The Sixers and a question of patience on the path to greatness

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Star power is an abject must in this league, from any angle. It’s not just about the fact that this is a player-driven league or that “good players are good.” It’s that they drive ticket sales and those players are essential to winning a title. Detroit is the only real team in the last… long, long time span that did not feature a verified “star” player to win a title.

Philadelphia, on the other hand, continues to plug along without a real star. Andre Iguodala is kind of a star. He’s arguably the best complimentary player in the league, a superb passer, defender, and rebounder without being able to really create enough offense for himself. Thaddeus Young is a stellar combo forward who is still, pardon, young. Jrue Holiday is an excellent young point guard. Elton Brand was a star five years ago.

So why do they keep waiting? Why are they holding out on trades for Iguodala and standing pat in free agency? Are they just delusional in thinking this team can contend?

Turns out, not so much. Doug Collins actually has a really great take on this.

It’s not because he wants to tear up his roster by trading young players like Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner or Young to get a star. He just wants to be able to.

“When you’re playing for a championship, it seems like those deals come easier for you,” Collins said.

Collins said it’s paramount to make Philadelphia one of those destination places for stars. The only way to do that is to show that the Sixers are on their way to becoming championship material.

via Sixers hoping to make team a destination for superstars | The News Journal | delawareonline.com.

I’ve been critical of the Sixers for not making more moves to shake up the first-round-and-out squad they’ve constructed, but this is actually an excellent paradigm. In order to pull in free agents, they have to be a place players want to play. Philadelphia isn’t San Antonio or Minnesota, but it’s not New York or Los Angeles. If the Sixers can make a run to turn some heads and then translate that into either a trade package or a chance to bring in a difference maker, they can take a step up in the East.

It’s a patient, long-term plan to build a cohesive, effective, talented team. You know, the exact opposite approach of New York and Miami.

Maybe it’s folly and it will never happen, but it’s certainly worth the effort. Iguodala will still be tradeable at the deadline or next year, Holiday will only be better, Young, the same. The Sixers aren’t going to sacrifice their long-term maneuverability in a desperate attempt to get stars to love them. If they did, they’d be the Nets.

It’s true you have to swing when the pitch comes your way. But Collins and the team in Philadelphia are convinced you have to make sure it’s the right pitch.

 

Report: James Harden, Chris Paul and Gerald Green were holding back Trevor Ariza in back hallway

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Rockets players James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Gerald Green and Chris Paul reportedly went through a back hallway to confront Austin Rivers and Blake Griffin in the Clippers’ locker room after last night’s game.

That’s one version of the story, at least.

But it apparently isn’t the only one – at least when it comes to Harden’s, Green’s and Paul’s involvement.

Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated:

A hallway runs between the Clippers locker room and the visitors locker room, where players from opposing teams often see each other and catch up. According to a Rockets source, Ariza was waiting on Griffin, and when the game ended he charged from the hallway into the Clips locker room. When Rivers spotted Ariza near the entrance, according to the source, he said: “Let his b—– a– come in.” Ariza then turned his attention to Rivers.

ESPN reported that Ariza was flanked by three teammates—Harden, Paul and Gerald Green—but their purpose was unclear. “They were holding Trevor back,” the source said.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Harden was sitting out his seventh straight game with a strained hamstring on Monday night, and Rockets sources believe that he’ll be ready for a return to the lineup on Thursday night against Minnesota.

Austin Rivers challenging Ariza is juicy, but the type of thing people say during altercations. The rest of this sounds like the Rockets trying to position themselves ahead of the NBA handing down punishments.

If they were just trying to restrain Ariza, then Harden, Paul and Green shouldn’t be fined or suspended. But if Harden is suspended, he could serve his penalty Thursday – even if the Rockets are fibbing about him being ready to play (though they at least previously laid the groundwork for that one).

There’s a lot for the league to untangle.

Russell Westbrook ejected (video)

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Russell Westbrook jumped from fifth to second in the NBA in technical fouls in about two seconds.

The Thunder star received two technical fouls and an automatic ejection late in Oklahoma City’s win over the Kings last night, leaving his nine technical fouls behind only Draymond Green‘s 11.

Westbrook got hit in the face on a drive, but instead of a foul being called on Sacramento, Westbrook was whistled for travelling. That’s quite a turnaround from the expected call to the actual call, so I understand why Westbrook was so upset. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if Westbrook said something that warranted ejection. Thunder coach Billy Donovan also got a technical foul in the sequence.

Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:

The league used to crack down on that more with public fines, but the Thunder have skirted the rule this season.

Report: ‘Several prominent’ Cavaliers express concern about aging, defenseless, redundant roster

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The Cavaliers look like they can’t hang with the Warriors, which is troubling enough for a team with championship aspirations.

But for that realization to come during a miserable 2-8 stretch only puts more stress on the Cavs, who already appeared to be ripping at the seems. LeBron James is performativity howling at his teammates. They’re pointing the finger back at him. Coach Tyronn Lue is talking about personal agendas.

And tensions aren’t easing.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

Following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 118-108 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday, multiple players acknowledged growing discontent and a strong sense of concern that unlike past seasons, the team does not have the capability to fix its problems and get back on a championship track.

Several prominent players, speaking on condition of anonymity to ESPN, Cleveland.com and The Athletic, expressed doubt that the problems — an aging roster, defensively challenged personnel and a glut of redundant role players — could simply be worked out through patience and a chance to coalesce when fully healthy.

The Cavaliers have one preeminent player: LeBron. It’d be disingenuous to frame this article this way without including him, and I doubt McMenamin is doing that.

These concerns are perfectly valid.

Cleveland is the NBA’s oldest team, weighted by playing time, in a decade. That doesn’t bode well for building up steam toward and in a long playoff run. This is an even more extreme version of the problem LeBron’s last Heat team succumbed to.

Isaiah Thomas is a defensive liability, and Kevin Love – playing a lot of center – isn’t a rim protector. Several other players – LeBron, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, Dwyane Wade, Kyle Korver, Jose Calderon, Channing Frye and Derrick Rose – are well past their defensive peaks, which weren’t necessarily high in the first place. The Cavs’ defense ranks 29, ahead of only the Kings.

Wade, Calderon and Rose can’t all serve as lead playmaker while LeBron sits – leaving the other two without clear roles when everyone is healthy. Smith and Korver would both be spot-up 3-point specialists if Smith were hitting shots. Jae Crowder and Jeff Green look similar (a compliment to Green, but a telltale sign of how underwhelming Crowder has been). Frye is a lesser version of Love as a stretch five. Tristan Thompson can’t get going, and Iman Shumpert can’t get healthy.

To be fair, the Cavaliers are 26-17 – hardly bad, but not quite championship-caliber. This portrait of doom and gloom is accurate only when measured against the highest of expectations.

The Cavs can still trade the Nets’ first-round pick to upgrade the roster, though they’re reportedly disinclined to do so. This report sounds like a plea from top players for the team to reconsider. And if owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman don’t, it’ll read as LeBron framing his exit in free agency next summer.

Danny Green tugs down Dennis Schroder’s shorts (video)

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We collectively made a federal case out of J.R. Smith untying shoelaces.

We probably ought to at least question what the heck Danny Green was doing to Dennis Schroder here.

At least Schroder got the last laugh with 26 points, seven assists and five rebounds in the Hawks’ win over the Spurs.