Amico Report: Sixers may not last, but tons of fun so far
It’s much too early to get overly excited (or depressed) about anything going on in the NBA. But gosh, the Philadelphia 76ers sure are putting on a show.
You probably know the story. The Sixers are 3-0. They went up 19-0 on the mighty Miami Heat in the opener, then escaped with a win. They whipped the Wizards in Washington. They bounced the Chicago Bulls, another suspected Eastern Conference contender.
So what’s the big deal?
Well, the Sixers are expected to stink. Like, really really stink. They still might. But making sure they do may not be so easy.
This is a proud franchise we’re talking about, too. This is a franchise that once featured Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson.
The downfall really started last season. They traded for All-Star center Andrew Bynum and didn’t even get a practice out of him. Two knee operations later, he left (for the Cleveland Cavaliers) in free agency.
Then summer arrived. Coach Doug Collins split. It was said to be amicable, but reality tells us it was something less than that. According to league sources, Collins may have been a reason Bynum never wanted to be a Sixer.
After that, the Sixers traded the lone All-Star who did play, point guard Jrue Holiday, for the No. 6 overall pick in the draft. That was ex-Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, selected by the New Orleans Pelicans.
Noel missed the latter part of his freshman season at Kentucky after tearing his ACL. The Sixers, centers and bad knees are apparently becoming three best friends.
After all this, the Sixers took an eternity to find a coach to lead their ragtag bunch. Some suspected it was because no one wanted to be set up to fail.
Eventually, they settled on no-name San Antonio Spurs assistant Brett Brown.
Oh, the Sixers also had their own draft pick, but that was toward the end of the lottery at No. 11. With it, they chose Michael Carter-Williams, a point guard out of Syracuse. He was an afterthought — and anyone who may have hinted he could replace Holiday was likely to get laughed out of basketball.
In the event things weren’t dismal enough, prior to the season, Brown suggested Noel could miss the year.
In the world of the NBA, this is what’s known as a “tank job.” It’s known as losing on purpose to get a higher pick in the next draft, expected to be loaded. It’s known as an approach that’s considerably less-than-admirable.
But one look at the Sixers’ roster told you they’re well on their way. Spencer Hawes is their center. Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner — considered a shell of what the Sixers hoped for when they drafted him second overall in 2010 — are the forwards. Carter-Williams is one guard. Someone named James Anderson is the other.
Basically, the Sixers’ starting five looks like a unit that may or may not win the pro league in Denmark.
In the first game against the Heat, Carter-Williams put up an amazing stat line. He finished with 22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and a whopping nine steals. Yes, that took place in his first game against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat.
Carter-Williams (14 points, five assists) then held his own against John Wall and the Wizards, and outplayed Bulls star Derrick Rose to the tune of 26 points and 10 assists.
Others have come up big, too. Turner scored 26 and Hawes 24 vs. the Heat. Young erupted for 29 vs. the Wizards. Hawes hit a three-pointer to win the game vs. the Bulls.
Meanwhile, Anderson is taking less than six shots a game, hitting a miserable 24 percent from the floor and averaging 4.0 points. But he’s playing a lot (33 minutes per game) and contributing in other areas.
Basically, this is no way to land Andrew Wiggins, the freshman forward from the University of Kansas who is expected to become the top pick in the 2014 draft and change the course of your franchise forever.
Basically, this is no way for a team that started the season with 9,999-to-1 odds of winning the NBA title to behave.
Surprisingly, the Sixers don’t give a hoot about any of that.
Credit goes not tp just the players, but Brown. Already he is making his mark as a top-notch instructor, and the rare breed of coach who can draw up X’s and O’s at either end of the floor.
Will any of this last? Well, probably not.
But not a soul picked the Sixers to win three straight at any time this season. In that sense, they’ve already accomplished more than anyone expected. And when it comes to great stories, the Philadelphia 76ers have become this season’s first.
• The Indiana Pacers came within one game of reaching the Finals last season, and it appears that run was no fluke. With the same starting five, the same team MVP (Paul George) and the same coach (Frank Vogel), it’s no shocker the Pacers remain a threat. They have perhaps the league’s most imposing frontline with the likes of center Roy Hibbert, power forward David West and big man Luis Scola off the bench.
• The Pacers still have to decide what to do about small forward Danny Granger. He was their best player before missing all of last year with a knee issue. He is currently out with a calf injury, but is expected back within the next few weeks. How he fits will be a factor in how far the Pacers go.
• Out West, the Houston Rockets are looking like a problem. A problem for opponents, that is. They were pretty good last season as the league’s youngest team, then added center Dwight Howard in free agency. With Howard, guard James Harden, forward Chandler Parsons and point guard Jeremy Lin, the Rockets have a lot of weapons. Unlike a lot of teams, they can play effectively with a big or small lineup.
• Speaking of young teams, the Sixers are the youngest in the league this season. The Cavs are second.
Off the Bench
• The New York Daily News speculated that Cavs star guard Kyrie Irving dreams of someday playing for the Knicks. This is a surprise because New York media types never speculate that everyone wants to live in New York.
• Please note that the above is 100 percent sarcasm.
• Bynum is tied with Wade for number of games held out as a precautionary reason to protect aching knees. The difference, of course, is that everyone expected that to be the case with Bynum.
• The Grizzlies’ front office is forcing its new coach, Dave Joerger, to direct some of the offense based on statistical analysis. Joerger is a smart man to comply with his bosses’ wishes. Lionel Hollins refused and look where he is today (not coaching in the NBA). Joerger is also respected among his peers. But it seems as if the Grizzlies are doing everything they can to ruin a good thing.
The Amico Report NBA notes are posted each Monday on FOX Sports Ohio. Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO.