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Samuel Dalembert: A Man Possessed vs. New Jersey

Samuel DalembertWhen people talk about Samuel Dalembert the conversation often goes something like this:

Did you see Dalembert last night? Yeah, he looked clueless out there on the court. I know, and he needs to shut his mouth about playing time, too. I don’t know what the hell Billy King was thinking when he signed him to that long-term contract. The Sixers should try and trade him.

I know I have personally been in a few conversations just like that about Sammy. Well tonight I thought I’d switch it up and give the Haitian Sensation some love for a change.

The Sixers took a big step towards locking up a playoff spot with their win against the New Jersey Nets tonight, and Sammy was as big a part in that win as anyone. His line: 40 minutes, 15 points, 13 rebounds 5 blocks and only 1 turnover. Those numbers don’t even tell the whole picture of how good of a game Dalembert had. Besides the blocks he probably altered another 10 shots and used his quick hops to contest and then grab the board after a miss. This was most prominent during crunch time.

In the last 4 minutes of the game, the Sixers defense was very strong. They poked balls away, hustled back against the break and funneled people right at Sammy who didn’t disappoint. The best part was Dalembert’s ability to stay on the court. With Vince Carter, Devin Harris and Richard Jefferson constantly getting into the lane, Sam successfully contested and changed shots while not making dumb fouls. With a likely playoff matchup against Dwight Howard and Orlando, playing smart and staying on the court will be the most important thing he will have to do for the 76ers to have any chance.

Slammin’ Sammy D gets a big Kudos from me tonight, and hopefully I will get more opportunities to praise him.

Other game notes:

The Sixers showed some of the best offensive execution down the stretch. With relentless penetration off pick-and-rolls, Miller and Iguodala were able to get into the teeth of the defense and make accurate passes to wide open shooters and teammates under the basket. It is always a concern when the 76ers need to score in the half court, but they showed they are capable against the Nets.

Lou Williams seemed to have come out of his funk, scoring 7 points in the last few minutes to seal the win. Lou is clearly a fan favorite, and everyone has been hoping he would snap out of it and play to his potential. Hopefully this game will springboard him into the playoffs with the right groove.


Post Birthday Sports Blogging

Finally!  Back sports blogging again.  I have been caught up in March Madness, then Easter came, and Monday was my birthday which I planned on posting then.  But I got this new laptop, and after 45 minutes on the phone with Dell support yesterday I finally got it working right after 3 days of frustration.  A lot has happened since my last post and much more to come.  So lets get right into it.

  1. The 76ers are two games above .500, the 6th seed in the Eastern conference, only a half game behind Washington for the 5th seed (not necessarily the best thing) and 3-0 since their loss to Orlando and back playing at a very high level.  They bounced back, in an ugly game against the Nets where Andre Iguodala dominated down the stretch.  Oh, by the way Richard Jefferson sucks and is clearly the weakest Arizona player of the bunch.  Follow that win with a percieved shocker over the Boston Celtics, again Iguodala played well in crunch time, and the Sixers went on a crazy 19-0 run to seal the deal.  Then they beat up on the disfunctional Chicago Bulls.  Check out Sixers 4 guidos for game recaps.  What I really am happy about: the Sixers WON’T be one of those sub .500 teams to get in the playoffs from the East.  The way they have played lately has spurred questions in mainstream media about whether they will win a playoff series.  How far we have come.
  2. Villanova dominates their way into the Sweet 16 over Siena.  The Wildcats look very strong right now, and Scottie Reynolds might be playing his best basketball at the perfect time.   I can’t wait to see how they fair against Kansas, a team Coach Roy Williams said doesn’t have any weaknesses.  Scary thought for Jay Wright and Nova, but I think they can definitely make it a game, if not provide the biggest upset of the tournament thus far.
  3. The Recliner GM will be moving soon.  Here’s a few things to look for…
    • We will be using the WordPress software with our on Web host.  Meaning – we will have significantly more flexibility to do whatever we want going forward.
    • New domain name – http://www.reclinergm.com/
    • New blog theme – Way too many people have the current theme we are using, especially sports blogs.  I am tired of blending in with the pack.  We are currently reviewing new themes now so if you guys have some ideas, thoughts or feature you like or want to see let us know.
    • Advertising – With the move comes new costs we currently don’t have so we will begin advertising on the blog.  We will strive to keep them unobtrusive and as sports-related as possible.
    • I have some new ideas to expand my 76ers coverage to provide enhanced and somewhat unique content for you guys.  As always if you have any thoughts to make the blog better shout them out.
    • Finally, we have been thinking about splitting the blog in two.  The Recliner GM would be our general sports blog and Philly GM would be all Philly sports all the time.  It really comes down to whether Pete and I can provide enough content for two separate blogs. What do you guys think?
  4. Tomorrow Pete and I will be at the Wachovia Center all day competiting in a team shooting competition in support of Junior Achievement.  So look for some photos of us doing our best 76er impersonations on the court.  I am hoping Ed and Mo will be around so I can show them I can come off the bench and knock down the three for the playoff run.  After that we will be at the game tomorrow night to witness first hand how Shaq is fitting in with Phoenix – and of course watch the Sixers get another win against a quality opponent.

