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.

 

Draymond Green guarantees Warriors will beat Rockets in Western Conference finals

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident despite his team trailing the Rockets 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.

Golden State forward Draymond Green goes further.

Green, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

“We still winning this,” Draymond Green said. “Book it.”

Of course, Green is confident. He’d never say he expects his team to lose.

But he didn’t need to frame it this way. He could’ve said he was just focused on the next game rather than make such a bold proclamation.

He’s taking pressure upon himself and putting his reputation on the line. If Golden State loses, especially in Game 6 at home with Chris Paul out, Green will be widely mocked.

If he and the Warriors pull through, he’ll probably deserve praise for setting a tone that helped them advance.

Danny Green: Kawhi Leonard told me he wants to stay with Spurs

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The Spurs are reportedly worried Kawhi Leonard‘s camp wants to get him to the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks or 76ers.

Leonard hasn’t said much himself – except apparently to San Antonio teammate Danny Green

Get Up on ESPN:

Green:

I talk to him here and there, check up on him, see how he’s doing.

I think he wants to be in San Antonio. He’s let me know that. He’s let me know verbally he wanted to be there. So, we’ll see what happens.

Green has tried playing peacemaker throughout this saga – going as far as denying tension that clearly exists. He’s not the most reliable source.

And even if Leonard explicitly told Green he wants to remain in San Antonio, I’m not sure Leonard is confrontational enough to tell Green he wanted out, even if he did.

Those caveats acknowledged, this could be a huge revelation.

If Leonard wants to stay with the Spurs, the next step is meeting with them, mending their relationship and convincing them he deserves a super-max extension (which projects to be worth $219 million over five years). No matter how Leonard feels about San Antonio right now, if the Spurs don’t trust investing so much in him, that could lead to a fractured relationship and his exit.

So, there’s still a lot to sort out. But Green saying this means something.

LeBron James flips elimination-game game on its head

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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His Cavaliers down 3-2 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, how does LeBron James assess his situation?

"I don’t enjoy being in the position where it’s you lose and go home," LeBron said before Game 6 tonight in Cleveland.

He might not enjoy this position, but he’s pretty good in it.

Since he first reached the playoffs in 2006, other teams have won 26% of their elimination games. LeBron’s teams have won 57% of theirs.

Of course, LeBron hasn’t gone 12-9 in elimination games just because he’s lucky. He has willed his team off the mat numerous times.

LeBron has scored 40 points and/or had a triple-double in six straight elimination games, winning five of them. His line in his last elimination game before that streak? Just 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists.

A full history of LeBron’s elimination games:

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Rockets played with fire with Chris Paul, got burned

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Chris Paul played 79 minutes in three days.

Prior to Games 4 and 5 of these Western Conference finals, he hadn’t done that in more than two years. He hadn’t done it without both games going to overtime in more than three years.

The Rockets leaned heavily on the 33-year-old Paul, and they’ll pay the price.

Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow. Given how quickly Houston ruled out Paul with a strained hamstring, he seems unlikely to play in a potential Game 7 Monday.

Injuries are somewhat – but not completely – random. Players are more susceptible when worn down. After missing the close of the 2016 postseason, Paul missed 45 games the last two regular seasons. He has accumulated a lot of mileage in his 13-year career.

Yet, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni drastically shortened his rotation, anyway. Not only did Paul play big minutes in this series, he shouldered a huge load. He took the reins of the offense at times, allowing James Harden to conserve energy for defense, while maintaining his own strong-two way play. That’s never easy, especially in these high-intensity games.

This was the risk.

We can feel bad for Paul and his predicament. We can also acknowledge Houston got this far by gambling on Paul’s health.

That’s not to say it was a bad bet. This is what you save him for, the biggest playoff series of his career and maybe one of the last before he exits his prime. The Rockets would have been far worse off to this point resting Paul extensively and protecting him. Even with such a heavy workload, an injury was never fait accompli. And Houston got plenty from Paul before he went down. He was instrumental to wins in Game 4 and Game 5 that gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Now, they just must hope that’s enough of a head-start into a world of playing without Paul.