Tag Archives: Andre Iguodala

LeBron James: Once Upon a Time Called Right Now

24 Jun
LeBron James

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, center, celebrates with teammates after Game 7 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 19, 2016. The Cavaliers won 93-89. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Instead of spending so much time in the NBA’s past with Michael Jordan, fans should allow themselves to witness the greatness that is LeBron James right now.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

The seven-game epic that was the 2016 NBA Finals provided a kaleidoscope of highlights and tremendous plays.

But when the dust settled in Oakland on Sunday night, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers was not only bringing the NBA Championship to a long-suffering, blue collar town used to being victimized by “The Drive” (John Elway, 1987 AFC Championship), “The Shot” (Michael Jordan, 1989 Eastern Conference Championship) and “The Fumble”(1988 AFC Championship), he was solidifying his lofty status as the best basketball player in the world.

Now, don’t get it twisted, James didn’t do it all by himself. That clutch three-point bucket by Kyrie Irving with under a minute left put the Cavaliers in the lead for good. Throughout the series, Irving played well enough to make an argument for himself as the Finals MVP. Forward/center Tristan Thompson did yeoman’s work in the low post.  Even Kevin Love played defense well enough to faze Steph Curry at the three-point line late in the game.

And for those who keep saying that James doesn’t have the “clutch gene”, you might want to pay attention to the last three games of the series. Or the last six seasons for that matter. 

Or have you not noticed that there hasn’t been an NBA Finals in the last six years in which LeBron James wasn’t a participant?

Of course, there are going to be some folks on social media who will continue to belittle James because he will never be as great as Michael Jordan, who won six NBA championships. Thanks to the cult-like deification of Jordan, people tend to forget that he didn’t do without Scottie Pippin, Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr et al.

But because I’m an irreverent knucklehead, I do have an answer to those of you who still worship at the feet of his Royal Airness because there are a few things you don’t understand when making such silly comparisons.

Basketball is still a team game. That’s a concept that seems too hard to grasp for young fans that think Jordan actually invented the game and a few older fans who are probably waiting for him to be canonized by the Vatican.

Yes, Jordan was a great clutch scorer in the Finals who knew how to close the deal. But he wouldn’t have gotten into position to make those great plays without fellow Hall-of-Famers Scottie Pippin, a great scorer in his own right, Dennis Rodman, and swingman Horace Grant.

Praising Jordan’s solid supporting cast shouldn’t be used as an attempt to diminish his greatness in the same way that Jordan’s six rings shouldn’t be used to beat James over the head. If he never wins another ring, the fact that James has led two different teams to three of the last six NBA titles is truly remarkable.

In the last two years, James has taken a Cleveland team that was in last place in 2014 to two straight NBA Finals before winning the championship this year.  His mere presence made them a contender along with good players like Irving, Love and J.R. Smith.

Like Jordan, James definitely makes good players around him better. That’s the mark of a great player.

What James did in this year’s Finals was something that even Jordan didn’t accomplish in his storied career.  When the Cavaliers were down 3-1 and teetering on the verge of elimination, James put the team on his back with three straight wins. 

In that stretch of games, he scored 109 points—including two straight 40-point games, 29 assists, and 35 rebounds.

In Game 7, Not only did James have a triple-double with 27 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds—He accounted for 52 of the Cavaliers 93 points with a score or an assist. He scored seven of Cleveland’s last 10 points and he had a key shot block against former Philadelphia 76er Andre Iguodala with under two minutes left.

In the Finals, James supplied 52 percent of the Cavs offense with a bucket or an assist.  In last year’s Finals, James was responsible for 62 percent of his team’s points.

When the series ended, James led in every statistical category, points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocked shots.  No one in the history of the NBA Finals, not Jordan, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West or Larry Bird has ever done that.

That’s a clutch performance for the ages from one of the greatest all-around athletes to play the game.

Now I’m not going to say that James is greater than Jordan or vice-versa.

But I will say that you should appreciate the greatness that’s in front of you because living in the past gets old after awhile.

How Ya Like Me Now: Former Sixer Andre Iguodala Basks in the Glow of a Championship

18 Jun
NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala takes questions from reporters after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games for the NBA crown.  Photo by New York Daily News.com

NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala takes questions from reporters after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games for the NBA crown. Photo by New York Daily News.com

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—When Andre Iguodala was traded to the Denver Nuggets in 2012 as a part of the four-way deal that landed the 76ers Andrew Bynum, most Philly fans said good riddance.

After all, the Sixers were getting a legitimate impact center in Bynum and Iguodala never really panned out as a No. 1 scoring option. At the time, the 76ers and their fans were so giddy about Bynum that they threw him a big party at the National Constitution Center. It was like Andre-who?