That’s all I got for now.  Who will be first in the comments this time?

Villanova’s Comeback Keeps Big 5 Alive in NCAA Tourney

Scottie Reynolds drives to the hoop against Clemson in first round of the NCAA tournamentIronically, the last Philadelphia school to get in the 2008 NCAA tournament is now the only team to survive the opening round.  Villanova beat Clemson 75-69 in one of the last games of the night – and it was a great one.

Villanova struggled to handle Clemson’s relentless pressure in the first half committing the bulk of their 19 turnovers in the opening 20-minutes.  That helped the Tigers get up on Nova by as much as 18 and took a 12-point lead into the half.  The Wildcats are no strangers to halftime deficits, trailing at the half in 15 of their 33 games this season.  But Nova has Jay Wright, the “King of the 2nd Half Adjustments.”  He has been able to make the right changes and motivate his guys to come out focused in the second half to finish the game strong.  In those 15 game where Villanova trailed they have come back to win 6 times (40%).  And they did just that against Clemson.

Keys to the Second Half Comeback

  • Handling the pressure down the stretch.  Nova settled down, limited their turnovers and was able to break the press for scores in the 2nd half. 
  • Solid defense and rebounding.  The Wildcats held Clemson to 30 points in the second half on 7-29 from the field and out rebounded the very athletic Clemson Tigers 31-28.
  • Scottie Reynolds – No matter how much we hate his often erratic play and questionable shot selection this guy is the leader on Villanova and he showed it last night.  Reynolds scored 21 points shooting 7-12 from the field and was the catalyst for the comeback.
  • Free throws – The numbers say it all: Nova shot a fantastic 24-29 from the line while Clemson’s Achilles heel hurt them again only shooting 14-23.  You can’t win in the hyper-competitive NCAA tournament shooting that poorly from the line.

With #13 Siena upsetting #4 Vanderbilt, Nova is in a good position to reach the Sweet 16.  This coming after all the speculation Nova wouldn’t even get in the tournament this year.  But please don’t think I am overlooking Siena, they scare me a little bit.  The Vandy isn’t even the best team they beat this season.  Siena beat Stanford by 12 early in the year.  But it looks like Nova will finally face a team they are a little bigger than inside.  Siena’s tallest starter is only 6’7 and they only bring in a 6’9 kid for minor minutes. 

NOTE: The last time Villanova played Siena was in the NIT tournament in 02′ – 03′.  They lost in that first round game 74-59.

I heard by far the best Scottie Reynolds play-by-play quote ever last night:  “All these baskets are coming Reynolds wrapped.”  Love that!

76ers Lay an Egg in Orlando: Make Me Look Bad

Coming off an emotionally charged win on Wednesday in Allen Iverson’s long awaited return to Philly the 76ers showed clear signs of a let down against the Orlando Magic tonight.  From the opening minutes Orlando jumped all over the Sixers, and I could tell it was just going to be one of those nights.

