So far this NBA season, the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors have grabbed the NBA headlines and have earned every bit of them getting off to a historic start. However, a former NBA champion has quietly kept pace. A rookie, who got a rude welcome to the “Big Apple” when he was drafted last June has played very well and gained the respect of not just the city, but the league and an All-Star player has returned to form after a gruesome knee injury put his career in jeopardy. Three teams that were expected to really make some serious noise as title contenders this season are dealing with the realities of not living up to their expectations and a historic NBA franchise is struggling mightily, some by their own doing. Here is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly for Oct. /Nov. in the NBA
While the Warriors have gotten the well-deserved attention for their great start to the 2015-16 season, very quietly the San Antonio Spurs (20-5) have kept pace and once again without any fanfare have shown that they will be a force to be reckoned with.
Two big reason behind the solid start of the Southwest Division leaders has been the emergence of swingman and rising star Kawhi Leonard (20.9 ppg-Leads team, 7.4 rpg, 1.8 spg-Leads team), who is shooting an solid 50.2 percent from the field and leading the NBA in three-point percentage at 50 percent.
He has scored 20 points or more 13 times already this season, which includes a career-high 32 points on 13 for 22 from the floor with eight boards and three steals in the team’s 112-106 setback at the Oklahoma City Thunder (15-8) back on Oct. 28 to begin the season.
The emergence of the 2014 NBA Finals MVP is a big reason why the “Big 3” of Tim Duncan (9.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.6 bpg-Leads team), Tony Parker (12.7 ppg, 5.0 apg-Leads team, 56.2 FG%) and Manu Ginobili (11.3 ppg, 45.9 FG%) are able to have secondary roles in terms of their offensive contributions.
The continuous winning has also allowed the “Big 3” to make some history.
When the Spurs won at the New York Knicks back on Nov. 2 94-84, Duncan who had 16 points, 10 boards and six assists earned his 954th victory with the Spurs passing Hall of Fame guard of Utah Jazz John Stockton, who went 955-551 with the Jazz. Duncan in season No. 19 is 968-385.
Aldridge led the way with 19 points and six boards while Leonard had 18 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks and two steals.
Just 24 hours earlier, the Spurs earned a 95-87 win at the Boston Celtics (13-10), which gave Duncan, Parker and Ginobili their 541st win in the regular season passing the Hall of Fame and champion trio of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish. Behind them is the champion Los Angeles Lakers trio of Hall of Famers Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper with 490 wins together in the regular season.
Also relieving some of that offensive load has been the solid play of prize free agent LaMarcus Aldridge (15.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg-Leads team), who has been very steady.
Aldridge has shown flashes of what will hopefully come at the offensive end as the season goes on. He 24 points, 14 rebounds and five assists in the Spurs 95-87 win at the Boston Celtics (14-10) back on Nov. 1. In his return to the Portland Trail Blazers (10-14), where the All-Star played the first eight seasons of his career, he scored 23 points going 9 for 18 from the field in the helping the Spurs to a 113-101 win back on Nov. 11.
While the Spurs rank in the middle of the pact offensively, ranking 19th in points per contest at 99.9, their great start has also been the fact that they have gone back to their roots of how they won their four titles in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007 and that is by playing rock solid defense.
They lead “The Association” in points allowed at 88.7 and in opponent’s three-point percentage allowing just 30.9 percent. Sixth in rebounds per contest at 46.1 an area that traditionally they were ranked in the 20s; 3rd in opponent’s field goal percentage, surrendering just 42.1 percent shooting and 6th in block shots per contest at 6.0.
A true example of how the Spurs simply clamp down and give nothing to their opposition is what they did at the Sixers this past Monday night, Dec. 7 where they did at the Philadelphia 76ers (1-23).
Even with Duncan, Ginobili and Leonard given the night off, the Spurs destroyed the Sixers 119-68 for their fourth consecutive victory overall, their biggest margin of victory in franchise history and their 10th straight victory against the Sixers.
Aldridge led the way with 26 points and nine rebounds. The second leading scorer was rookie center Borban Marjanovic, who had a career-high of 18 points in just 17 minutes off the bench and he had a thunder striking dunk where he went right down the land untouched and scored over two Sixers players and got fouled.
