Thursday, January 14, 2010

Another Day, Another Eddie Jordan Mystery

I was all set to write about how the teams that call the Wachovia Center home were all the sudden living large. After all, the Flyers have been on a torrid, torrid streak after hitting rock bottom, winning 8 of their last 10, including a four-game winning streak and now another, as well as exploding offensively, chasing the opposing goaltender in 4 of the last 5 games. Yes, you read that right. The Flyers have forced the opposition to switch goalies in four of the past five games.

Add to that the fact that the Sixers had just won back-to-back games against Detroit and New Orleans and were in position to win their third straight game for the first time all season with the Knicks in town, and I was certain it would be a perfect topic. After all, the Sixers defeated the Knicks once already this season and were coming off a very promising victory against New Orleans.

But of course that didn't happen. Why? Well, plenty of reasons. For starters, David Lee continued to be a beast, scoring 24 points, grabbing 9 boards and winning the game by taking over in the fourth quarter and hitting the game-winning layup — yes, layup — with 13.3 seconds. Secondly, the Sixers, despite giving up just 93 points, did not play good defense. At all. Which has become quite a common occurrence for this team. No one could guard Lee, who had a game-high 24. Al Harrington didn't go for 40-plus this time around, but he still gave the Knicks 17 points and 7 boards off the bench. Danilo Gallinari was held in check with just 12 points on 4-11 shooting and just 1-4 from three, but he was picked up by Jared Jeffries, who played the roll of Gallinari with 15 points and 9 boards. And Wilson Chandler, yes Wilson Chandler, scored 18 freakin points. How this happens, I have no idea.

But as poorly as the Sixers played defensively — especially in the first and fourth quarters — a big reason this game was lost once again comes down to Eddie Jordan. No, the players aren't without fault. Far from it. But Jordan, for, oh I don't know, the millionth time this season went completely batshit crazy with his substitution patterns, sitting guys who were playing well for extended periods of time, gluing players to the bench and leaving struggling guys on the court entirely too long. Essentially, par for the course during Eddie Jordan's spectacular failure that has been his first 38 games as Sixers coach.

The guy is like a mad scientist, tinkering with his lineup on a daily basis and watching the combinations blow up in his face over and over again. Only he's not smart enough to be a scientist, making it all the more frustrating. Watch any Sixers game and you have no idea who's going to play how many minutes, with the exception that Andre Iguodala will be on the floor most of the game every night. Jordan has absolutely no feel for his team, for his players or for the flow of each individual game. None. It's like he doesn't even watch what's happening on the floor. Who knows, maybe he's blind. That's the only thing that would make an ounce of sense. But even then, he'd be able to hear the arena announcers at least tell him who was doing the scoring. So maybe he's deaf, blind and dumb. Well, we already know he's dumb, so maybe he's deaf and blind too. You gotta wonder about it at least.

Take last night's game for example. Allen Iverson came out in the opening quarter on fire, scoring 10 points while missing just one shot. Now, Iverson isn't a young pup anymore by any stretch of the imagination. The days of him playing 40-plus minutes are behind him, and he's still probably working himself back into the shape he'd like to be in after a long layoff and a pesky knee. But he's still Allen Iverson and has been with the team for a good while now. You'd have to think his conditioning is better. With a hot start and no sign of New York having an answer for him, you'd think Jordan would want to stick with the hot hand a little while longer, at least until he showed some signs of fatigue or something. Instead, he blindly put Iverson on the bench to start the second quarter and watched as he cooled off from his hot start. Now, Al did come back with more than four minutes left in the half, so it's not like Jordan abandoned him, but when Iverson is feeling it, with his tremendous scoring ability even at this stage of his career, I think you should roll with him. Maybe that's nitpicking, but watching the game, it just felt like Iverson was in the zone. Apparently, Jordan didn't agree.

