync on the court. Quite often, the Sixers' players appear to be five distinct parts, instead of one cohesive team.

"[R]ight now we’re not on the same page," Iguodala said following the Indiana loss. "[O]n the court we’re a little too selfish instead of looking out for one another to play better basketball as a unit."

That selfishness was on full display during the third quarter of Saturday's game when Indiana started the period on a 17-5 run. During that stretch, three different Sixers (Iguodala, Lou Williams, Nocioni) were called for offensive fouls. In each case, the player involved was trying to force the issue instead of letting the offense flow naturally.

Of the two newest members of the starting lineup, only Nocioni is providing any sort of significant contribution. As evidenced in the Indiana game, he is a far better option at small forward than Kapono, providing toughness, rebounding and a more complete offensive game.

Spencer Hawes missed most of the preseason due to a nagging back injury, and the lack of practice time is clearly evident. He's slow to rotate on defense, and is rarely in a good position to grab rebounds. During stoppages in play, you'll often see Elton Brand coaching Hawes on his defensive responsibilities.

In regards to coaching, the primary task of Doug Collins is simply to teach this team how to play together. A single season under former coach Eddie Jordan seems to have made an impression on many of the Sixers' veterans - it's almost as if they have to "unlearn" a lot of the things they picked up during last year's 27-55 campaign. Said Collins: "We've got to break a lot of losing habits."

There have, however, been a number of bright spots this season. The newly slimmed-down Elton Brand has outperformed the expectations of some, averaging 14.7 points and 9 rebounds.

Evan Turner is clearly not the "bust" that several analysts for ESPN The Magazine predicted that he would be, while Williams and Thaddeus Young have provided their fair share of scoring and energy off of the bench.

So all is not lost in SixerLand. But if you'd like to break out the rosary beads, now is as good a time as any.

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