The Spurs shot a remarkable 61.8 percent from the field, while making just four three-pointers in 11 chances. They out-rebounded the Sixers 47-31. The team leader in assists per contest with had 32 dimes on 47 made field goals, shot 21 out of 25 from the free throw line and all 12 players who were available for the Spurs scored. They also had 52 points in the paint to the Sixers 32.
Defensively, the Spurs who led by 44 points after three periods held the Sixers to 34.7 percent from the field and just 16.7 percent from three-point territory.
The only concern with the Spurs right now is the offensive production of the rest of the supporting cast.
At the head of that cast is Danny Green (7.1 ppg), who is having his worst scoring season since he has been with the Spurs. His field goal percentage is at a career-low so far at 32.4 percent and his shooting his worst three-point percentage since his rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers at 29.4 percent.
While it may not be a problem right now, it is something that has to be corrected and when it does, that will more room for Aldridge and Leonard to be even more efficient offensively.
A big reason for him having to shoot better from the floor is that the likes of Marco Bellinelli, who left in free agency for the Sacramento Kings are no longer around to pick up the slack. His shooting along with guard Patty Mills (7.8 ppg, 37.9 3-Pt.%), forward Rasual Butler and Matt Bonner will be key as this season progresses.
Another key will be the play of forwards David West, Boris Diaw and Kyle Anderson as this season continues because key players from their title team of two seasons back like the aforementioned Bellinelli, guard Cory Joseph and centers Aron Baynes and Tiago Splitter were either traded or not re-signed to make room to sign Aldridge. That is size and shooting that went out the door.
With that being said, these are the Spurs and they feel if they are healthy and peaking when we get to April, they believe they can win another title.
All-Star Paul George Returns to form
Two summers ago, Pacers All-Star forward/guard Paul George suffered a gruesome leg injury during scrimmage for Team USA that cost him all but six games a season ago and the Pacers missed out on the playoffs by one game. Many wondered if the Pacers would ever be contenders again and could George return to the form that made him one of the best two-way players in the league.
The first five games of the season, George (27.9 ppg-3rd NBA, 8.2 rpg-Leads team, 1.7 spg-Leads team, 44.8 3-Pt.%) was averaging 18.6 points per contest, but connecting on just 35.9 percent of his shots and the Pacers were just 2-3, which included three straight losses to start the season. In the next 14 games, where the Pacers won 10 of them, George averaged 30.9 points per contest on 47.6 percent shooting from the floor.
While he had a solid all-around performance with 16 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals in the Pacers (12-8) 94-82 win at the Detroit Pistons (12-11) on Nov. 3, he has scored 20 points or more in 12 consecutive games to close the month of November and counting December 15 times in the last 16 games. On nine of those occasions, George has scored 30 points or more.
He had 36 points going 14 for 27 from the field with 12 rebounds and three steals in the Pacers 90-87 win versus the Miami Heat (12-8) back on Nov. 6. Two nights later he had 32 points, 11 boards and six assists in a 101-97 loss at the Cleveland Cavaliers (14-7).
In the Pacers 112-85 win at the Sixers, George had 34 points going 13 for 24 from the field, including 5 for 10 from three-point range with eight boards and five assists.
Back on Nov. 24 at the Washington Wizards (9-12), George lead the way with 40 points on 14-19 from the field, which included 7 for 8 from three-point range to go along with eight boards, four assists and two steals in leading the Pacers to a 123-106.
After scoring 33 points on 11 for 24 from the field, including 4 for 10 from downtown with eight boards in the 104-92 win versus the Chicago Bulls (13-8) on Nov. 27, George had two amazing games in Los Angeles, not too far from where he was born in Palmdale, CA.
He scored 39 points going 10 for 21 from the field, including five triples in 10 chances and 14 for 17 from the charity stripe in leading the Pacers to a 107-103 win at the Los Angeles Lakers (3-19) back on Nov. 29.
