By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
The Philadelphia 76ers (15-6) may not be that superstar-laden team like the Miami Heat just yet, but at the rate that they’re going who needs a high-priced superstar?
On a night when their spread-the-ball around offense wasn’t clicking, the Sixers came up with a monumental effort on the defensive end against the Orlando Magic in their 74-69 victory. They held the Magic to 33 percent shooting and they forced 14 turnovers.
The final score of the game was definitely not indicative of how lopsided the game was for the Sixers. They held a 17-point lead with 2:51 left in the fourth quarter. At that point, Magic head coach Stan Van waved the white flag and took his starters out including Dwight Howard, who was held to 6-of-17 shooting while scoring 17 points.
Of course, Philly fans want to know if their team is for real? Yes, they beat a team with a winning record in the Magic. Yes, they beat a team with a superstar in Howard.
But here comes your “yeah, but …”
Howard, who has expressed his desire to be traded to a number of teams with the Chicago Bulls being the flavor of this month, is not happy with the Magic (12-9). He recently called out his team telling reporters following the game last Friday that he “told [his teammates] at halftime, `If you don’t want to play, just stay in the locker room, because it don’t make sense for a team who we should beat to just demolish us.”‘
Watching Monday’s game against the Sixers, Howard has a point and the Magic are not the team that went to the 2009 NBA Finals. They’re pretty mediocre and have lost four straight. Without Howard on the floor, the Sixers might have won by 30.
The Sixers test this week will get even harder on Wednesday when they take on the Bulls with the reigning NBA MVP in point guard Derrick Rose. The Bulls (18-5) have the best record in the Eastern Conference and probably should have won last Sunday’s game against the Heat, the team the Sixers play on Friday.
The Magic are the only “easy” team the Sixers faced in this set of games because the answer to the question of whether the Sixers are “fo’ real” is whether they can survive the next six games against the likes of Hawks, a team they’ve already beaten at home, the L.A. Lakers, the first-place L.A. Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs.
If they finish with a less than .500 record will Sixers fans jump off the bandwagon in droves and start hanging their heads in agony? If they somehow win all of those games or go 6-1 during that stretch, will fans start reserving their tickets for the Eastern Conference Finals or dare I say the NBA Finals?
These games will also determine how loud the outcry will be for a team to trade Andre Iguodala to get a legitimate superstar who can come with a big bucket in the clutch. For the last few years, Sixers fans have been clamoring for the team to trade Iguodala to get a more versatile superstar.
Because of the Sixers outstanding record, the noise to trade Iguodala hasn’t been as strident, but it could be if he and the Sixers fail to come through in a tight game against any of those teams. If the Sixers go 2-5 or less during this stretch, Iguodala’s detractors will come out of the woodwork.
The most recent rumor has New York Knicks power forward Amare Stoudemire coming to the Sixers. Comcast Sports Net Philly recently reported that the Sixers inquired about Stoudemire. Apparently, the Knicks power forward is unhappy playing with Carmelo Anthony and is supposedly in search of more touches.
Stoudemire is averaging 17.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, but is shooting just 42 percent from the field. He’s 29-years-old, but has had a history of knee problems and is not, according to some league observers, that willing to play defense—something that Sixers head coach Doug Collins insists his players do a consistent basis.
And who do you trade? Iguodala (would the Knicks want him?) Thaddeus Young or Jrue Holiday? And would Stoudemire be able to fit in with a team that already has good chemistry?
If the Sixers go 4-3 or better against this murderer’s row set of games, I don’t think the adding of a superstar will even be a topic of conversation. At a time where teams have one or three superstars on their team, maybe the Sixers can be the team that bucks conventional wisdom.
What they do this week will not only be a measuring stick for how good they are on the court with what they already have, but also what moves the front office might have to make now or in the future to be a legitimate contender for an NBA title.