But that's not all. Samuel Dalembert, who has played exponentially better basketball since Iverson has come on board, was playing his heart out last night, no doubt motivated by the tragedy in his native Haiti. And a motivated Samuel Dalembert is a dangerous player. Very dangerous. He was running the floor, grabbing every rebound in sight, staying out of foul trouble and even putting the ball in the basket. Before halftime, he already had a double-double and was on his way to a 12-point, 21-rebound game. Then late in the third, Dalembert picked up two fouls in a span of a minute and 28 seconds, the second of which was his fourth foul of the game. There was 2:58 remaining in third quarter when he picked up that fourth foul and was replaced by Thaddeus Young. It was the appropriate time to let Sam sit, with four fouls and a quarter left to play. But then we watched as Sammy just sat and sat and sat, while the Sixers struggled to protect the paint and saw their rebounding suffer. He didn't come back until there were five minutes left, despite the fact that the flow of the game called for Dalembert, who was perhaps the best player on the floor for the Sixers last night, dictated that he should have been back sooner, four fouls or not. Dalembert was playing smart, physical and effective basketball. He earned the right to be on the floor for more than 5 minutes in the final quarter. Yet there he sat, because Eddie Jordan couldn't see his team needed him.

Then there is the matter of Marreese Speights. Earlier in the season, when the Sixers couldn't buy a victory to save their lives, Speights was one of the lone bright spots. He was really coming on, to the point where just about everyone who was watching begged for Jordan to start the second-year man. He was playing tremendous ball. Then he injured himself, missed some time and came back a little different. Yes, he was still an aggressive offensive force, but he didn't crash the boards as hard and certainly didn't help himself on defense. But still, he is a young player with great upside who showed a lot of promise. However, when Elton Brand threw him under the bus because he's a snake in the grass who has no problem pointing out when his teammates underachieve despite the fact that he is the poster child of underachievement yet never takes responsibility for his own terrible play (see what they teach you at Duke!), Jordan seemed to decide to put Speights in his doghouse. And yes, it worked the two games prior, when the Sixers beat the Pistons and the Hornets with Speights playing just 6:22 and 5:06, respectively, but is that really the best way to go about handling him? He's one of the few players with real, true promise. He has a rare skill set and brings energy to the floor. And he's a young player that you want to develop, not bury on the bench.

But OK, the Sixers won both those games and, here's the real key, Elton Brand played great in both those wins. So it's understandable that Speights would see diminished time with Brand playing so well. Here's the thing about last night — Brand played like shit. And not just regular shit, no, disgusting, putrid diarrhea shit. He was 2-9 from the field, turned the ball over twice, scored just five points and picked up four fouls in just 22 minutes. Add to that the fact that Thaddeus Young didn't fair much better, going just 3-13 from the field for 11 points, turning it over twice himself and doing a horrendous job "guarding" David Lee, and it makes you wonder, where was Speights? After all, Young was struggling through 32-plus minutes on the court — though he did have 8 boards — and Brand was sucking for 22 minutes out there. Yet Speight was nowhere in sight. I mean nowhere.

This made absolutely no sense. Marreese Speights, who recorded a double-double (20 points and 10 boards) the last time the Sixers took on the Knicks mind you, did not play a single minute until there was 8 minutes and 40 seconds left in the game. Despite the fact that Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young were sucking it up, despite the fact that David Lee was torching both, and despite the fact that Speights had played brilliantly against the Knicks earlier in the season, Marreese didn't step foot on the court until there were less than 9 minutes left to play in the entire game. He then proceeded to score 10 points and haul in 6 rebounds in those final 8 minutes and 40 seconds, and give the Sixers an actual threat at the power forward position. Why, exactly, wasn't he on the floor earlier? Oh yeah, because Eddie Jordan is fucking moron.

Still, despite all that, the Sixers had a chance to win it. Speights gave the Sixers a jolt, and when Allen Iverson hooked up with Andre Iguodala on a sick reverse dunk, it felt like the final nail in the coffin for the Knicks.

But it wasn't, because the Sixers still couldn't stop Lee at the other end, and of course, they couldn't get the shot they wanted at the end to win it because Eddie Jordan is awful at drawing up end-of-game plays as well. Though to be fair, I did really like the decision to go to Speights. He was on fire and carrying the Sixers in the final minutes. Sadly, New York doubled him and took him away, and we were forced to watch the game rest on the shoulders of a Rodney Carney three. Yikes. Needless to say, it didn't work out, and the Sixers lost by a point. But it never should have come to that. If Jordan just would have coached as if he actually saw what was happening on the floor and who should be on it, the Sixers would have won easily. Or at least should have. But that's not the way Eddie Jordan works.

He must be the most incompetent coach ever, or he just really, really wants John Wall. For his sake and ours, I hope it's the latter. Sadly, I have fears that it is the former. Eddie Jordan is the worst.

BallHype: hype it up!

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