George followed that up with his sixth double-double of the season with 31 points and 10 boards to go along with three steals as the Pacers won 103-91 at the L.A.’s other team the Clippers (14-10) on Dec. 2.
On the back end of a back-to-back, George had a clunker with just 11 points on 4 for 17 from the field as the Pacers lost 123-111 at the Trail Blazers on Dec. 3.
George came back in a major way scoring a career-high 48 points going 15 for 27 from the field, including 8 for 11 from three-point land and 10 for 132 from the free throw line with eight boards and three steals, but the Pacers lost in overtime 122-119 thanks to the career-high of 35 points from forward Derrick Favors on 14 for 24 from the field with 13 rebounds.
Against the defending champion Warriors (24-0), the Pacers were defeated for the third straight game 131-123 despite another great game from George with 33 points, eight boards, six assists and three steals.
One huge reason that George has come back to form pre-leg injury is the fact that the Pacers have adapted to the style of the NBA game today of pace and space.
This season, they are averaging 104.3 points per contest, fifth in the NBA. While they are in the middle of the pact in three-pointers attempted at 24.4 per contest, tied with the Wizards for 14th, they are fifth in makes from distance at 9.8.
What they are also doing better is getting to the foul line more, ranking fifth in attempts 25.8 and seventh in makes at the charity stripe at 19.4, equating to a solid 75.1 percent.
This new style has been a big help to the likes of forward C.J. Miles (16.1 ppg), who is having a career-year in terms of scoring and is shooting the ball from the floor overall at 44.7 and from three-point range at a career-best 43.7 and starting lead guard George Hill (12.7 ppg), who is shooting a career-high 43.6 percent from three-point range.
The Pacers biggest issue in recent games though was once their biggest strength and that was their defense.
Prior to last season, the last three years they were trying to overtake the Heat when they had LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh leading the way, the Pacers were one of the best rebounding teams in the league and had the ability to keep their opponent’s to a low field goal percentage.
In the month of November, the Pacers gave up 100 points or more just four times, winning three of those four games.
In their three straight defeats since winning at the Clippers nine days ago, the Pacers have surrendered 111, 119 and 123 points respectably in falling at the Trail Blazers, Jazz and versus the Warriors.
If the Pacers plan on getting back on the winning track, their three-point defense must improve from where it is ranking 13th in the league at 34.6 percent. They must improve their rebounding, which is 17th in the league at 43.9 boards per contest and their rim protection must improve. Blocking 4.3 shots per contest, ranking 22nd in the league will not cut.
For that to improve, they need rookie center, the No. 11 overall pick in this past June’s draft out of Texas Miles Turner (6.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg), who has been on the shelf because of chip fracture in his left thumb.
While centers Jordan Hill (9.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Ian Mahinmi (7.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg) have been solid, they were really counting on Turner to really be a presence on both ends since they traded former All-Star center and a key part of their team Roy Hibbert to the Lakers over the summer.
They also need better play from the likes prized free agent Monta Ellis (11.6 ppg, 4.9 apg-Leads team) and Rodney Stuckey (11.0 ppg) to play better. They are both shooting just 41.5 and 42.0 percent respectably from the floor so far this season and just 21.7 percent from three-point range. It would also help if forward Chase Budinger (5.1 ppg) can be a scoring presence of any kind off the bench.
Coming from they were a season ago, it is clear the Pacers will be in the mix for a playoff spot in the East. If they want to remain there, the defense must get better and they need more consistent play from more than just George and Miles.
Porzingis Rising in “Big Apple”
When Kristaps Porzingis was selected as the No. 4 overall pick in this past June’s draft by the New York Knicks, he got an unforgettable New York welcome. A chorus of boos and thumbs down. It was about as awful of an introduction to pro basketball as one could have.
His play though has made him though not just major player in this year’s rookie class, but it has given something that Knicks (10-14) fans have not had a lot of in recent memory. Hope.
How good has this rookie been? Well Porzingis is second on the Knicks in scoring at 14.1 per game. He leads the team in rebounds per game at 8.6 and in block shots per contest at 1.9. He is shooting a respectable 45.0 percent from the field, 35.4 percent from three-point range and 84 percent from the free throw line. On top of that, he is tied with Minnesota Timberwolves rookie forward/center Karl-Anthony Towns and is tied with four other players for 14th in the league in double-doubles with 10.
