Dec 172010
December 17 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bob Cooney:

“TWENTY-FIVE games does not a season make in the NBA, but it has given us plenty of insight as to the identity of this 76ers team. New head coach Doug Collins said in the preseason that it would take some time to figure out his players and how they best fit together.

Again, 25 games is not even the first third of the season, but Collins has tinkered and tweaked, and in the process turned a 3-13 start into seven wins in the past nine games. One of the main reasons for the revolution has been the team’s defense.

In the seven wins, the Sixers have held opponents to only 39.2 percent shooting from the floor and an average 82 points a game. Stack those numbers against the NBA leaders. Going into last night’s games, Boston and Miami led the league in fewest points allowed at 91. Miami had the best in field goal percentage by an opponent at 42.6 percent. The Sixers are well below both of those numbers in their past seven wins.

Since the season began there have been many transformations by players on this team. Most notably:

* Jodie Meeks: He is the story of the young season so far. Since his insertion into the starting lineup seven games ago, the Sixers have scored 98.6 points a game and Meeks has averaged 14.1. But more than numbers, Meeks brings spacing out on the court, something this offense painfully needs. For a team filled with players who are at their best offensively when they are driving to the basket – Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, Lou Williams and Evan Turner – spacing is paramount. Meeks’ ability to hit long-range jumpers extends defenses, creates creases and affords a team of slashers to do just that.

* Thaddeus Young: Collins has done a terrific job of – cue the Andy Reid tape – putting Young in the right positions to play his best. Young has been juggling playing at both the small and power forward spots, not an easy task. His advantage against bigger opponents is his quickness, against smaller ones, his moves around the basket.

Young has basically scratched his outside shooting, instead relying on power dribbles to the basket when the team is in a half-court set, and filling lanes when out on the break. Holiday recently expressed shock at just how fast Young is when the team is fastbreaking. Absent for just about all of last season, confidence has returned to the 4-year pro. It is blatantly obvious on the court just how good he is feeling about his game. Collins commended Young after Wednesday’s win over the Clippers for screaming words of encouragement from the bench during the Sixers third-quarter burst. It was something you wouldn’t have seen from him last season or earlier this year. Confidence will do that to a player.”

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