EDDIE JORDAN figured he was in for an extended vacation after he was fired by the Wizards last November. It lasted six months—that's how long it took for the 76ers to hire him to replace interim coach Tony DiLeo. "It's good to be back," says Jordan, who had coached Washington since 2003--04. "Last year was the first year I was out of basketball since the ninth grade."
Jordan brings his Princeton offense, which should suit a roster that, having lost Andre Miller in free agency, is devoid of pure playmakers. Jordan's scheme, which limits the ballhandling responsibilities of the point guard, should mask the deficiencies of new starter Lou Williams while highlighting his skill as a scorer. During a recent practice Williams brought the ball up on five straight possessions, never dribbling more than twice after he crossed half-court. On those possessions Williams ended up hitting two deep jump shots and scored on a driving layup. "Point guards love this offense," says Jordan. "I've had prototypical point guards like Jason Kidd who loved it and scoring guards like Gilbert Arenas who loved it."
Philly is hoping someone else feels the love: Elton Brand. The power forward struggled through a very un-Brand-like year (13.8 points, 8.8 rebounds) in his first as a Sixer before a torn right labrum ended his season last February. Upon taking the Sixers' job Jordan shipped Brand a DVD of old Wizards games. As Brand watched it, he noted that the Washington big men were often open for jump shots at the top of the key and in the corners. He devoted extra time to those spots in his off-season shooting drills. "The big men that are always leaning on me in the post and waiting for double teams are not going to come out there and guard me," Brand says.
Brand, who signed a five-year, $80 million free-agent contract before last season, needed a fresh start. With Jordan, he has just that.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE with 2008--09 statistics
KEY BENCH PLAYERS: G Willie Green, 8.5 PPG; G-F Rodney Carney, 7.2 PPG; C Marreese Speights, 7.7 PPG; G-F Jason Kapono, 43.2 3FG% • New acquisition
COACH: Eddie Jordan (first season with 76ers) • 2008--09 RECORD: 41--41 (second in Atlantic)
POINTS SCORED: 97.4 (22nd in NBA) • POINTS ALLOWED: 97.3 (11th in NBA)
Consecutive seasons in which the Sixers have not had a 20-points-per-game scorer—a first for the franchise in the shot-clock era. In only three other seasons has the team's top scorer failed to crack the 20-point mark.
ENEMY LINES | A RIVAL SCOUT ON THE 76ERS
They got into the playoffs last season because Andre Miller got them there, so I was shocked that they let him go. In my opinion they don't have a plan to replace his leadership.... If LeBron James is a first-tier star and Chris Bosh is in the tier below him, then Andre Iguodala is a third-tier star. He doesn't have the explosion to beat you off the dribble, he isn't consistent shooting off the dribble, and you can't play through him a lot because he doesn't do a lot to make his teammates better.... Elton Brand is a good passer, and Eddie Jordan will find ways to make the best use of him. Part of Jordan's offense is playing through a big man in the high post—and they certainly can't play through Samuel Dalembert.... I'm big on Thaddeus Young. He runs the floor very well, he's great in the open court and he's a better finisher than people give him credit for. Last year was kind of a freebie for him because people didn't prepare to stop him. This year there will be an X on his back.... Jason Kapono can't defend a lick. But he'll get a lot of time in Eddie's system because he is their only knockdown shooter, he knows how to read the defense and he can finish backdoor cuts.
NICK WASS/AP (JORDAN)
EDDIE JORDAN His Princeton offense will suit this point-less team.
AL TIELEMANS (IGUODALA)