Porzingis really came of age back on Nov. 11 at the Charlotte Hornets when in the closing moments, he was the go-to-guy on the last play of the game. Unfortunately for the rookie, who had 10 points and 15 rebounds, his three-point shot was ruled after the buzzer and the Knicks lost 95-93.
When the Knicks played the Hornets again six days later, the rookie made sure there would be no repeat as he scored a career-high 29 points along with 11 rebounds as the Knicks won 102-94.
In the Knicks 107-102 win at the Houston Rockets (12-12) on Nov. 21, Porzingis had 24 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks.
This is one move made by Knicks’ president Phil Jackson that so far has panned out very well and has given star forward Carmelo Anthony some much need help.
While the team has not played well in recent games, losing their last four in a row, they have with the selection of Porzingis as mentioned earlier given themselves hope for this season of making the playoffs and having a big building block to move them forward in the future.
What Porzingis proved the night he was drafted is that he has some thick skin and that will serve him well in his career in NYC. As the saying goes if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere and Kristaps Porzingis is making it.
The Miss Launch of the Rockets
It was thought that after coming up short in the Western Conference Finals a season ago to the eventual champion Warriors, the Rockets were ready this season to truly contend.
They had James Harden (29.0 ppg-2nd NBA, 6.5 rpg, 6.9 apg-Leads team, 1.8 spg) who finished second to Stephen Curry in the MVP a season ago; center Dwight Howard (12.7 ppg, 12.2 rpg-3rd NBA, 1.8 bpg-Leads team) returned healthy and motivated; the addition of guard Ty Lawson (6.7 ppg, 4.2 apg) was supposed to solidify the starting five and it was believed that the supporting cast of Trevor Ariza (11.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Clint Capela (8.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Corey Brewer (7.8 ppg), Terrence Jones (10.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 39.4 3-Pt.%),. Jason Terry, Marcus Thornton (11.1 ppg, 35.6 3-Pt.%) and Donatas Motiejunas were as good as any in the league.
While they started off 4-7 two previous times under head coach Kevin McHale in the last five seasons, this third one was very different. They were not just losing games, they were getting their tails handed to them.
The Rockets sustained two very bad home setbacks to the Mavericks 110-98 on Nov. 14 and versus the Boston Celtics 111-95 two nights later, which was the Rockets fourth in succession and the organization felt a changed was needed and fast.
That change came in giving McHale the axe and replacing him with J.B. Bickerstaff.
Citing the reason for the change, Rockets GM Daryl Morey said the team was not responding to McHale, who signed a three-year $12 million extension this off-season. McHale had gone 192-130 in his time with the Rockets.
“Were not in a good place. We’re losing by double-digits to teams we need to beat if were going to even make the playoffs at home,” Morey said back on Nov. 18 according to Rockets.com.
“We had to make the tough call and we have to make it soon. There is not enough time in the tough Western Conference to wait for a turn around.
After a rough beginning in their first game without McHale on the sidelines, the Rockets pulled themselves out of the fire and garnered a home win versus the Trail Blazers 108-103 in overtime.
Harden, who has been feast or famine this season played like himself with 45 points, 11 assists, eight boards and five steals. While he went just 11 for 29 from the field, including 4 for 15 from downtown, he went 19 for 20 from the free throw line. Ariza had 18 points and eight rebounds. Brewer had 16 points off the bench and Howard had 19 rebounds and three blocks for the Rockets who outscored the Trail Blazers 47-27 in the fourth quarter/overtime.
The Rockets followed up that victory though by dropping four of their last six games to close November and their defensive problems continued by surrendering over 100 points in four of those six contest.
They have played a little better in the early part of December winning four out of their first five this month.
One of the big measuring sticks for the Rockets success or failure this season in terms of the numbers of wins to this point has been the play of Harden.
In the team’s previous 11 wins, he has averaged 36.1 points, shooting 44.3 percent from the field, 34.9 percent from three-point land and getting to the foul line 13.7 times making 11.6.
