The current Sixers that survived the short, tumultuous regime of Eddie Jordan know what the Detroit Pistons are enduring.
Six Detroit Pistons, including starters Rip Hamilton (a DNP for weeks) and Rodney Stuckey sat out of yesterday’s practice in protest of team issues…most notably head coach John Keuster. The Sixers remained focused, defeated a Pistons team using only six players 110-94, and reach the .500 mark for the first time this season.
The fans didn’t storm the floor – but many of the 15,000 in attendance last night stayed until the final buzzer and beyond to show the Sixers their appreciation.
This would be an afterthought in places like Boston, Los Angeles and San Antonio but these Sixers have fallen on tough times in recent years courtesy of poor coaching, bad personnel decisions and their inability to make a dent in agency.
These 2010-11 Sixers have picked themselves up after a 3-13 start to break even and with 24 games remaining are looking to impact the Eastern Conference playoff picture just a little.
“A .500 record is OK, but we aspire to be better,” said Elton Brand who finished with 20 points and 17 rebounds “We want to catch teams in front of us and keep teams behind us at bay.” Brand has been at the forefront of the team’s resurgence while continuing his own battle back from injuries the past two seasons.
The Sixers were aware of the goings on in the visitors locker room well before the start of last night’s contest. The team knew that regardless of what the Pistons were going through they had to handle the task before them.
“Whatever goes on in that locker room shouldn’t dictate what we do,” Thaddeus Young said. “I think we did a great job and didn’t let what happened to them get in the way of what we wanted.” Young has been a key beneficiary of coach Doug Collins system which allows play more of a wide open game against larger, slower 4′s. Andre Iguodala continues to get his teammates involved while enduring constant trade rumors for the better part of two years only to put together one of his best all-around seasons. Iggy flirted with a triple-double…finishing with 21 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists. Point guard Jrue Holiday would once again prove dsteady with 12 points 10 assists while only turning the ball over twice.
A bad day got worse for Pistons head coach John Keuster, who has clashed with players all season. Keuster was ejected three minutes into the second period for arguing a non-call. Keuster was forced to play with only six players after the practice fiasco. In most cases getting tossed fires a team up and wins some points…all it drew from the Pistons bench was laughter from Tracy McGrady…who was among the six players to miss the morning shoot around. One thing that drew a chuckle in press row was the scorers report. It showed Ben Wallace (family situation), Austin Daye, Chris Wilcox, Hamilton and Stuckey receiving DNP’s that were ruled a “Coaches Decision”. Only Tayshaun Prince was ruled out due to a stomach ailment.
It was anything but that.
One Piston welcoming the additional playing time was guard Wil Bynum. “I sat and got DNP’s for a month and a half, you think I was turning down 48 minutes? I ain’t crazy.” Bynaum led all players with 29 points and 6 assists. Forward Charlie Villanueva (17 points) took solace in his teammates leaving it all on the floor and keeping the Sixers within 10 points for most of the game…shooting 52 percent from the floor. “The guys went out there and competed and left it all out there, and we’re walking out with our heads high.”
The Sixers bench continues to be one of the league’s best, getting 46 points from Lou Williams, Evan Turner, Marresse Speights and Young. Speights for the third consecutive game was a key contributor off the pine with 12 points 7 rebounds and 2 blocks.
At the end of the night there two different views to take: one was Doug Collins battling vertigo and a 3-13 start with a team young team short on confidence and long in disappointment. Collins would go on to weather the storm and slowly pull the team he loves back to basketball relevance. “We’re growing and now we have to go to Cleveland and see if we can get another road win. We’re looking up and not looking down, and our guys feel good about themselves.” Collins would add, “This is a great night for our team and our fans.”
The other was of Ben Wallace, a proud man who came into the league as a tweener and became a self-made rebounding and defensive terror through hard work and enduring a closed door or two. Nevertheless, Wallace has a world championship on his resume and a few rebounding titles. I’m sure Wallace, along with Hamilton, would like to finish his career with a contender. When I spoke with Wallace none of that seemed important. “I’ve got things bigger than basketball going on bro, this will all pass.” I would later find out that Wallace’s brother is gravely ill. Most of the time we shrug when the DNP is followed by “personal reasons” – not that I ever doubted Wallace.
The Sixers next move on to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers.