SACRAMENTO - Wanna try to figure out the current state of the 76ers?
Obviously, with eight wins in 30 games, things are not very good. There have been lengthy offensive and defensive lapses, and winnable games against top-notch teams. There've also been head-scratching losses, questionable coaching decisions and, at times, totally uninspired play.
But there have also been some highlights, including Monday's 104-93 win over the Trail Blazers in Portland. In that game, the Sixers showed many of the signs that were the glimmers of hope entering the season.
Elton Brand was an absolute beast coming off the bench, which no one expected him doing at the beginning of the season. The 6-9 forward bulled his way to 25 points and nine rebounds, often times throwing Blazers' bigs around as if they were mere nuisances.
Coach Eddie Jordan has challenged his team to play more physically, and Brand has been the leader of a small group who has heeded his coach's wishes.
Brand was quick to point out how much the addition of Allen Iverson has benefited him and other inside players, noting that defenses pay so much attention to Iverson, it opens things up for other players.
Iverson, in his first game back from a four-game absence with a bum left knee, was everything this team needs him to be - an offensive threat but one that is under control.
It is a different Iverson, obviously, from the player he was when he played here before. Maybe it's because of the ailments that have limited his play, or maybe he's just become a more mature player, knowing that his role on this team isn't to be the 25-point-a-game player who has to have the ball in his hands most of the time.
"That's what I hope to do for these guys, to just give them that added confidence and believe that we can win basketball games regardless of the situation," he said after the Portland win. "I've been through a lot of wars in my career, and I've won a lot of games. Just to share the experiences that I've had with them and just try to stay as positive as I can with these guys and keep them positive.
"With a young team, a lot of times when things are not going right, people start pointing fingers and turn a positive thing into some negative thing not going right. I'm just going to be that voice to make sure that it doesn't go downhill."
Also Monday, Jordan did a nice job of getting Sam Dalembert more minutes, which is a necessity if the Sixers are to defend well late in games. If fans think nothing else of Dalembert's game, it can't go unnoticed what he does to clog up a lane with his shot-blocking ability and his rebounding. Those are two specialties that he does better than anyone else on the team. The problem was, and still might be, that Jordan has struggled whether to be an offensive team with Marreese Speights in for Dalembert, or stick with Dalembert. Monday, Dalembert went for 14 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in a little more than 26 minutes. Speights' minutes were limited to 17, but he did get 14 points.
The game also featured another plentiful line from Andre Iguodala, who posted 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. He also didn't have a turnover in his 43 minutes.
All good signs. Whether it carries over to tonight's game against the Kings, who knows? With this team, it's been hard to figure.
The last big win, actually the last win, the Sixers had was in Boston two Fridays ago. They followed that with disappointing losses to the Los Angeles Clippers and Washington Wizards. The Sixers still have three games left on this road trip out West, with the Clippers (tomorrow) and Denver Nuggets (Sunday).
Guard Willie Green didn't practice again yesterday, still nursing a left ankle sprain he suffered in Saturday's loss at Utah. He is listed as day-to-day. Everyone else was healthy enough to practice . . . Green met with former Sixer Andre Miller outside of the Portland locker room before Monday's game. They seemed to have a very friendly conversation.