In the 12 defeats, Harden has been just ordinary scoring just an average of 22.6 points on just 35.8 percent from the floor, 27.0 percent from downtown and getting just 9.3 free throw chances making 8.4.
It is easy to say that Harden must play consistent for the Rockets to succeed, but along with that, he must be better in how he plays offensively. If he is constantly at the top of the circle dribbling and not initiating the ball movement, the Rockets are that much easier to guard.
On top of that, Howard has to play much better offensively and the team has to do a better job in putting him in position to be successful at the offensive end.
The fact that he is averaging just 8.2 shot attempts per contest is inexcusable.
The Rockets also need Lawson, whether he comes off the bench or becomes the starter again to play better.
When the Rockets lost last year’s starting lead guard Patrick Beverly (7.6 ppg, 40.3 3-Pt.%) because of wrist surgery, they lost a solid shooter and their best perimeter defender next to Ariza.
The team hoped that Lawson would be the missing piece. Not only that, he was given a second chance after all the off-the-court problems caught up with him with the Denver Nuggets a season ago.
So far, the former first-round pick in 2009, 18th overall out of North Carolina has been a major disappointment.
It has not helped also that Motiejunas has not played so far this season recovering from back surgery that cut his season short a year ago.
There is talent on this roster. Playoff experience. Finals experience from Harden and Howard. If they want to make it back to where they were last season, they have to play with more cohesion, precision and focus on both ends. It is all on them and they know it.
“I think for all of us, we just got to get back to trusting ourselves and trusting our game,” Howard said back on Nov. 18.
No Magic in Nation’s Capital
The last two seasons showed that the Washington Wizards were turning into a formative team in the East. They looked to this season to finally break through and emerge as a title contender after seeing their season conclude in the Semifinals in six games the last two seasons.
At the end of the November, the Wizards looked nothing like a team that was taking the East by storm with a 6-8 record.
After a huge 102-99 win versus the Spurs, the Wizards lost seven of their final 10 games of the month. That stretch included three awful efforts in falling at the Celtics 118-98 on Nov. 6; 114-99 at the Atlanta Hawks (14-11) one night later and a 125-101 setback versus the Thunder.
The Wizards seemed to have gotten back on track with three straight wins from Nov. 14-Nov. 21, but sustained a four-game losing streak from Nov. 24 to Nov. 28. They were trounced versus the Pacers 123-106 on Nov. 24, where the visitors made a franchise record 19 three-pointers in 26 attempts and surrendered over 30 points or more in three of the four quarters.
Just 24 hours later, they lost at the Hornets (14-9) 101-87 being outscored 27-6 in the fourth quarter after a great third quarter where the outscored the Hornets 27-16 to take an 81-7 lead. In the final period, the Wizards were an abysmal 1 for 20 from the field in the final period and the Hornets began the final stanza with a 25-0.
It carried over into their 111-78 setback at the Celtics on Nov. 27 and Toronto Raptors (15-9) guard Cory Joseph hit a three-pointer from the left corner at the buzzer defeating the Wizards 84-82 as the Wizards were outscored 22-14 in the fourth quarter.
The early part of December has been more of the same for the boys from DC as they have garnered a couple of major victories on the road at the Cavaliers (97-85 on Dec. 1) and at the Heat (114-103 on Dec. 7).
They have also some head scratching home losses like versus the Lakers 108-104 on Dec. 2; versus the Dallas Mavericks 116-104 on Dec. 6 and versus the Rockets 109-103 two days ago, to drop their record to 4-7 at Verizon Center.
Like the Pacers, the Wizards biggest issue has been their play at the defensive end.
Along with ranking 25th in points allowed at 104.9 per contest, they are 28th in rebounds per contest at 41.3; 27th in opponent’s field goal percentage giving up 46.3 percent; 29th in opponent’s three-point percentage giving up 39.3 percent and in blocked shots per contest at 3.6.
