By Chris Murray
With the NBA now on lockout status, the Philadelphia 76ers are still looking for the answer to a question that has hung over the team since it lost to the Miami Heat in the first round of the 2011 playoffs.
When the game is on the line, who wants the ball?
It was question that some of you were hoping that the Sixers would answer with some big draft day surprise where they got superstar X in a spectacular trade for Andre Iguodala. Instead, the team drafted a couple of role players in former USC star Nikola Vusevic and former Temple power forward Lavoy Allen.
I have no doubt these guys will ultimately help this team. Allen was a solid rebounder and defender during his days at Temple and the 20-year-old Vusevic improved in each year he played with the Trojans. But as much as head coach Doug Collins may like the work ethic of his two draftees, he would like to have one more shooter in his arsenal.
When he met with the media last week a day after the draft, Collins made it clear that he is looking for someone to be that guy to hit the big bucket when the game is one the line. He said while he likes having guys Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, or Lou Williams score in double-figures, someone has to take that big shot in a close game.
“Our leading scorer might average 17 points per game and we might have seven guys in double figures,” said Collins, who arranged to meet with his players individually prior to the lockout. “The curse of that is can you get that key basket coming down the stretch? And I think that was our biggest struggle last year. Our defense was vastly improved and our defense gave us a chance to win a lot of games. A lot of the close games we lost were because we couldn’t get a hoop.
“I think that we can continue develop somebody. We think eventually Holiday is going to be able to do that for us. We think Evan (Turner) is going to be able do that for us. (Iguodala) did that for us some this year. We might not have that so-called one guy, but we better have two or three guys that can sink a basket. Last year, we struggled with that.”
The player that’s supposed to be the guy you get the ball to in the fourth quarter is Iguodala, but he has been inconsistent in those fourth quarters when the Sixers have needed a big bucket, especially in the playoffs.
Leading up to the draft, rumors of Iguodala going everywhere but back to the Sixers have been a constant throughout the offseason. One trade had Iggy going to the Golden State Warriors for Monta Ellis. Another rumor said the Sixers were trying to ship Iguodala off to the Los Angeles Lakers for. Lamar Odom.
For now, Collins is telling us that he still believes in Iguodala and that he has to create more opportunities to score the basketball. I don’t buy that because if Iguodala were doing that on a consistent basis, we would not be having this conservation in the first place.
During his confab with reporters, Collins kept talking about Holiday, Turner or Young growing into that role. He was careful to mention Iguodala here and there to keep him on the radar. But the reality is, the Sixers need someone to take on that role if they are to move beyond the first round.
“I think we saw Dre do that on occasions last year,” Collins said. “I think the problem is that when you are put in that situation and you don’t come through, there’s a lot of criticism that goes with that or you didn’t get us that basket when we needed it. My job is to put guys in a situation to succeed and I’m going to have to do better job as a coach that we get the ball in the hands of the right people. If you looked at the games (in the NBA Finals) Dallas won, Rick Carlisle didn’t draw up any dramatic plays, he got the ball to Dirk Nowitzki on the elbow.”
Let’s hope that Collins can find his Nowitzki in the talent he has to work with.