The Philadelphia 76ers haven't been the luckiest team in the NBA this season. They have lost four games in overtime in which they led by at least three points in the last 20 seconds of regulation.
"Normally, something like that happens once a year or every two years," 76ers president Rod Thorn said. "It happened to us four times in half a season If you stay around long enough. ..."
Thorn has been around the league for 48 years since being the second overall pick in the 1963 draft by the Bullets. Yet he has never seen a team blow so many games late. Nevertheless, he feels good about his team being 19-25 at just over the midway point of the season.
"To me, going back to training camp and exhibition games, we weren't very good," Thorn said. "Our team has gotten markedly better since the season started. We can't guard at the rim because we don't have enough shot blockers, but our identity on offense is trying to run. If we can't, try to set it up. I just see tremendous improvement in our team from the start of the season. We're much better than we were."
One of the biggest complaints observers have about Philadelphia is that Andre Iguodala and rookie Evan Turner should not be on the same team because the forwards' skills don't complement each other. Both want the ball in their hands as often as possible and are stronger driving to the basket than shooting from the outside. Thorn, though, believes the two can coexist and thrive together.
"They've played together well lately," Thorn said. "I don't see their skill set as that similar. Iguodala is so much different athletically than Turner is. Iguodala is one of the few guys in the league that can guard 2s, 3s, some 1s, maybe even some 4s, and you don't have to help (him). Turner's not that type of defensive player. Andre can affect the game today in a way that Evan can't because of his extraordinary athleticism and experience."
No Talk of Rebuilding in Cleveland
The Cleveland Cavaliers certainly look like a rebuilding team in the aftermath of LeBron James leaving as a free agent for the Heat in July. They have the worst record in the NBA at 8-36 and have lost 17 straight games.
Yet the Cavaliers refuse to say they are rebuilding and get perturbed at those who suggest they are doing so.
"We still have a lot of good basketball players," coach Byron Scott said. "We have a lot of injuries. If we are using that word 'rebuilding,' we would have traded Antawn (Jamison) a long time ago. We would have traded some of the assets we have--J.J. (Hickson) and Mo (Williams). We're not doing that. We're not using that word. (The media) can, but I'm not."
So if Cleveland isn't rebuilding, then what exactly is the team doing?
"All we're talking about is that this is going to be a process," Scott said. "We are still trying to win basketball games and develop some guys here that can be a part of something special. We know we're going to be back on top. It's only a matter of time."
Atlanta Players Like the Roster
The Atlanta Hawks are the subject of plenty of rumors with the trade deadline approaching. However, they feel no sense of urgency to make a deal.
The Hawks are 29-16, including 15-9 on the road, so they have shown that they are capable of winning with the players they have. Furthermore, Atlanta has seemingly been at least a man short for every game this season because of a string of injuries to such players as Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford, Marvin Williams, Al Horford and Mo Evans.
The Hawks' players hope general manager Rick Sund stands pat.
"I definitely feel like people haven't seen us at our best," said Crawford, who is considered a potential trade candidate because he has an expiring contract. "We are right there with Orlando and Chicago on the heels of the Celtics and Heat. If we can just get everybody right and on in uniform at the same time, there's no doubt in my mind we're as good as anybody."
Celtics Reestablish Home-Court Advantage
The Boston Celtics are 21-3 at home, which should not be a shock since their 33-10 overall record is the best in the Eastern Conference. However, it is impressive in light of the Celtics going just 24-17 in Boston last season.
"I think one of the things we wanted to do coming into this year is take care of home," forward Kevin Garnett said. "The year we won it (2007-08), that was one of our goals, and I think we set that on a priority list as the top priority. You know, home is where your heart is, and we've just got to continue that and make that something that's consistent. But at the same time, we have to carry that momentum on the road."
The Celtics' road record is 12-7 this season. Garnett believes his team can improve upon that just by dwelling on it.
"We focus on us and we try not to worry about other teams, other organizations," Garnett said. "We worry about ourselves. That's a big key to our success."
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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