With tonight's matchup with the 76ers in mind, I had a chat with Ricky from Sixers4Guidos, one of the most popular and original team-based basketball blogs on the web. Ricky lives in Italy, so his English isn't perfect, but he still manages to keep an eye on the NBA. Turns out Ricky's blog sits pretty well with the Philadelphia front office, too: if you didn't hear, the Sixers are going back to their old unis. This, coming immediately after Ricky started a petition to do the exact same thing. Coincidence? I think not. While Ricky suggested that I edit his responses to make it Dream Shake/America friendly, I am instead going to leave the original piece and let you decide what to do with the Guidospeak before you. As always, I answered a few questions from Ricky. You'll find them here. Without further ado...
TDS: Most of the media spotlight falls upon Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala, but I'm a big Thaddeus Young fan. What can you tell us about Thad's improvement, and what does he do best to help the team win?
S4G: Thaddeus is having a great year and his development has been one of the best things in this (pretty disappointing, so far) Sixers season. He began the year as starting SF, with Iguodala at the two and Brand and Dalembert in the frontcourt, but Iguodala's struggles at SG pushed Cheeks to move him to SF, with Green inserted into the starting lineup, and Thad coming off the bench.
Despite Sixers' slow start and poor record, Thad emerged as a very good all around player, contributing in many fields, especially on the offensive end. He was equally productive also coming off the bench, playing at SF or PF. Lately, with the injury happened to Brand, he became a starter again, and played PF for new coach Tony Di Leo. Sixers went back playing small ball and put a nice streak of winnins game, getting back into the playoffs picture. Thad did his part again in that stretch but now, with Brand coming back at full strenghth soon, he is expected to be moved to the bench again (it's common opionion that Iguodala CAN'T play SG full time, because of his unconsistent outside shot and ballhandling skills), this also because he showed his effectiveness is not influenced much by starting or not.
The main progresses noted is that he has improved a lot his outside shot, now respectable, and continued working on his hook shot, very realiable around the basket. Expect him to be every active under the offensive board and attacking the rim, thanks to crazy atlethicism. The kid needs to work on his ballhandling and drives (tends to travel a lot...) and defense, that he can actually play but only when he's "in a good mood". definitely a great talent, that BTW guarantees you a couple of highlight dunks per game.
TDS: Which of your talented young players (Thaddeus, Speights, Lou Williams, Jason Smith) are you most excited about? Once Elton and Andre Miller move on/retire, which one of them will step up with Iguodala to lead the team?
Jump to see the rest of the conversation.
S4G: I like them all, honestly. Speights has been an amazing surprise for every fan and analysts. Nobody though he would be that good and he would contribute this year. Before the season started Sixers had a frontcourt of Dalembert, Brand, Evans (a starter for large part of the last year), + Theo Ratliff & Jason Smith (that later got injured), so many forecated that Speights would have found troubles even in making it to the active roster... Instead, he showed alot of talent. He is a great athlete, has a nice shooting range and had already a lot of clutch plays in close games, when he's very good in finding the right position for key off rebounds, putbacks, alley oops etc. He has to add bulk and work on defense and rebounding, but he's definitely a good NBA player already, with a lot of upside.
Lou Williams had a TERRIBLE start of the season, when he couldn't throw a rock in the ocean, but slowly progressed and now he's back being his old self (excluding the last two games). He will never be the prototype of playmaker, but he can cganhe many games with his ability to beat the man off the dribble and knocking down the outside shot. He's also clutch and you'll see him taking the last shot at the end of the quarters, or in the final minutes of games, where he's pretty mcuh always on the floor.
Jason Smith showed nice flashes last year (very athletic, good finisher, nice hands, effective mid range shot) , but now the question mark is how healthy he will be next year, when he'll be back after losing the whole season. The Sixers roster looks pretty crowded now so he'll have to fight to find his place in the rotation.
All of them will hopefully stay in Philly for many years, and grow together as a core.
TDS: Give us the scoop on Tony DiLeo. Is he the Philadelphia 76ers head coach for the 2009-2010 season and beyond?
S4G: I don't know. I hope that Avery Johnson will sit on our bench next year, but clearly DiLeo is doing well, has a great relationship with GM Stefanski and perhaps he is starting to love this "new" job, so we can't exclude nothing. All I hope is that DiLeo's skills as talent evalutator (he's the man behind Sixers' best drafts: Iguodala, Williams, Young, Speights etc, even with low picks) won't be missed in case he will remain as a coach.
TDS: Elton Brand clearly has yet to gel with his Sixers teammates this season, at least on the court. What has prevented Brand from playing up to the same level as he has throughout his career?
S4G: Sixers 1.0 (= Cheeks' team) had a bad chemistry.
Iguodala was not performing as SG, Miller was doing his best Iverson impersonation, taking 20 shots per game instead of making the team play, and everybody seemed anxious to involve Brand as much as it was possible. The outcome was a disaster. Cleerly, he's not the type of player we saw in the first part of the season.
I think what DiLeo said around 10 days ago, when Brand was close to his comeback is correct: it's Brand having to make an effort trying to fit in the team, and not the other way around. Sixers don't have any reliable low post scorers outside Brand, so we will need him, especially in the post season (I assume we will get there...). He can be a great trailer so it's not like we will - or will have to - stop running when he's on the court.
Sixers 2.0 (=Di Leo's team) will hopefully find a way to use him effectively.
5. Though not to the degree of Michael Olowakandi, Samuel Dalembert has been a bust. Elaborate.
S4G: LOL. I am not a great Dalembert fan but I'm not a Sam basher either. This year he played EXTREMELY bad, especially in the first half of the season. Stupid plays (he's the king of goaltendings and "and one" plays allowed, 90% of times coming in the worst moment of the game...), unnecessary fouls, fumbles, bad outlet passes etc.
This said, he's an excellent rebounder, can change the game like few other players in the League, and reportedly is a great guy and a good team mate. He won't win any "Smartest player" award, but he's a serviceable NBA center. In the last 4-5 games, he played well, and he's hopefully on his way to contribute to a run in the second part of the season. Or at least do less damage that he did in the first two months (LOL).
We can't blame him if former Sixers' GM, Billy King, rewarded him with a fat contract after a good playoffs series vs Detroit, at the end of the 2004/2005 season, that makes him nearly untradeable.
As for the Kandiman comparison, I think it's unfair to Sam. He is not as uninterested in playing bball as Kandi, and expectations for him were way lower when he entered the League.