01
Apr
08

Cheeks Gets My NBA Coach Of The Year Vote.

                                                                                                    

Picked by anyone with an NBA soapbox to finish last in the Eastern Conference, it’s safe to say that the Philadelphia 76ers have been reading their press clippings – thus proving the so-called experts wrong.  The 76ers are currently the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference and have flirted with going as high as the 5th seed.

In the middle of the basketball revival on Broad Street is former Sixers great Maurice Cheeks, who in three seasons has dealt with the issues of Allen Iverson, the trade of Iverson and life after Iverson – which hasn’t been as bad as predicted.

Once Iverson was jettisoned to Denver for point guard Andre Miller and Joe Smith; all signs pointed to Miller being trade bait this season and the franchise gaining draft picks to solidify the re-building process.

                                                                                          

But a funny thing happened on the way to the NBA Lottery.

In a surprising development, GM Billy King was fired on December 4, 2007 and replaced by former New Jersey Nets GM Ed Stefanski.

Since then each player has been playing like their job is on the line. Stefanski became more of a calming presence as the trade deadline approached saying that the team would not be a seller (i.e. trading Miller) and would not be trade just to make a trade. Kyle Korver was traded to free up cap space for free agents this summer as the 76ers look to be an active player for the first time in almost a decade.

The catalyst for the 76ers this season has been point guard Andre Miller, Miller is enjoying his best all-around season in years giving us a scoring threat not seen from the point guard position since…Iverson.

Looking at the overall roster the Sixers are an athletic team, that chooses to run, and run, and run. With wingmen like Andre Iguodala and Rodney Carney (who one reporter prior to the season questioned whether or not he belonged in the NBA), the team realies on athleticism to create turnovers, setting up easy baskets. Defensively, Samuel Dalembert has worked well with free agent signee Reggie Evans who brings energy whether he’s starting or coming off of the bench. The emergence of Louis Williams as a solid contributor to the rotation has turned him into a crowd favorite.

                                                                                                    

The biggest surprise of the season may be in the form of rookie Thaddeus Young, Young was selected 12th in this season’s draft. Although many (including myself) wanted Florida State’s Al Thornton, Young has been better than advertised. The rookie has worked his way into the starting rotation playing either small or power forward. Willie Green has come all the way back from his knee injury and Kevin Ollie remains the professional answering the call when needed.

 Alot of the credit has to got to Cheeks, who despite what was said about this team, remained one with his players, didn’t let the press, divide the team and most importantly he kept their focus. Although the award may go to Phil Jackson or Byron Scott, I’m sure Cheeks will be recognized for his contributions to this team. 

With wins this season over the Celtics, Suns, Spurs, Rockets, Pistons, Magic, Mavericks and Cavs, this team is no fluke, they’re jelling at the right time and that’s always a plus. The reward is more than likely a trip to the playoffs and with a little luck maybe even a 4th seed and a first round series at home.

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