Last Thursday, newly appointed Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins, met with his new team’s current best player Andre Iguodala in Los Angeles for a 2 hour pow-wow to discuss the athletic SF/SG’s future under what will be the player’s 5th head coach in 6 seasons. Collins was in town as part of the TNT announcing crew for the now finished Western Conference Finals and decided that a face-to-face meeting was needed with the oft times maligned and underachieving superstar. How will Iguodala, who seemed none to pleased when the team resigned former franchise player Allen Iverson earlier in the season, react when the team more than likely drafts NCAA POY Evan Turner, to be their next franchise player in the upcoming NBA Draft? Will he embrace the much more refined scorer and game-changer in Turner for a chance to win in Philly or again bristle at the thought of someone else coming into the organization that drafted him to be the eventual replacement for the original “AI” and renewing vigor in the fickle fanbase of Philadelphia?
As the man know as “AI2,” Iguodala has never lived up to the immense hype as NBA lottery pick and Iverson replacement in the “City of Brotherly Love.” Hands down, he is one of the most athletic players in the entire league, but his athleticism has not always translated into being a leader or franchise player on the basketball court. At times, he defers to much and even though he is not a consistently good shooter, takes upwards of 3 shots from behind the arc in every game. Surely Collins will agree that “Iggy” is much better served as a slasher, by using his athletic ability to drive through defenders and earning a trip to the charity stripe, and possible and-one finishes. Is it possible that because he has played out of position as a 2-guard instead of his natural SF position for much of his career, in a multitude of offensive systems, and under a plethora of horrific coaches that Andre hasn’t been given the proper guidance from a coaching staff to reach his full potential? On the other hand, supposed franchise players are expected to average 20 ppg and help his teammates get better. Iguodala hasn’t done either. Alongside a player like Turner, who has superstar potential, could “Iggy” flourish with all of the pressure to succeed in Philadelphia taken off of his shoulders similar to the Scottie Pippen to Michael Jordan mold?
He has been touted as one of the league’s best man-on-man defenders but has yet to earn a spot on the league’s All Defensive Teams. Lakers coach Phil Jackson has even stated on numerous occasions that he thinks Iguodala could be the best defender in the NBA for his stifling defensive play on the all-everything Kobe Bryant.
In steps Collins, who has a track record as a guru to backcourt players’ development. He has been instrumental to the careers of Jordan, Pippen, Grant Hill, Allan Houston, Gilbert Arenas, and Rip Hamilton. Could Collins, as a once great guard himself be the perfect mentor to Andre and teach him the finer points of the game? Collins already vowed that Iguodala will be making more trips to the free throw line than the 3 point arc next season.
Doug Collins also has his hands full with another underachieving player making bucu bucks in Elton Brand, who as recently as 2 seasons ago was regarded as a Top 5 power forward who was a given for 20 points and 10 boards per night. Now because of injuries or old age, Brand has struggled to barely reach half of those numbers(12 ppg, 6 rebs) on a nightly basis as a bench player for the deposed former coach Eddie Jordan. What has happened to Elton? The former ’00 NBA ROY and 2 time NBA All Star was possibly on the fast track to the Hall of Fame since he was one of only a handful of players to still average those 20-10 numbers for their career. Then came a debilitating Achillies injury and shoulder dislocation which has limited his production in his 2 seasons in Philadelphia and has started to elicit the boo-birds from among the few faithful fans who still attend Sixer home games.
Collins has gone on the record in his opening press conference as the newest head man as saying that he thinks Elton still has a lot left in the tank and has planned a meeting with his former college coach at Duke, Mike Kryzewski, along with Elton, to devise a plan to help rejuvenate the former #1 overall pick in the ‘99 Draft, who once averaged more than 40 ppg and 20 reb per game in HS. To me, Brand looks slow on both sides of the ball and lacks vertical leap, which is needed to again be the elite level scorer, rebounder, and defender at the power forward position. At 6’9 and 250lbs, Brand used to use outstanding fundamentals, smarts, and a workman-like effort to succeed in a league where he is constantly giving up 2-3 inches to opposing players at his position, but now appears to have lost a step and doesn’t look like he will ever get it back.
With such a young core, the hiring of a respected and experienced coach, and with lady luck having a hand at nabbing the #2 selection in the upcoming draft, the Sixers have the chance of finally getting better. A once proud franchise which ranks 3rd among all NBA franchises in Finals appearances(behind only Boston and LA), has been given a chance to win back it’s fan base. I beg of you GM Ed Stefanski, lets not screw this one up!
Allen Moll has been a lifelong NBA and NCAA College Basketball fan who watches and studies games religiously, and coaches youth basketball in his native Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. Allen also provides content to Bleacherreport.com, Upperdeckblog.com, in addition to being a tenured columnist for TheHoopDoctors.com.