After letting yet another late fourth quarter lead slip away in a 108-102 loss to the Utah Jazz on New Year's Eve, I have come to realize just how much help the Sixers really need.
Minus Andre Iguodala, the 76ers have no defensive stopper, no one to cover the various other options many NBA teams have to go to down the stretch of games. If they did, Shavlik Randolph would not be in the game in the waning moments of a close game. Granted, Randolph is a hustle player who works hard on the glass and can play pretty good defense, he is not one you might call a go-to guy on the defensive side of the floor. While Allen Iverson can pick off almost any pass, he is not a great on the ball defender, and that makes him a liability on defense. Chris Webber is slow, Kyle Korver is not known for defense, in any sense of the word, and while Samuel Dalembert can block shots, he has a problem knowing when to stop himself and gets called for goaltending. Dalembert also is not a great one-on-one defender, so he is tough to have guarding the goal when it matters.
Then there is Iguodala, easily the Sixers best defender who matches up against the opposition's top player night after night. The point is he is a stud on defense and really the only one who can be counted on to get a stop at the end of games.
There is no Eric Snow on this team. What I mean by that is a hard nosed player who will give up his entire body on defense and never have a second thought about it. They lack players like George Lynch and Theo Ratliff. Guys who will get their knees dirty. There is no Ben Wallace on this team that strikes fear in the eyes of opposing players.
So what can management do about it? Make a series of trades. Bring in players that can defend and then find someone who will rebound like there is no tomorrow.
Yes, Dalembert and Webber get their share of rebounds, and Randolph has been solid off the bench, but there is no one they can count on during the late stages of games.
Iverson said it after the loss to the Jazz, if the team doesn't improve its rebounding and defense then it is going to have the same issues throughout the rest of the season.
That's a great realization on Iverson's part, now if the rest of the team can get that in its heads than maybe they will work their tails off down the stretch of games.
As a fan, it gets old watching six, seven, eight point leads with two or three minutes remaining in the game slip away. It's painful actually, thinking that most games are locked up and then watching the same thing happen night in and night out.
The sad part of it all is they aren't doing it against good teams; it's the bad teams they can't hold leads against. They have given up huge leads to the likes of Atlanta, Charlotte, the Knicks, New Orleans, and Milwaukee.
If Mo Cheeks and Billy King think this team will make the playoffs and make some noise the way it is playing right now, then they are sorely mistaken. If they don't find a solution, whether it be trades, or signing a free agent, then this season could start to whither away into one they'd rather not remember.
One player who could help is Latrell Sprewell. Other teams have passed on him but he is a solid defender who can score.