Orlando won the game with their league-leading 3-point attack, shooting 14-23 from beyond.  That was enough to overcome the 21 turnovers the Sixers forced.  On the other side, the 76ers simply could not put the ball in the hoop – from anywhere in the first half.  They shot a sub-par, but not horrible, 44% for the game, but it was the disastrous first half that killed them.

  • 7-22 (31.8%) – 1st Quarter
  • 5-19 (26.3%) – 2nd Quarter
  • 12-41 (29.3%) – First Half

When you look at that start and factor in that fact that they lived up to their NBA-worst free throw shooting (60% [15-25] for the game), it’s obvious why the final score was 113-95 in favor of the Magic.

The key to consistently beating the Orlando Magic is individual man-to-man defense.  This team thrives on penetration and kick to all their 3-point shooters.  They are just praying for the help defense to come.  Tonight the Sixers did not contain penetration even a little bit and that led to open shot after open shot for the Magic. 

Mo Cheeks acknowledged this fact in his post game interview, which means he clearly understands what it takes to beat this team.  That is important since it’s very likely the Sixers will face Orlando in the first round the way the have been playing lately.  I am confident Cheeks will emphasize that ad nauseam in preparation for that potential match up.  I am also confident the Sixers have good enough perimeter defenders to get the job done when focused. 

The Sixers just have to avoid one of my biggest basketball pet peeves – unnecessary help defense.  You see it all the time, when someone drives to the cup, his defender is in decent position to contest the shot yet someone comes over anyway to help, unnecessarily leaving a shooter wide open.  It takes good basketball instincts to understand when you need to help and when you don’t.  Let’s hope the 76er players have those instincts and don’t over commit in help defense, taking away Orlando’s biggest weapon.

Why the 76ers made me look bad tonight

I said in a previous post that the Sixers need to play for the 6th seed so they face Orlando in the first round. That would be their best match up and they would have a real chance to upset them.  Losing by 18 and getting handled easily by the Magic does not make that thought look very good, wouldn’t you say?

With that said, I still stick by those early comments.  Looking at the Eastern Conference, I think we all agree we don’t want any parts of Boston, Detroit or Clev… I mean LeBron James.  I challenge anyone to argue against that point.

AI’s Return Proves to be the Perfect Ending for the 76ers

Allen Iverson's Return to Philly

The game Sixers fans have been waiting for has finally come and gone.  I had the pleasure of sitting in the lower level at the Wachovia Center directly across from the Denver bench for Allen Iverson’s return to Philly, as evidenced by the photograph above.  And the game was everything a fan could have hoped for.

This makes two perfect 76ers’ games in a row that I have attended.  We got a great high-scoring affair, some fantastic plays on both ends, a very good game from AI and most importantly the Sixers got another win.