It’s funny how things turned out.

Bynum, a man with bum knees, never played a minute in a Sixers uniform. Iguodala, who got traded to the Golden State Warriors a year later, ended up having the last laugh.

On Tuesday night, there was Iguodala holding two trophies—the NBA Finals trophy and the Bill Russell Finals MVP Trophy. The guy the Sixers sent packing a few years ago is now on top of the world with Golden State while his old team has struggled to put out reputable starting five on a nightly basis.

Oddly enough, Iguodala said it was his time with the Sixers prepared for him for his championship run with the Warriors.

“I think all those years and going through everything I went through, the good and the bad, can prepare you for this moment.  Being in Philly I had some teams‑‑ we were a very close group.  I think we maximized our talent,” Iguodala said. “I’ve been on teams that we’ve been close knit and it helped us just getting to the playoffs because we weren’t the most talented, but we got there because we played so hard together.”

What makes this Finals MVP award special for Iguodala is that he didn’t have to be the top scorer for his team. That’s Stephen Curry’s job to put the offense on his shoulder and he certainly did that, especially in the fourth quarter of the Warriors last three wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the title.

Iguodala had the most important job in this series—slow down Cleveland’s LeBron James. He held James to 38. 1 percent shooting after Game 3. No, Iguodala didn’t complete shutdown James, who was having an MVP series, but he kept him from having one for the ages.

“LeBron doesn’t have any weaknesses, or he doesn’t have a glaring weakness,” Iguodala said. “ So you’ve got to pick up on the smaller things to try to make him uncomfortable.  Like knowing which side he likes to shoot threes off the dribble, which side he likes to drive.  One side he’ll drive left more often, and the other side he’ll drive right more often.”

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he admired Iguodala’s willingness to contribute as the sixth man was important to Golden State’s run to the NBA title.

“You could make an argument that it could have gone to Steph, it could have gone to LeBron,” Kerr said.  “But for us, it’s really fitting that the award went to Andre because he sacrificed his starting role from the first game of the season.

“He had never come off the bench once in his entire career, and he sacrificed that job to make Harrison better, to make our bench better, and that set the tone for our whole season.  An All‑Star, an Olympian saying, okay, I’ll come off the bench.”

Iquodala also came up with some big three-point buckets in both Game 5 and Game 6 of the series that halted the Cavaliers attempt to comeback in the game. In the series finale, Iguodala scored 25 points, pulled down five rebounds and added five assists. For the series, Iguodala averaged 16 points per game.

Not bad for a guy who was supposedly a 100-1 shot to win the Finals MVP over 2015 league MVP Curry and a four-time MVP in James.

Iguodala is proof that you don’t have to be the leading scorer or the star to be valuable to your team. Playing your role-whether you are a defensive stopper, scorer off the bench, or a rebounder like Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman—is just as important to your team’s success as being the superstar.

Curry, whose scoring led the Warriors to the NBA’s best record, said he definitely appreciated Iguodala’s efforts.

“Obviously he deserved that Finals MVP for the way he impacted the game on both ends and was always ready,” Curry said. “Andre stepped up to that challenge every single night and a huge reason why we’re celebrating right now.”

 

After Last Second Loss to Clippers, the Sixers are Bloodied, but Unbowed

11 Feb

With Andre Iguodala all over him, Clippers guard Chris Paul hits the game-winning basket to beat Philly.

By Chris Murray

For the Sunday Sun and Chris Murray Report

Sixers head coach Doug Collins prides himself on being a teacher and relishes opportunities during the season to give his young players an opportunity to learn new plays as well as refreshing their minds on the fundamentals of the game.

In what has been the most difficult stretch of the season for his young team, Collins has had little time for chalk talk or rest  because the best classroom for his team during the last two weeks has been going up against the likes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard Tony Parker.

“The most fun part of coaching  is teaching,” Collins said. “It’s being on the floor with our guys and walking through stuff and having practices, putting in a new play.  We haven’t been able to do that.”

And maybe that lack of practice time caught up to the Sixers in a heartbreaking 78-77 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in front of a sell-out crowd of 20, 539  fans at the Wells Fargo Center Friday. It was the first time the Sixers have lost back-to-back games this season.

Clippers point-guard Chris Paul, with Sixers forward Andre Iguodala in his face, sank a 16-foot fade away jumper at the foul line with 3.2 seconds left put the Clippers ahead. Paul scored a game-high 24 points while Blake Griffin added 16 points.

