Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Tank Job

Starring Eddie Jordan …

About maybe a month ago, I heard the rumor/conspiracy theory that after the Sixers' horrible start, Eddie Jordan was under direct orders from above to begin the "tank the season and pray for John Wall" strategy. I don't remember where I heard or read it, I just remember hearing or reading it. At the time, I shrugged this off as nothing but idle chatter and thought little of it. After all, it is a coach's job to win games and the ones who fail to do so, even on teams that aren't expected to do much, normally don't survive. Throw in the fact that the Philadephia 76ers were coming off two straight playoff appearance in which they gave far superior teams scares in the first round, and I found it hard to believe Ed Stefanski ordered the code red, especially after shelling out all that dough for Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala.

But as the year has gone on, I'm starting to think maybe this rumor has some truth to it. I mean, no coach can be this bad, right? No coach can have such insanely wild, inconsistent substitution patterns, right? No coach can be as incredibly baffling and horrendous as Eddie Jordan has been without trying, right? All the benching key players, sitting hot shooters, keeping struggling players on the floor, sending out ice-cold players who have been glued to the bench for the final, crucial possessions, messing with guys' minutes, all of it has to be part of some devious plan, right? Sure, Eddie Jordan is no Hall of Fame coach, but he did a fairly decent job with the Wizards, finishing .500 or better in four straight seasons. He didn't just up and forget how to coach at all overnight, right? Right?

I've watched Eddie Jordan all season long horribly mismanage a disjointed but hardly talentless roster, and I've called him out as being just an absolutely atrocious coach. But take away his first two full seasons as a head coach and you have a guy with a winning record prior to this disastrous season. Yeah, in the past five seasons Jordan had the likes of a healthy Gilbert Arenas in the beginning and very good players in Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, and yes, he did manage to get fired after 11 games last season in which he steered the Wizards to a 1-10 start, but still, he won 172 games over the past five seasons. He had to know what he was doing to some extent.

This season, he's looked clueless. So clueless, in fact, that it's hard to believe. And yesterday's matinee loss in Minnesota finally convinced me Eddie Jordan has to be doing everything in his power to try and make the Sixers lose. It has to be an order from Stefanski. Just has to be. Because there's no way the Sixers should have lost that game. None. Unless the coach wanted them to.

At one point, the Sixers were up 20 points. When I walked in the door getting back home from work, the Sixers were tied with about 4 minutes left to play. As you know, the game went to overtime. With 51.6 seconds left and the Sixers down by two, Eddie Jordan took out Allen Iverson in favor of Thaddeus Young — not a bad move, taking on Iverson as the Sixers were going on defense. When the game went overtime, Jordan kept Iverson on the bench in favor of Willie Green and Thaddeus Young, starting with a lineup that consisted of Green, Young, Andre Iguodala (who missed a crucial free throw in the closing seconds of regulation and then missed a stupid shot at the buzzer that was just awful), Elton Brand and Samuel Dalembert. OK, fine, Willie was 5-6 from the field at the time and had 16 points, so Jordan was staying with the hot hand. But still, this gave the team no ball-handler on the court, and he kept in a Thaddeus Young who wasn't horrible but not great and can't really play defense, kept in an ineffective Elton Brand while Marreese Speights was actually having a nice game earlier and then had Iggy and Dalembert, who played well.

Well, no one could guard Jonny Flynn all night, so of course he feasted in OT and led the Timberwolves to the 108-103 victory. Meanwhile, the Sixers turned the ball over on a bad pass by Thad on their first possession, Willie Green committed a foul, then he missed a three, his second straight miss, and started to look awful. Finally, Jordan brought in a sub, taking out Brand for … Lou Williams, who had not been on the floor since there were 2 minutes and 47 second remaining in the THIRD QUARTER. Just so you are clear here, Eddie Jordan decided to go with an ice-cold Louis Williams, who had been sitting for a quarter and a half by this time, instead of Allen Iverson, who while not having a good shooting day (4-12) was less tight than Lou Will and had dished out 9 assists. Iverson didn't even see the floor in the overtime. Not a single second.

And that was just one of the many, many questions in that game. For starters, why was Lou Will on the bench so damn long — why wasn't on the court at all in the 4th quarter? He was having a fairly effective game offensively, finishing the evening with 15 points on 6-11 shooting. Yet he only saw 26-plus minutes of action. Even more puzzling, why didn't Jrue Holiday see the court at all in the second half and get just 10-plus minutes overall? Jonny Flynn was having his way out there, scoring a career-high 29 points and dishing out 9 assists. He was controlling the game and singlehandedly beat the Sixers in overtime. Lou Will couldn't guard him. Iverson couldn't guard him. Willie Green couldn't guard him. Why not put your best perimeter defender — you know, that rookie named Jrue — out there a little more to slow him down? It's not like he was making bad decisions in his 10:48 on the floor. He only took three shots and dished out three assists without turning the ball over. And fouls weren't an issue, because no 76er committed more than 3 fouls the entire game.

Nothing about it makes any sense. Marreese Speights was 5-8 form the field with four boards, an assists, two steals and 0 turnovers, yet he played just 17 minutes. Dalembert probably deserved even more than his 35 minutes given his recent excellent play and the fact he was doing his thing yet again yesterday. Yet here were again, with Jordan just completely ignoring the facts. He continued to sit effective players, keep guys on the bench for extended minutes and then call on them in crunch time when ice cold, and fail to play matchups yet again.

We can all see it. It's clear as day. It just finally is all making sense. Eddie Jordan very well may be a horrendous basketball coach. His track record suggests he's mediocre. A four-span in Washington suggests he better than average. This season suggests he's clueless. But I find it hard to believe he's this bad. He can't be. He wouldn't have been hired three times if he was. No, now, finally, I am convinced Eddie Jordan has been ordered to pull the ultimate tank job. Because once the first Iverson honeymoon ended, and Andre Iguodala failed to fill the seats, and Thaddeus Young failed to fill the seats, and Elton Brand failed to fill the seats, the boss man, Mr. Stefanski, knows John Wall will.

The only problem with the tank job is if you pull it off, you aren't guaranteed the gold. Nope, you're just guaranteed ping pong balls. And those things are cheap as shit.

P.S. — I watched a lot of basketball last night — Dirk going off, Orlando blowing it, Texas losing to Kansas State — and by far the highlight was listening to Bobby Knight during the K-State-Texas game. At one point, he was chastising the K-State offense, particularly guard Denis Clemente, saying, "See, he just took 23 dribbles on that possession," and then going on and talking about how it was just Clemente dribbling around and no one else moving. Now, Bobby Knight very well may have just made up that number, 23 dribbles, but I like to believe he actually counts dribbles each time a point guard brings the ball up court. I can picture Knight screaming at one of his players as he comes to sideline, yelling, "YOU JUST TOOK 23 DRIBBLES ON THAT POSSESSION!!!!!!"

The fact that Bobby Knight may or may not count how many times a player dribbles, even now after his coaching days are over, is awesome.

BallHype: hype it up!


  1. Still going to do my win/loss after certain points in the game, just not there yet. What is this vinnie stout shit?

  2. your guess is as good as mine. that kid must have had one messed up roommate in college