Observations from the game

  • Sellout crowd (as if we expected anything less)20,674.  All the speculation leading up to tonight was whether or not Iverson would be well-received and be welcomed with a standing ovation during pre-game.  Come on, did anyone really think that wouldn’t happen?  We are talking about the most beloved 76er since Julius Erving.  Iverson said after the game “I dreamed it up a certain way, and it was better than that.”  And I concur, much respect given to the little man.
  • Andre Miller brought his A-game on his 32nd birthday.  Last game Miller dominated with his post game.  He did some more of that, but tonight he really displayed what I consider arguably the best mid-range game in the NBA.  Mixed with some swift ball-handling to get in position, Miller nailed jumper after jumper after jumper in that 15-17 foot range.  It was textbook and refreshing to watch.  Andre Miller’s line: 28 pts, 12 asts, 4 tos, on 13-21 shooting.
  • A.I. did his thing – but it was quiet greatness.  Sure he scored 32 points, had 8 dimes, only 2 turns and shot 54% from the floor.  But it wasn’t explosive, more like business as usual for the Answer.  He had one HUGE shot late in the 4th quarter when Denver was down 3; he nailed a much-contested three-pointer to even the score.  But that is where his heroics ended.  The most interesting thing I noticed about A.I was his competitiveness; he didn’t want to be shown up even once.  Every time a Sixers player would score or shake him, Iverson would come down court and go right at him.  Tonight he scored on nearly every possession after someone scored on him.  A little something I like to call “Right Back!”
  • In such an offensively dominated game (the Sixers had 9 uncontested dunks in the first half), the 76ers won on the defensive end.  And almost lost it at the free throw line shooting a disgraceful 54.5%.  You could see Mo Cheeks mimicking the foul shot motion in the 4th quarter when his guys were at the line, like he was trying to will it in for them.  Through three quarters the 76ers on average allowed 31 points per quarter.  Coach Cheeks got his team to slow the game down and as Mark Zumoff would say “Lock all windows and doors” only giving up 20 points in the final quarter.  The stellar defense reached his peak with the score tied at 110-110.  Sammy D. came through again with two huge blocks on Carmelo Anthony.
  • The final game note is about the fans.  The entire game the Philly fans were 100% supportive every time A.I. touched the ball, scored or made a great play.  They cheered loud and often. That is until with about 10-minutes left in the fourth quarter when the game got a little closer and it was clearly “winning time” for the home team.  At that point every time Iverson got the ball or scored you could hear boo’s, mixed in with significantly less cheering from the crowd.  This should answer the question of whether the majority of the spectators were Sixers fans who loved A.I. or strictly Iverson fans living in Philly.

At the end of the night, it was just another Sixers victory.  But this one puts the team at .500 since the 4th game of the season when we were 2-2. 

I caught myself watching the league-wide scoreboard during the game to see keep an eye on what Washington was doing.  Sadly, the Wizards won another game we all were hoping they would and should lose.  Still only a half game back I am confident the Sixers will get it done.  Move into the 6th seed by season’s end and set up the perfect match-up in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Take a Look Inside the Philadelphia 76ers’ Locker Room

According to the 76ers’ PR people the Sixers are the only NBA team that allows fans in their locker room. I don’t know if that is true or just PR propaganda to shed a positive and unique light on the team; either way it is pretty cool they let fans in there.

As you already know, Saturday I was at the San Antonio game. I went with my gf who got tickets through her college’s (Franklin & Marshall) Philadelphia alumni chapter. (The Sixers’ VP of Sales is an F&M alum.) They raffled off a chance to walk through the 76er locker room during the game. And with my luck, we won (16 in 120 chance). There was a downside though. The tour was during the entire 3rd quarter! Well, the die-hard fan that I am I decided I couldn’t miss an entire quarter so my gf went instead. Below are the great pictures she got during the tour. Enjoy.

NOTE: I had a picture of the 76ers’ whiteboard before the San Antonio Spurs victory on here when I first posted this article. After some thought and being contacted by the Sixers organization I decided to take it down. Why? As loyal fans of the Sixers we can’t have the team’s plays and strategies posted on the Internet for opponents to figure out how we are kicking their @$$es, now can we? Let’s go Sixers!

Andre Miller's Lockers
Above: Andre Miller’s two lockers. Count ’em, he has 30 boxes of sneakers.
Sixers' workout room
Above: Sixers’ workout room
Sixers' pre-game workout
Above: Sixers’ pre-game workout
Sixers Lockers
Above: Louis Williams – sportin’ the pink button-up (left), Thaddeus Young (middle), Willie Green (right)
Sixers Lockers
Above: Andre Iguodala (left), Louis Williams (middle), Thaddeus Young (right)
Center of the Sixers Locker Room
Above: This is the center of the 76ers’ locker room. The lockers shown above are located to the right.
Wilt Chamberlainimage and John Wooden Quote in Sixers Locker room
Above: Is the hallway outside the showers. The entire locker room and hallways are covered with similar images and quotes.
Charles Barkley image in the Sixers locker room
Above: This is part of a huge image of Charles Barkley in the locker room with a very famous quote all Philadelphia 76er fans should be familar with.
Charles Barkley Quote in the Sixers Locker room
Above: Continuation from the Barkley image above. This is one of his most famous quotes. Gotta love that the image is the Round Mound dunking against the hated Boston Celtics.
Maurice Cheeks office in the Sixers locker room
Above: Maurice Cheeks’s office in the locker room with the assistant coaches’ area in that back room. Is it just me or is this pretty low budget?

