PORTLAND - With a 7-22 record going into last night's game with the Trail Blazers, there aren't many areas in which the 76ers have looked good this season.
They've lost 20 of their last 24, though for the most part they've been in games, having lost 16 by eight or fewer points. Reason for optimism, or is the frustration even higher being as they can't seem to win close games?
"We have a lot of talent, we have a lot of guys who can play," forward Andre Iguodala said. "We're good on paper. Any given night we can play really good ball. This year, we've been playing some really bad basketball. It's kind of like the tale of two teams."
But added up, it equates to not a very good team. During training camp, first-year coach Eddie Jordan often spoke of it taking a long time for a new group to pick up his Princeton-style offense. He stated that it might take all season. So far, there hasn't seemed to be much to the offense. The Sixers are 22nd in the league in scoring at 96.9 points a game and are shooting just 44.6 percent.
The defense, which Jordan commended continuously early in the season, is 21st in the league, giving up 101.8 a game and 47.6 shooting. Only four teams had given up a higher shooting percentage going into last night's game.
So is Jordan still implementing all the nuances that he said might take so long for his players to grasp, or is it just planning game-by-game against the next opponent?
"We're all accountable, we're all responsible. That's how I look at it," Jordan said. "We have to work harder and that's what we're trying to do. We have basic principles, I think every team does, I think as a whole the NBA has a basic way of playing no matter what type of style different teams have. You want to work on your necessary pick-and-roll defense, your overall defense and then you try to execute. It's game by game as far as game-plan and taking away particular strengths."
Iguodala says practices have been mixed - trying mostly to focus on the next opponent, but still trying to learn the coach's new schemes.
"It's still taking a while for us to pick it up," he said of Jordan's system. "You have different basketball IQ for some guys. Some guys pick up things faster than others. Now that Allen [Iverson] has come back, we've had to go over it again, which may be helpful to some of the other guys because we can get away from certain sets and then hop back into it any given time during the year, just kind of going over the basic stuff might help us a little bit."
Guard Willie Green was scratched with a sprained left ankle he suffered during the loss in Utah on Saturday. Iverson, who started last night, did participate and went to the far end of the court with Jordan and assistant coach Mike O'Koren for some extra work. After about 15 minutes of running around picks and launching jumpers, and doing some step-slide work in the lane, Iverson appeared gassed as he talked with reporters on the sideline at the Rose Garden.
"Just trying to get some legs up under me and trying to get my wind the way I want it to be," said Iverson, who has missed the past four games with an arthritic left knee. "It's going to take a while. I'm not going to get frustrated with myself. I'm just going to be patient and understand that I haven't had a lot of active work and it's gonna take a little time."
Time might be running short on Iverson. The Sixers signed the 34-year-old to a nonguaranteed contract and can release him any time before Jan. 10. After that date, the contract is guaranteed. In the five games he has played, Iverson has averaged 34.4 minutes, 15.6 points and 4.2 assists. He equates the injury to him jumping back onto the court so quickly after not playing in nearly a month. That's troubling being as now he's in almost the same position not having played a game since Dec. 16. And the knee is still troubling him.
"It feels better but it's not as strong as I'd like it to be," he said. Then added. "I think I'll be able to go out there and contribute."
"It's cool here and we're winning, that's all that matters." Those words were uttered by guard Andre Miller, who signed with Portland in the offseason after the Sixers decided not to bring him back. Many think he could have been saying those same words had he stayed with the Sixers. But the decision was made, and now Miller is starting at the point for Blazers while his former team is struggling.
"I haven't really paid attention [to the Sixers] too much," Miller said. "I know they're struggling a little bit and I knew they would coming in with a new coach and a new system."
Miller did have praise for Lou Williams, who is basically the reason the team didn't bring him back.
"He has talent," said Miller, now in his 11th season. "This is the NBA and his game is built for the NBA - a scoring guard that can go out there and make things happen. When I got there, he really didn't play that much, but we had a chance to go against each other in practice and feed off each other, learn off each other. I think he picked up on some of the things that I'd done and took off and ran with it. He can score with the best of guards if you just let him get out there and play. Right now it's just an adjustment of when to score, when to pass in the type of offense that they're running."