On The Edge Blog

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Desperation filling the Wachovia Center

While the Phillies fine-tune their roster, and the Eagles roll along despite a heaping pile of injuries, Philadelphia’s other two teams spent the last week trying to make themselves relevant in what has become a two-sport town.

The Flyers and Sixers both reached deep down into their “in case of emergency” bags, and pulled out plans that they hope will make people care about hockey and non-college basketball.

Enter a coaching change for the Flyers, and the return of Allen Iverson to the Wachovia Center for the 76ers.

Because the Sixers are destined to be mediocre in a league dominated by two-superstar teams, I’m going to begin by breaking down the Flyers’ troubles.

Right now, the Flyers sit at .500, despite this being one of the most talented teams in franchise history. The Flyers are tied for third/last place in the division, but right now they are on the outside looking in when examining the playoff picture two months into the season.

So, instead of telling their players to hustle and stop taking stupid penalties, the Flyers changed coaches, bringing in Peter Laviolette, who coached the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006.

Obviously, it was John Stevens’ fault that the Flyers average the most penalty minutes per game in the NHL this season. It couldn’t possibly have been the result of lazy play by supposed superstars Danny Briere and Mike Richards. Or the fact that nobody seems to work in the offensive zone, which resulted in a team that has more offensive weapons than any other team in the league scoring just seven goals in their last six games (before last night's six-goal outburst).

However, as much as I liked Stevens as the Flyers coach (Fun fact: Stevens’ tenure was the fourth-longest in franchise history, one game fewer than General Manager Paul Holmgren’s tenure as coach from 1988 to 1991, yet one game longer than Pat Quinn’s tenure from 1979 to 1982), I respect the idea that Laviolette is going to make the Flyers forecheck better and fight less.

Currently, only the Calgary Flames fight more often than the Flyers, but they have all-world goalie Miikka Kiprusoff to bail them out of trouble. The Flyers do not have someone nearly as talented as Kiprusoff to keep them afloat when Dan Carcillo decides to start punching a player before his gloves are dropped, resulting in nine minutes of power play time and three goals for the other team.

Honestly, I think Stevens was a great coach, but a new voice was needed to make up for several mistakes made by the front office in the last few years. It is a shame that a good person like Stevens has to take the fall for a front office that offered $52 million to Briere, which, because of the salary cap, forces them to put re-treads between the pipes.

By the way, Antero Niittymaki has a 2.24 GAA, with a .927 save percentage. Wouldn’t he look great in the crease right now?

This Flyers team is too talented to wallow at the bottom of the Eastern Conference for the rest of the season, so hopefully a coaching change will light a fire under Richards, Jeff Carter, Chris Pronger and the rest of this lazy team.

Switching gears to the NBA, the Sixers don’t have the talent to come back from a slow start, so their only goal is to entice more than 11,000 people to come to South Philly for a basketball game 32 more times this season.

In a conference where six teams – Cleveland, Boston, Orlando, Atlanta, Miami and Chicago – have two players that are better than anyone stepping on the court for the 76ers, Allen Iverson is merely a marketing ploy to make people waste their money at an NBA game, instead of investing it in a Phillies season-ticket package.

If there is another reason for this signing, I can’t see it.

I get that since the Sixers are not a contender for the NBA title, the bottom line is the most important thing, especially in a league that is losing money so quickly that reports had the NBA lining up $200 million in loans last year to help teams make it through the 2008-09 season.

So now, the Sixers, who fill the Wachovia Center approximately to 58 percent of its capacity, decided that money was more important than trying to develop their young talent.

The Sixers have a very young team, and one of their few veterans, Elton Brand, is complaining about coming off the bench, but the Sixers decided that they would bring in Iverson, who has never gotten along with any star player, and refused to come off the bench for Detroit and Memphis.

Iverson couldn’t get along with Jerry Stackhouse, Larry Hughes, Carmelo Anthony or anyone on the Pistons, and then retired because he wasn’t good enough to start for the Grizzlies, who at 8-12, have a better record than the 5-16 Sixers.

If you can tell me how signing A.I., and promising him a starting position will help the development of Thaddeus Young, Marreese Speights, Lou Williams or Jrue Holiday, then you are smarter than I am. How will Iverson throwing up a 6-for-21 night help them develop? He shot less than 40 percent from the floor in 26 out of 57 games last year, so unless the goal is to turn their youngsters into fantastic rebounders, this is a bad move.

All I see is the Sixers bringing in an aging, whiny player, who shoots 42 percent for his career, and managed to alienate every talented player and coach who ever stepped foot in the same arena as him.

This has disaster written all over it.

At least the Flyers can still turn their season around. The Sixers are simply sacrificing their chances next year for the opportunity to make a few extra dollars this year.


Like the “On the Edge” column? Hear more of my opinions about Philly sports every Friday at 3:30 p.m. on WBCB 1490 AM during the Coffee with Kahuna show.


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Name: Matthew Fleishman, Yardley News Editor
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