Yes it's spring time again in Philly and that equates to playoff time once again. There is a bit to talk about besides the Phillies slow start or the NFL draft. The Flyers and Sixers are in the playoffs. Ed Snider and Peter Luukko must be grinning from ear to ear. The Wachovia center will be busy this spring.
They Flyers were all but left for dead just a short time ago. But they have come together and made the play-offs. Granted that is not such a considerable feat in the NHL, but it's better than the alternative we had around here last spring.
To hear the Sixers clinched a playoff spot for the 1st time in 3 years is a surprise to no one by now. Their resurgence started two months ago. So by now the ficklest of fans had come to know that this was not the Sixers of old. They have burst out of the mold of a struggling young team overshadowed by the incompetence of the Billy King era. BTW, it looks like King is going to New York.
By now you know the 76ers are not a squad that gets spanked by the upper echelon teams and plays down to the level of lower echelon teams. You know they can play defense. You know they can comeback from a deficit. You know they can finish a game in the 4th period. You know they have a go to guy.
His name is Andre Igoudala (Iggy for short). After finishing the 3rd with a 3 pointer to retake the lead for the 76ers, Iggy took the reigns last nite to denominate the 4th period against the Hawks. Playing with 5 fouls, he scored the Sixers last 10 points. He left no doubt the Sixers were going to the playoffs when he grabbed a rebound, sprinted down the court, dribbled the ball behind his back then to the rim for the coast to coast score. He had the look of "the man" ... that guy ... that go to guy. And the 76ers did not disappoint. They pulled away for the 109-104 win over the Hawks.
The Hawks had won five straight (6 at home) and had befuddled the 76ers so far this season. They were playing for a playoff spot also. This game meant something to them. So the win was no small feat.
But we know the score. We just made the playoffs in the eastern conference where it is still possible for 3 of 8 teams to qualify for the post season with a losing record. We know the western conference will likely have a team with 50 wins that will not make it to the post season dance. We know this team probably can't beat Boston or Detroit in a 7 game series or make it to the finals. We know they are a bit undersized ... that we are last in making 3's ... that we are last in defending 3's ... that we are last in free throw shooting. We know there is still work to be done.
But you go to start somewhere. The76ers have improved year over year. Something you could not say in the last few years of the Iverson era. So spring ball in Philly is the right direction and that's certainly something to talk about.
I could not help watching the Hawks Josh Smith play and dream of what it would be be like to see him in a Sixers uniform. The kids got mad skills. I'd be willing to throw a bit of cash his way. Sure he's a restricted free agent and the Hawks will likely match any offer. But you never know if you don't give it a shot. He has to be frustrated with how his talent is being wasted in Atlanta.