THIS IS NEITHER an affirmation nor a condemnation. This isn't about whether you like or dislike Eddie Jordan as the coach of the 76ers, or whether you wish somebody else was coaching the team. Whatever you think, there is truth in the Bill Parcells/Bobby Knight philosophy that, whatever arguments you want to make, you are what your record says you are.
The Sixers are 15-30. That's it. That's who they are. Were it not for the almost inexplicable New Jersey Nets, they'd be right at the bottom of the NBA. If pingpong balls are your passion, it wouldn't be a lock, but they'd be that much closer to a lottery shot at Kentucky's John Wall.
So, for what does Jordan get credit? And for what does he get blame? There are no absolute right and wrong answers. This isn't true or false, or multiple choice, or one of these things is not like the others. It's just a dialogue. If it touches some nerves, well, that's what dialogues are for.
Does Jordan get credit for bringing Elton Brand off the bench long enough to allow Brand to regain his confidence and rhythm banging with opponents' second-unit big men? Watching Brand over, say, the last 2 to 3 weeks, he seems able to move significantly better and make sharper moves than at the start of the season. He's not the career 20/10 guy he once was, but he's been pretty good.
Or does Jordan get blame for not finding ways sooner to put Brand - the $79.8 million free agent - in positions to succeed, even with limited resources? In a way, Jordan is lucky that Brand has been a gentleman throughout the process; this could have turned ugly, but Brand didn't allow it.
Does Jordan get credit for finally stopping his attempt to play all 12 players every night, helping create - albeit belatedly - at least a little personnel stability? He praised Royal Ivey's defense and Jason Smith's energy skills, and has basically kept them inactive recently. He professes to love Rodney Carney's athleticism and ability to hit a three, but sometimes uses him, sometimes doesn't. He has to like Jason Kapono's three-point skill even more, but Kapono has been largely invisible. Primo Brezec? I'm told he has a nice, soft, midrange jump shot. I haven't seen it. On the other hand, the only time I've seen him at all has been in the locker room or on the bench in street clothes.
Or does Jordan get the blame for not figuring out sooner which combinations work. The two-guard front of Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala at the beginning of the season didn't seem to work. As John Chaney likes to say, it's hard to be a point guard and distributor when you're looking at the rim first. Jrue Holiday might ultimately be the answer, but sometimes his potential shines through and other times his youth (the only player in the league born in the 1990s) and inexperience get in the way.
Does Jordan get the credit for using Allen Iverson as a combination point-shooting guard, or did he simply have no choice? Of the guards, Iverson has been the most successful at moving the ball, finding open men and - most importantly - keeping Samuel Dalembert happy and effective. As Williams says, Iverson talks "Sammy," whatever language that might be. And Dalembert admits that, with the confidence Iverson has shown in him, he doesn't want to disappoint him.
Or does Jordan get the blame for not force-feeding Holiday? And give Holiday this: He happily digs in at the defensive end, too.
Does Jordan get the credit for the solid way the team dealt with Portland and Dallas? The Sixers played hard, and with a resiliency we hadn't seen since last season.
Or does he get the blame for creating an atmosphere in which an opportunity to win three in a row becomes a big deal?
Does Jordan get the credit for finding ways to allow Iguodala to fill up the box-score columns, which had been a career strength?
Or does Jordan get the blame for not being able to open greater vistas to Iguodala, who came off last season seemingly on the cusp of becoming an All-Star? It's curious that Iguodala showed enough to become part of the young group that trained with the Olympic team, but hasn't been able to truly take over leadership of the Sixers.
Does Jordan get the credit for Thaddeus Young's sometimes effectiveness off the bench?
Or does he get the blame for not finding a comfort zone for Young, also a National Team camp invitee, much sooner? Or, worse, is he trapped because Young and Iguodala are so similar?
Does Jordan get the credit for recognizing Marreese Speights' rare offensive ability? Or does he get the blame because Speights has a way of neglecting his defense?
Finally, does Jordan get the credit for holding back announcement of lineup changes until just before tip-off? Or does he get the blame for not being totally forthcoming with reporters, even 45 minutes before tip-off? He clearly subscribes to the philosophy of giving neither aid nor comfort to the enemy. It used to be that a coach could take the two or three primary reporters aside and - putting an embargo on the information until tip-off - prevent what would appear to be shoddy or incomplete information. Now, there are so many nameless, faceless media folk huddled around coaches and players, you never know what might show up with amazing immediacy on some social network.
But the bottom line is, the Sixers were coming off a 41-victory season and were - before a monumental collapse - five games over .500. Now, they're 15-30. Remember, you are what your record says you are. Does Eddie Jordan, the successor to Maurice Cheeks and Tony DiLeo, the coach who says he never gets frustrated but accepts each game and practice as a challenge, get the credit? Or the blame? *
Send e-mail to email@example.com