With tonight’s road game against the Philadelphia 76ers looming, I talked to Carey Smith of philadunkia.com to preview tonight’s game, a second game of a back-to-back against the Spurs that will reunite former coach Brett Brown with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
Here’s what we’ll be looking for tonight. Check out my answers to Carey's questions on Philadunkia.
1. As we talked about on the Q&A on your site, the underlying story is Brett Brown coaching on the other sideline. As someone who follows the 76ers closely, what's your early analysis on Brown through the first few games and do you see any similarities in his system to the Spurs' system?
My overall early analysis of Brown is that he has been a tremendous breathe of fresh air. Under Doug Collins last year and his ultra conservative, avoid the live ball turnover offensive system, the Sixers were unwatchable. Win or lose, Brown has made the Sixers fun to watch again and in the year of the tank, that's very important to fans here in Philadelphia who follow the team closely. Additionally, his a positive person with an upbeat personality and that has been a nice change from the DC who basically quit on the Sixers at Christmas time last year. Now if I could just get Brown to adopt a better defensive system, I would be 100% happy. Off-the-court I see a lot of similarities to the Spurs franchise, but I find very few on-the-court. We simply do not have the personnel to play ball like those great teams Brown was a part of in San Antonio. I think he realizes that fact and has tweaked his philosophies accordingly.
2. I heard time and time again since the draft that Michael Carter-Williams, didn't have a shot and that he would be a project player at best, which I didn't agree with. It's early, but he's silenced his naysayers and has been outstanding, looking like a ROY lock through the first seven games. Was he what you expected or has he exceeded your expectations?
Well you are in the minority here. I saw MCW play live on a number of occasions at Syracuse and I thought the scouting report on him was correct. In fact, I was not thrilled with this pick by Sam Hinkie. Back in June, I thought Hinkie could have done worse, but I also thought he could have done much better. So, needless to say MCW has exceeded all of my expectations. But in my defense (and everyone else's) it's obvious that Carter-Williams has put in a TON of work on his jump shot, especially his range to 3-point territory. It's not the same jump shot he featured at Syracuse. Not one "expert" or NBA scout I have talked with during his historic start (via ESPN.com: "Only two rookies have ever rung up 130 points and 50 assists in their first seven games. That would be MCW. And Oscar Robertson.") saw this drastic improvement by MCW coming.
3. I see Tony Parker vs. Carter-Williams as a key matchup in this game, although Danny Green could see some time on Carter-Williams. Do you go with experience or youth in this matchup?
I would go with Parker, but my reasoning involves the action at the other end of the court. The one issue I have with Carter-Williams so far is that he has struggled to defend opposing point guards in one-on-one situations. He's a master at help side defense or slicing through the passing lanes for steals, but he's doesn't have the lateral movement to stay in front of the smaller, quicker guards in the NBA. He also has struggled with the pick and roll. So far in his rookie season, MCW has faced Wall (2x) Rose, Curry and Irving (2x) and for the most part they have feasted on Carter-Williams. So if I am the Spurs, I force Carter-Williams to guard Parker and let Tony do his thing.
4. The 76ers are capable of putting up big numbers, but the Spurs pride themselves on defense. Do you think the 76ers will see a team on the second night of a back-to-back and try to run and put up big numbers right out of the gates, and what is your prediction for tonight's game?
Pop did a great job of limiting minutes during the blow out win over the Knicks, so I'm not sure that the back-to-back element of this game will be a big issue for the Spurs. Either way, the Sixers are going to run and put up points, but they can't stop anyone from doing the same (106.9 ppg./30th in League). I predict that we will witness a very high scoring. close affair that is won by the Spurs because their solid defense allows them to get one or two big stops down the stretch.