Sixers Handle Spurs – ‘Tough Stretch’ Becomes Win Streak

Philadelphia 76ers beat the San Antonio Spurs

I am writing this post after getting home from another superb performance and win by our 76ers over the San Antonio Spurs.  That means my head has not exploded – yet.  In my opinion this was the perfect basketball game to attend when you are a die-hard fan of the home team has 3 main characteristics.

  1. Some exciting plays and moments. That can be dunks, crossovers or draining a few big three point shots.
  2. A comfortable lead that is not too large that you lose interest because the game is a rout.
  3. A victory. Obviously this is the most important trait.

This game, at least for me, was perfect.  It had all the aspects, and the win is even sweeter coming against the defending NBA champions.

Observations from the game

  • Another packed house – 19,942.  Compared to the Boston game the crowd was almost entirely Philly dominated.  The fans were electric from the opening tap, and this was easily the loudest the Wachovia Center has been in all the games I’ve attended.   
  • Andre Miller’s post game was dominating against Tony Parker.  Parker’s weak defense was completely exposed all game by Miller.  What I found interesting was Miller’s pre-game and halftime routine.  Almost every single shot he practiced was from the corners in that 15-17 foot range.  It served as foreshadowing for what was to come during the game.
  • The Spurs looked tired coming off a tough lost in Detroit the night before.  With that said, it takes nothing from the Sixers even a little bit who had their own hard fought game last night.  From the jump they controlled the game on offense working in the half-court through Miller’s post game, at times almost exclusively.  Our guys clearly had much more energy evidenced by the 12 offensive rebounds, many of which were floor boards.  The Sixers won the hustle points aspect of the game getting to most of the lose balls.
  • What won’t show up in the box score was Samuel Dalembert’s individual defense on Tim Duncan.  Timmy shot 5-14, scoring just 16 points and pulling down only 6 boards in 33 minutes.  When the Spurs were trying to make their run cutting the lead to 6, Dalembert did what everyone said he couldn’t.  Stop Duncan with no help.  He blocked two Duncan shot attempts straight up, which for me sealed the win.
  • The final game note is a very promising one.  I saw a clear sign of Andre Iguodala’s emerging leadership.  When San Antonio was pressing at the end of the game, in two possessions Lou Williams turned the ball over, then almost did it again but was bailed out with a foul call.  As Williams headed to the line Iguodala who was visibly pissed off after the previous turnover put his arm around Lou’s head “tight.” What came next can only be assumed as a stern “get your act together” judging from his face followed by some words of encouragement.  I was very pleased to see this type of behavior from the Sixers best player.

Going into the Boston game all the talk was about this “tough stretch” coming up and rightfully so.  The next 11 games for the 76ers are against the likes of Boston (twice), Detroit, Chicago (twice), San Antonio, Denver, Orlando, New Jersey, Phoenix, and Cleveland.

But I think the mentality of the fans when saying “tough stretch” was still coming from a losing team perspective.  Meaning the expectation over the next 11 games was vastly lowered.  If I would have said the Sixers would be 3-1 in these first four games I would have been laughed at and called “retarted.” 

But times are changing and our expectations for the Sixers should be changing as well.  Are they a title contender? Of course not.  In fact they aren’t even over .500 yet.  But what they are is a team that has finally figured out how to win – consistently.  Like Pete pointed out, the team is 17-6 since the end of January ranking second the in the Eastern Conference.  And I believe this level of performance will continue through the last 15 games of the regular season and into the playoffs.

Come on Philadelphia 76ers fans, it’s time to expect more from this team.  They deserve it.