by Michael Tillery
As I walked into the pressroom, the player’s absence was unmistakable. Why in the…. Joe? I know you saved yourself some money Mr. Dumars, but quit playin’ man.
How could he not be here for this game? Where was he? Hiding out… avoiding that relentless and vaunted Philly press cap? Watching the game from his spot upstairs in T.G.I. Fridays on the Main Line? Chillin’ amongst the green universe of happy fans and collegians at Ford Field? Nah… a Hoya certainly wouldnt’ do that. But where could he be?
Man this is frustrating. When I heard the news he was deactivated because of “injury,” I thought selfishly to myself, this straight BS, but who cares about my piece right?
Then I found him…
There he is… relegated to a bio sheet on the press info table. Wow, there were at least 20 of him. I waited for one of the carefully stapled pages to say something like a coach looking out into a press conference with no media cojones. Dude… cuss out a ref… do something… steal the rock… put your hand to your ear and run around the Wachovia Center floor… seeking that Philly spiritual and inspired adulation just one more time. Please.
His bio picture screamed passion and hood reason, so I figured there would be some type action. I waited. I braced myself as if the elevator was gonna fall to the next floor… surfer stance and everything, but like they say on the streets…”Sike, nah.”
I looked like a fool standing there begging for inanimate objects to cause some type of basketball fury.
Oh well. Be peace brotha. See you here next year running around like it’s 2001 fun again.
As much as the fans wanted to see Atom (as I call him), the game and the show went on without his likeness. ESPN televised two mediocre teams play with the distinct qualities of the cities they represent as if this was the Red Wings vs. the Flyers.
Oh yeah, the Sixers won 95-90 to clinch a berth in the ‘08-09 Playoffs and did so by closing out a team quickly falling into the ever-crowding sports abyss of irrelevance… at least until 2010, right Joe?
After all the Sixers have been through this season, they found a way to get it done. Even if they finish 2-5 the rest of the way, they’ll still finish above .500 for the first time since ‘04-05. They held Detroit to 26.7 percent shooting in the second half—a season low for any opponent in any half this year. They’ve won the last two games despite being down double-digits and have won nine games this year when down by at least 10.
For the Pistons, Kwame Brown was effective beyond his career in the first quarter. He had 10 points and seemingly was on his way to 40 before he crashed back to the Wizard of Mike earth—but he did score 15 points in total.
Rodney Stuckey led the Pistons with 23, Rip had 15 and Tayshaun 10.
This was a really good game.
While I was waiting to catch up with Rip Hamilton and chat a little, erstwhile Pistons trainer Mike Abdenour happened to stroll through the locker room. He had some things to say about the mag in relation to his kids, but also told me Tayshaun is gonna be alright after suffering some temporary nerve discomfort in his right elbow while being fouled in the 4th quarter. Tayshaun toughed it out and even hit two free throws after being on the floor for at least three minutes.
The Sixers were paced by Iguodala’s 31. Andre Miller had 21 to cap off his triple-double, Louis Williams had 15 and the cat was actually talking trash to Sheed. Marreese Speights had 10.
Andre Iguodala had 15 in the 1st. Something real about him is surfacing. He’s learning to be a leader, and a vocal one at that. He scored at will and you all know Tayshaun is not an easy safe to crack, tossing in 31. He and the Utah trip dub (21, 12, 10) both played the entire second half. Bold move Coach DiLeo… especially heading into a back-to-back, but you get props.
SLAM: What say you Andre Iguodala?
AI: We just gotta finish it out. Andre Miller is pretty quiet and this year I’ve been a lot more vocal to continue working on being a leader. We came into this game knowing we gotta finish strong. The last couple of home games we have been finishing them really strong. I think that shows the younger guys are really maturing and our team getting better.
SLAM: What about Detroit? Any extra incentive after their lock defense on you in last year’s Playoffs? Is there something extra when you play Detroit?
AI: Um…a little bit. They are one of the top defensive teams in the League and I think Tayshaun is one of the top defensive players in the League. With Tayshaun, Artest and Bruce Bowen, you have three guys who really get out there and defend. You gotta be on top of your game to get us a win like we did tonight.
SLAM: Dre, you’ve been taking and hitting big shots this year—more than enough to be noticed. Obviously, none bigger than the Lakers game-winner, but tonight you made a shot that’s expected of you in a clutch moment. Are you working on your jumper to rely on that shot at the end of games?
AI: It’s a little bit of both: to keep teams honest because during the game they are gonna pack it in, and you have to step up and make shots. It’s more or less having confidence. The more you shoot, the more confident you’ll be down the stretch.
With 30 seconds left and the Sixers clinging to a two-point lead, Reggie Evans snatched a rebound and was quickly fouled because of not-so-good history at the line. The energetic firestarter calmly stepped up and swished both free throws. He’s shooting a crazy 80 percent the last seven games but to hit two in a pressure moment? Big time and the crowd loved it. They love Reggie here. Reggie was in a hurry afterward, but Coach DiLeo jumped at the chance when I asked him about the shots that won the game:
“He always wants to be the one to shoot the technicals. He’s been working hard. Bruce Kreutzer, the shooting coach, has come in to work with Thad (Young), Lou (Williams) and Reggie. Reggie’s free throws all season have steadily improved and to make them in a pressure situation speaks volumes.”
Speights has put in work all year. It was good to see someone give it to Sheed verbally. Not many players can pull it off. The young fella was into the game and did what a young Sheed would have done if he were in the same moment.
SLAM: Brothaman what were you and Sheed doing, comparing cooking technique?
Marreese Speights: He told me to give him the ball, and I said you don’t want none of this BS. (Yeah, we laugh.)
SLAM: You do know this is his hometown right? Does it matter?
MS: Nah it doesn’t. We are both on the court hoopin’.
SLAM: Getting in the Playoffs your rookie year is a good look, sir. Any Florida reminiscing?
MS: Of course. I’m always a winner. To win this and get in is a good feeling. I wanna do something in this league.
SLAM: You showed a lot of emotion. Just to get in a playoffs type thing?
MS: I wanted to respond. I have to come out here and play hard.
Thad Young being out for a few weeks has forced everyone to step up. He was on a scoring team before the ankle injury. He needs to experience this and hopefully he’ll come back determined as ever.
Andre Miller is the reticent alchemist. I chide Dre all the time just to get him to talk. Dude is a straight professional. Yeah it was nice he got a triple double—his second this season and the ninth of his standout career—but he doesn’t want to talk about it. Lemme see if I could get him to talk about the anniversary of MLK’s passing. I rocked a black tee with Malcom and Martin’s images emblazoned under my blazer just as a reminder to those who saw me. I wondered if Dre would open up just a little:
“I wasn’t born, but I’ve heard stories and was taught about the greatness of MLK in school. It’s time to definitely reflect. We’ve come a long way since that time and hopefully we will continue to move forward.”
Hopefully no truer words will ever be spoken.
Yeah so what the kid in me wanted to see that dude run around all crazy and put up that patented jumper when fading left in the lane. I wanted to replicate the moment he had here last season, but again, who am I?
Come home brothaman. Come home.