Aside from that, the biggest area that the Wizards are lacking is leadership. When veteran swingman Paul Pierce left in free agency to go to the Clippers, it was thought that the dynamic backcourt tandem of John Wall (19.6 ppg, 8.3 apg-5th NBA, 2.4 spg-3rd NBA) and Bradley Beal (19.8 ppg-Leads team, 4.7 rpg, 38.9 3-Pt.%) were ready now to take center stage as the leaders of the team.
It has also not helped that the injury bug has hit key cogs to the team like forwards Kris Humphries, Drew Gooden and center Nene.
If the playoffs began today, the Wizards would be on the outside looking in. Thankfully this is only December and they have time to right the ship. They have to start soon or a promising season could go right down the drain.
What’s wrong with the Clippers?
When the Clippers flamed in the Semis losing the last three games to the Rockets, it was clear that the team needed better wing players and an overhaul of their bench.
The team in the off-season signed Paul Pierce as he rejoined his former coach with the Celtics Glenn “Doc” Rivers where they won a title in 2008 and got to another in 2010 falling to the Lakers in seven games.
They also acquired guard Lance Stephenson (5.0 ppg), signed forwards Wesley Johnson (5.9 ppg), Josh Smith (5.7 ppg) and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
Rivers and owner Steve Ballmer believed that these new additions alongside All-Stars Blake Griffin (24.0 ppg-8th NBA, 9.0 rpg, 4.8 apg) and Chris Paul (16.6 ppg, 8.4 apg-Leads team, 1.7 spg-Leads team); DeAndre Jordan (11.0 ppg, 13.4 rpg-2nd NBA), Sixth Man extraordinaire Jamal Crawford (12.7 ppg) and sharp shooter J.J. Redick (14.1 ppg, 45.7 FG%, 44.2 3-Pt.%) could finally get the Clippers over the top.
After a 4-0 start to the season, the Clippers closed November losers of eight out of 14. Their stumbles came after losing to their arch rivals the defending champion Warriors.
In both of their contest, they had double-digits leads only to fall at the end. The Clippers had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of the first game on Nov. 4, but forward Harrison Barnes scored 10 of his 17 points during a 16-2 spurt that gave the Warriors the edge and a 112-108 win. The Clippers lost three of their next five games after that.
The second meeting took place at the Staples Center 15 days later and the Clippers came out smoking shooting 71 percent in the first quarter to take a 41-25 lead. In fact, they led by as many as 23 points.
The Warriors rallied again in the fourth quarter outscoring the Clippers 39-26 and they outscored them in the second half 70-49. The defending champs shot 11 for 15 from the field in the final stanza, went 9 for 10 from the free throw line and out-rebounded the Clippers 11-6.
The Warriors were led by reigning MVP Stephen Curry, who finished with a game-highs of 40 points and 11 rebounds going 11 for 22 from the field, including 6 for 14 from three-point range and 12 for 12 from the foul line.
Klay Thompson had 25 points, hitting on 10 for 12 from the foul line. Barnes had another strong outing against the Clippers with 21 points and seven boards and Draymond Green had 19 points, nine assists and six boards.
Griffin, who finished with 27 points on the evening going 11 for 20 from the field, had just three shot attempts in the fourth and scored just one-point on a free throw.
Paul led the way with a team-high 35 points, with 18 of them coming in the opening quarter. He also had eight assists.
The Clippers lost two of their next three following that, but won six out their next eight games and seemed to have righted themselves, despite an 83-80 setback on Thursday night at the Bulls.
The big question about the Clippers as the season moves on is will they pull it together to the point that when we get to April that they will be a contender for winning a title?
They have the tools, but can they get to the point where they can turn what they have and make it into something that will get them past the Conference Semis?
The Eye Closing Sixers
To say that the Philadelphia 76ers have been bad this season again would be an understatement of this decade.
They have just one win this season in 24 chances. Just one. That is how bad it has gotten in the city of “Brotherly Love.”
To bring the situation into full focus, coming into their Nov. 23 contest at the Timberwolves, it was 242 days since the Sixers last win. In that same time span, it had been 300 days since the defending champion Warriors last lost a game during the regular season.
