Thursday , Dec , 09 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

What a mess in Philly!

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – The Philadelphia 76ers are a bad
basketball team, and it is going to get worse before it gets better.

The Sixers lost their sixth straight game and fell to 6-12 this season, as
they were embarrassed by Kevin Garnett and the Minnesota Timberwolves, 119-84,
at the Wachovia Center. Rookie Andre Iguodala led Philadelphia with 18 points,
six rebounds and five assists, while All-Star Allen Iverson contributed 14
points, eight boards and five helpers.

“We got whupped by a very good basketball team, and we’re not a very good team
right now and I take full responsibility for that,” said Philadelphia head
coach Jim O’Brien. ” We’re not playing up to our capabilities and I told our
players that we will get back to work tomorrow and see if we can’t rectify
this situation.”

In the loss to Minnesota, the 76ers, who returned home to host the
Timberwolves after going winless on a five-game road trip, looked like team
that was lost. Philadelphia had no flow to its offense, and on defense the
Sixers looked slow and tired.

“My job is to put a product on the court that will execute offensively and
defensively, and we are not doing that on a consistent basis,” said O’Brien.
“That has to fall on the shoulders of the coach. If you execute and do the
things necessary and lose, then you share the blame. But they’re not executing
and that’s my responsibility to make sure they do that.”

O’Brien, who is in his first year as the head coach of the 76ers, has not
found a consistent rotation with his team. He seems to be searching for a
lineup that will work, but has failed in his attempt thus far.

Forward Kenny Thomas, who netted 10 points and grabbed six boards in 28
minutes against the Timberwolves, has been on the receiving end of O’Brien’s
experiment. Thomas, who averaged 13.6 points and 10.1 rebounds in 2003-04 for
Philadelphia, was benched earlier in the season. After scoring just six points
against Miami on November 21st, Thomas, who signed a lucrative, multi-year
contract with the 76ers in 2003, played just three minutes against Boston on
November 24th, did not come off the bench the next night against Washington
and played a total of 34 minutes the next two contests.

Center Samuel Dalembert, who was scoreless in 14 minutes of action against
Minnesota, has found it difficult to get significant minutes under O’Brien.
The 6-11 Dalembert is athletic, plays good defense and was made great strides
last season. He averaged eight points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 82 games
for Philadelphia in 2003-04.

Thomas and Dalembert looked like they were going to be two of the pieces to
the puzzle coming into this season. Neither player has shined under the
guidance of O’Brien, as Thomas is averaging 7.5 points and 6.1 boards, while
Dalembert has contributed 4.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. It has become
very difficult to figure what kind of role either player will have in the
future of the Sixers.

O’Brien has taken a liking to three-point threat Kyle Korver, who was just 2-
of-14 from the field for five points in 32 minutes of action against the
Timberwolves. Korver is shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc this
season and has registered 12.4 points per game. The Philadelphia head coach
likes shooters, and that is exactly what Korver is.

The 29-year-old Iverson has been primarily playing point guard for O’Brien. He
leads the team in scoring (25.1 ppg) and assists (7.1 apg). However, the five-
time All-Star is shooting just 38 percent from the field and is averaging 4.12
turnovers per night.

“I wish I could put my finger on one thing, two things,” said Iverson after
the loss to Minnesota. “There’s a lot of things going wrong right now. We’re
just not playing well. We’re not playing well as a team. Our individual
games are not that great as well. And then if they were, if you have great
individual efforts, a lot of times you’re not going to win basketball games
anyway. We’re just playing bad as a team.”

Center Mark Jackson and forward Corliss Williamson, who was acquired from the
Detroit Pistons during the offseason have been ok. However, some of the
younger players like Willie Green and John Salmons have failed to show
anything under O’Brien. Veteran Aaron McKie is a non-factor, while forward
Brian Skinner, who signed was by the Sixers as a free agent, has had trouble
earning playing time.

Philadelphia’s roster is not impressive at all. Forward Glenn Robinson, who is
in his second season with the 76ers and was supposed to be the second scorer
to Iverson that Philadelphia has been searching for, has been on the injured
list the entire season while team president and general manager Billy King
tries to trade him. Iverson is the Sixers one marketable commodity, and he is
playing with a bunch of players who he will not be able to win with.

This is a franchise that needs to start over. From the players to the coach
and all the way up to the front office, changes need to be made. King hired
O’Brien and will most likely be the first to go. O’Brien does not seem to have
a clue as to how he wants his team to play, and in return has created a messy
situation with his club, which may make his stay with the 76ers a very short
one.

O’Brien does not appear to have any sort of game plan for his team. It is a
mystery as to who he is going to play each game. Frustration is setting in and
it is obvious by the players’ body language.

The 76ers look terrible. Iguodala and Korver have been solid at times, but the
rest of the team looks confused and lacks any kind of intensity. Iverson is
frustrated, and even though it is early it appears that his teammates are
getting ready to throw in the towel less than 20 games into the season.

Has this team already give up on its coach and each other?

What a mess in Philly!