Because this is the season of giving, here are a few fun gifts we would like to place under the tree for some members of the 76ers organization.
For general manager Ed Stefanski, we leave a 2-year stay of execution. Many fans want his head on a platter, for the Elton Brand signing and the hiring of coach Eddie Jordan. This is also the forgiving season, don't forget, so let's let Stefanski's plan play out for a little while before demanding his ouster. Jordan gets the same type of present, though for a shorter length of time.
Forward Thaddeus Young will be pleased to find the movie "Rocky" all nicely wrapped for him, and, after watching it 100 times, he will discover some of the toughness he needs to become an upper-echelon player.
Big-men subs Jason Smith and Primoz Brezec will be glad to find hockey helmets, complete with full frontal cages to cover their faces. See, forward Elton Brand isn't a very happy camper these days, and Brezec and Smith seem to be on the receiving end sometimes when Brand lets out his frustrations in practice.
Speaking of Brand, he gets a big dose of patience. Much of his frustration is due to the fact that Jordan hasn't really found a consistent way of using Brand. Part of it, though, could be that because of injuries the past two seasons, Brand's game isn't where he wants or expected it to be. The man is the consummate professional and one of the hardest workers on the team. This gift will help him through these hard times.
Guard Willie Green is right there with Brand as far as professionalism, and also is a complete gentleman. His gift is a perseverance medal, to be worn proudly during all games, whether he starts, comes off the bench, plays shooting guard or point guard, or is needed as the defensive stopper. He has been asked to do all at some point during his 7 years here, and this year he's being asked to do them all.
Rookie guard Jrue Holiday gets nothing. No, he is not on the naughty list, it's just that he really appears to have everything. The 19-year-old can defend against any type of point guard in the league. He is strong, quick and fast. Offensively, the skills are all there, though they need time to come to fruition. Be patient, fans, this was a very good pick at No. 17 in this year's draft.
Forward Andre Iguodala will be glad to open, and share with others, a copy of Aretha Franklin's "R-E-S-P-E-C-T." Iguodala has spoken many times of his desire to be considered one of the NBA's best all-around players. If he played for a more successful team, the argument would be more heated. He does put up numbers every night, as evidenced by his 19.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists. It's just that wins have a tendency to make really good players get that respect that puts them in the top tier.
For center Sam Dalembert, we are leaving a big, red, heart-shaped pillow. Sam hasn't gotten much love while he's been here, and he is fully aware of that. If he keeps rebounding and blocking shots, and stops playing scratch-your-head basketball, the fans will shower him with more than just pillows.
Guard Lou Williams will be so happy to open his time machine, where he will immediately turn the date back to Nov. 24. That was the day Williams broke his jaw in Washington, which forced him to miss nearly a month of the season. Just before that game, Williams was playing the best ball of his career. In the five games before getting leveled in the jaw by Antawn Jamison's shoulder, Williams averaged 23.6 points while shooting 55.1 percent from the floor, including 13 of 28 three-pointers (46.4 percent). He also dished 5.2 assists during that span.
Which brings us to Allen Iverson, who was brought here when it was thought Williams would be out far longer than the time he missed. Under the tree for No. 3 are two presents. One is a daily planner, good through 2013. In it are suggestions of how the gallant Iverson can take better care of his body, and how to plan for life after retirement. As hard as that is to swallow for the 34-year-old, it is inevitable. The other is a thank-you card, signed by thousands of Sixers fans who appreciate the effort he put forth on game days for them to enjoy.
For Marreese Speights, there is a new Monopoly game. Seems the one Speights had was defective; in it, the card read "Do Not Pass" instead of "Do Not Pass Go." The young forward is a phenomenal offensive talent, he just needs to realize more often that when he doesn't have a good shot, someone else might.
Jason Kapono, the team's only consistent sharpshooter, gets magic dust to sprinkle on teammates to make them better shooters, thus opening things up for him. It is nearly impossible to excel at that expertise when you are the only one who can do it.
Left for both Royal Ivey and Rodney Carney are a season supply of energy bars. Both have been left on the bench for long amounts of time this season, and both have been called on, at times, to give the team some major minutes. That's a hard spot to be in. Use the bars as needed.
To Sixers fans, we leave a suggestion box. Never at a loss to voice opinions, they could use this box to let Stefanski and company know how they would turn this organization around. Obviously, the plans have to be thought out and doable. E-mail them to the above address. We'll share some of the better ones next week.
Happy Holidays to all. *