The Sixers did give themselves a chance in this contest, but the T’Wolves eventually prevailed 100-95 sending the Sixers to their 15 straight loss to open the season and their 25th dating back to the 2014-15 season.
The Sixers had chances in their the final three games of November as they had a lead in the fourth quarter of each contest but they fell at the Celtics 84-80 on Nov. 25; at the Rockets 116-114 on Nov. 27 and at the Memphis Grizzlies (13-11) 92-84.
At 0-18, the Sixers tied the 2009 New Jersey Nets for the most consecutive losses to start a season.
The Sixers finally got off the pavement to being the month of December defeating the Lakers in front of their home fans 103-91 and the final appearance for Philly native and future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, where they outscored the Lakers 53-33 in the second half.
Just when you think it could not get any worse, it did for the Sixers.
Just 24 hours after getting their first win of the season, the team announced that rookie center Jahlil Okafor was suspended for two games when a second video was released by TMZ showing in getting involved in a scuffle with a man outside a Boston nightclub in the early hours of the morning back on Nov. 25.
A police report was filed by the victim with the Boston PD and cops urged any other victims involved to come forward.
This unfortunately was not the only incident that the Sixers leading scorer at 17.3 points per contest and second leading rebounder at 7.9 was involved in.
According to a report from Philadelphia Inquirer, two months ago a heckler pointed a gun at the head of Okafor following a verbal exchange outside a club in Philadelphia. There was another report by the newspaper where Okafor was stopped the authorities in October for driving at 108 miles per hour on a Philadelphia bridge.
The handlers for the No. 3 overall pick in this past June’s draft out of Duke University has been granted security with him going forward.
With that being said, this is a great example of what is wrong with the team. There is no veteran leadership to show a major cornerstone of the future like Okafor the meaning of being a pro away from the game.
For all the knowledge and experience that head coach Brett Brown, who just got a two-year contract extension this past week despite his 38-150 record so far, he cannot be there for this group of young players at all times.
Looks at teams like the Timberwolves. They have veterans like Kevin Garnett, Tayshaun Prince and Andre Miller who are great examples of how to conduct yourself as a pro on and off the hardwood. That is why their future cornerstones like Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad are doing well on the court and are keeping their noises clean off of it.
The one good thing if anything that came out of this is the fact that Okafor has his former college coach the great Mike Krzyzewski in his corner.
“Jah is one of the greatest kids ever. Ever, ever, ever, ever,” Krzyzewski said following his Blue Devils contest against the Indiana Hoosiers back on Dec. 3.
“He did a couple of stupid things, and so knock him for it. Suspend him, but let’s move on. Make him learn from it, but don’t characterize him based on it.”
If there is one thing that this incident shows is that the Sixers need some major help in their organization. They got some major help in hiring front office legend in Jerry Colangelo as their new chairman of basketball operations and as an advisor to team ownership.
He will not only bring them some much needed credibility, but he has seen and done everything necessary to build a winner all you have to do is look at what he did in his time with the Phoenix Suns, especially in the 1990s and how he turned Team USA back into a Gold Medal winner.
What Colangelo saw four days ago, it was clear that this was going to be a long hard slog as the Sixers were taken to the cleaners versus the Spurs 119-68.
The 51-point defeat was the fifth worst loss in franchise history. The team’s worst loss happened on two occasions when they lost by 56 at the Sacramento Kings 154-98 on Jan. 2, 1993 and 149-93 at the then Seattle Supersonics on Mar. 6, 1993.
One thing is for sure, Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie is right now on the hot seat and if things do not get better soon, he will be gone.
Information, statistics and quotes are courtesy of www.espn.go.com/nba/standings; www.espn.go.com/nba/statistics; espn.com article “The Hinkie Chronicles’ Latest Chapter from 12/11/15; www.nba.com/games/20151207/SASPHI/gameinfo/html; www.espn.go.com/nba/teams; 11/19/15 3 a.m. edition of NBATV’s “Gametime” presented by KIA Motors with Vince Cellini, Dennis Scott, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith and 11/2/15 9 a.m. edition of NBATV’s “Gametime,” presented by KIA Motors with Matt Winer, Dennis Scott and Brent Barry.