“(Paul) does a good job of using his body,” Iguodala said of defending the game-winning shot. “He just got that extra inch, I almost blocked it actually. He did a good job of getting the shot off.”

On the Sixers final possession, Lou Williams couldn’t get off a final shot as he was surrounded by Paul and forward Kenyon Martin.  Collins put the team’s lack of execution on the game’s final play on his shoulders.

“Whatever it was, it did not work,” Collins said during his postgame press conference. “It was terrible on my part. Put that down—terrible on my part.”

Added Williams: “I caught it and they trapped right away and when you got three seconds, you really can’t get a look at the rim.”

With tonight’s loss to the Clippers, the 76ers have won four of the seven games against teams with winning records and have built a solid 18-9 record and are currently the No. 3 seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. They have beaten the Los Angeles Lakers, the Orlando Magic, the Atlanta Hawks and the Chicago Bulls.

“We haven’t gotten killed just yet,” said Williams, who scored 11 points in the loss to the Clippers. “All of these games are learning experiences. One comes down to us trying to make a shot at the end of the game. One comes down to other teams making shots. Nobody’s manhandled us in our building and so obviously we learned something from that.”

In their losses to Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, the Sixers were gnawing at the heels of those teams for about three quarters. Both teams needed a big scoring spurt to finish the Sixers off. In the loss to the Clippers, it took an incredible shot by Paul to beat the Sixers. Collins said his team played well during this stretch, especially with center Spencer Hawes out with a left Achilles injury.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” Collins said. “If you had told me that we would be sitting here at 18-9 with the way we’ve handled ourselves at home and the teams that we’ve had to play, the fact that like a lot of other teams we’ve been short-handed, especially along the front line.

“I’ve said before I thought that Tony Battie and Lavoy Allen came in and rescued us and saved us a couple of home games.”

Iguodala said he thinks the Sixers have become a mentally tougher team over the last seven games.

“It usually runs with you, it carries over for a week or two,” said Igoudala. “Hopefully, it continues with the high level we’ve been playing because we’ve been getting wins against these good teams. I think that part of the stretch is over. Now it’s time for us to continuing playing high level basketball and get wins.”

The Sixers will embark on a three-game road trip, starting Saturday, that will take them to Cleveland, Charlotte (Monday, Feb. 13) and Orlando (Wednesday, Feb. 15). They will be back at the Wells Fargo Center for a game against the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

“It was a good week for us, all is not lost, but it would be good to get away and have a change of scenery,” Williams said. “We’ve always played well on the road and so we’ll see what happens.”

Coming of Age: Young Sixers Are Finding Themselves in Tough Stretch of Games

10 Feb

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http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/20120210_The_Sixers__Andre_Igudola_is_going_to_the_NBA_All-Star_Game_as_a_reserve.html?nlid=4162874

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/recap?gameId=320209002

 

 

By Chris Murray

Could Lou Williams be the go-to guy for Sixers?

For the Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report

After playing in six of seven games against some of the league best teams, the 76ers, the No. 3  Seed in the Eastern Conference, have won four out of six of those games coming into Friday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Wells Fargo Center.

It’s safe to say that the Atlantic Division-leading Sixers are one of the better teams in the league, but they still have plenty of room to grow as losses to teams like the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs would indicate. Sixers guard Lou Williams said his team is not only good enough to hang with some of the league’s elite teams, but they are becoming good enough to beat them.

“We’re just fighting every night,” Williams said. “I think we’re right on the brink of being the team we want to be. At this point, I don’t think we’re using teams as measuring sticks because we feel like we can beat a lot of these teams. Now, it’s just going out and winning games.”

The Sixers, with their unselfish play on offense and a tenacious defense, have managed to win these games despite injuries to their big men like seven-foot-one-inch center Spencer Hawes who has been battling sore left Achilles and a bad back. Power forward Elton Brand has also missed some time with a sore thumb.

Sixers head coach Doug Collins said he has been impressed with the play of his younger backup players like rookies Lavoy Allen, Nikola Vucevic and veteran Tony Battie. During this current run of games these players have contributed through scoring and doing things like playing defense and pulling down rebounds.

“I think the fact that we have some younger guys helps us,” Collins said. “If you look at it around the league, a lot of the guy who’ve played a lot of years that are getting nicked up. What we’ve been able to do is find ways to to win when you have key guys out and you have to be able to do that. The only way to do that is to have depth and then have the guys you bring in do a good job for you.

“I thought that Vucevic and Tony Battie really help save us from disastrous results with all those home games.”

Collins said keeping his team fresh and making sure that they get adequate rest during their off days has helped the Sixers stay sharp during this difficult stretch of games.

“The thing that I’m happy about is the maturity of our team,”Collins said. “I think they’ve responded well to the time off and to utilize the rest time to be sharp in games.”

Another sure sign that the Sixers are evolving into of those good teams in the NBA is their ability to bounce back from tough losses and to stay focused after big wins. After a tough loss to the Miami Heat, the Sixers went on the road and came away with a convincing win over the Atlanta Hawks and followed that win up by beating Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in what was a close contest throughout the game.

“I think we’ve realized that we can beat anybody in the league, we’ve shown that,” said Andre Iguodala. “After a win, we’ve got to look forward to the next game. The games keep coming behind each other, so you got to prepared if you win or lose one you’re diving right back into the next game.”

Even in the midst of their current run of games, there is still talk about among fans and local media pundits about the Sixers needing that “go-to guy” in the fourth quarter. Could Lou Williams be that guy for the Sixers?

In Monday’s win over the Lakers, Williams came off the bench and scored 14 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, 13 came in the last 3:48 of the period including the go-ahead three with 2:06 left that put the Sixers up for good.

“The one thing about Lou is that he’ll be 1-for-15 and he’ll shoot the 16th,” Collins said. “You’ve got to have that kind of attitude if you’re going to be that guy coming off the bench on a nightly basis.”

 

Bulls Players Say Sixers Are For Real

2 Feb

Thaddeus Young scored 19 points in Sixers win over the Chicago Bulls. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report

If you’re still thinking that the Philadelphia 76ers 16-6 record is all just smoke and mirrors against the NBA’s worst teams, the Chicago Bulls, the team that has the best record in the Eastern Conference, would beg to differ with local cynics and skeptics.

“They’re well balanced, There’s not one aspect of the game that they don’t have well covered,” said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. “They can break you down off the dribble. They’re great in transition, they’re great defensively. They’re right there with everyone else. It’s going to be who can continue to build as the season goes along. … Philly is certainly very, very impressive.”

In front of 18,325 screaming fans at the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday, the Sixers easily came away with a 98-82 victory over a Bulls squad that was without Rick Hamilton and Luol Deng.

But if you’re still not convinced the 76ers are really that good of the players that weren’t on the floor for the Bulls, point guard Derrick Rose said the Sixers are getting their fair share of respect around the league.

“They’re a good team,” said Rose, who scored 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting. “I think everyone knows that when you play them, you know they’re definitely going to play hard. It’s no surprise that the way that they’re playing, the way that they’re winning, that people around the NBA know that they have great athletic players that play good together.”

In an NBA that is driven by star power, the Sixers are proving that anybody can be a star on a given night whether it’s rookie and former Temple star Lavoy Allen, who had 15 points and six rebounds off the bench or Andre Iguodala electrifying the crowd with his emphatic dunks. He scored 19 points with nine rebounds.

“I think that everyone gets caught up in the superstar and stats and all that,” said former Sixers and current Bulls small forward Kyle Korver. “There’s a lot to be said about a coach who has control of the team and really good chemistry. That’s something that’s not talked about enough.”

Iguodala said the Sixers are just as good and individually talented as any other team. The thing that’s made a difference is the team’s unselfishness.

“We have guys who can go on other teams and put up big numbers,” Iguodala said. “But I think it’s good that we’re sacrificing for one another. We understand what helps us win. The formula is working. We just have to continue to feed off each and defensively continue to be on point.”

The Sixers still have a game Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center against LeBron James and the Miami Heat, who gave the head coach Doug Collins team a pretty good thrashing down in South Florida.

Collins said that his team has grown up to the point to where they collectively believe they are as good as anyone that lines up with them on the floor. He said his team is taking this murderous stretch of games that includes the Hawks on the road, the L.A. Lakers, Clippers, and San Antonio Spurs as a challenge, especially from the team’s critics who say they haven’t beaten some of the better teams in the league.

“I don’t think you guys know how grueling it gets in this league when you have to play five games in seven nights and the demands that come with that,” Collins said. “You have to defend and play hard on every possession because our guys do that every night. Maybe we’ll find ways to beat teams that are better than us and that’s what you have to do in this league.”

Beating teams like the Heat and the Lakers maybe more than a monumental task and with the way the Sixers are playing right now, they’re not going to be under the radar for too long.

  1. “They’re for real,” said Bulls forward Joakim Noah. “They’re playing with a lot of passion and they’re playing hungry.”

One Down and Six to Go For the Sixers in a Tough Set of Games Against NBA’s Elite

31 Jan

http://www.nba.com/sixers/video/2012/01/30/120130collinspostmov-1983327

Andre Iguodala led the Sixers with 14 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in their win over the Orlando Magic.

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.