Tuesday, October 27, 2009

09-10 Season Outlook: Philadelphia 76ers

The glass is half full. This is a saying that champions optimism and hope, and believe me, if you’re a Sixers fan for long enough you’ll certainly need both. Rather than focusing on the negatives from last season (Another mediocre record, horrendous three-point shooting, the absence of an all-star, and most importantly, another disappointing first round exit), I’m going to get my inner-optimist on and say that this season’s glass is certainly half full. Sure the team was bounced in the first round, but they put up a valid fight and proved to be a valid opponent to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Magic. The success of that surprising series showed a different side to this Sixers squad; a side that they can hopefully build upon in the coming season.

The Sixers head into this season boasting largely the same squad as last season, barring a noticeable change at the point guard position; floor-general Andre Miller was shipped to Portland, a hole the Sixers filled by promoting prized long-time backup Lou Williams to the starting spot and drafting the potential-full, yet unproven Jrue Holiday out of UCLA. Williams will be looked to lead the team with up-tempo, fast-break basketball, a style that served them well last year.

Andre Igoudala had a huge 08-09, a year which saw him develop into the Sixers go-to-guy in late game situations, along with pushing his name into the upper echelon of the League. With his defense well respected, and his offensive arsenal continuously expanding there is no reason to believe we can’t seen an even bigger 09-10 from Andre. Last year, he solidified his name and reputation in the L, this year Sixers fans and League followers alike expect him to make that next step to All-Star status. Thaddeus Young is another player poised for a big season. In his second season Thad showed his versatility and expanded his scoring from 8 to over 15 points a game, providing another viable scoring option for a Sixers squad desperately in need of one. Poised for a breakout season, Thad figures to be a key component to the Sixers’ success this season.

The return of Elton Brand poses a question mark for the team, as they enjoyed their best success last season running an up-tempo style that ran most efficiently while Elton was sidelined with shoulder struggles. But, Elton is back and healthy, and now it is up to new coach Eddie Jordan to figure out a way to incorporate the former all-star into the game plan while sticking to the team’s strengths. If the new Sixers skipper can accomplish this expect a big season from both Elton and the Sixers.

Despite the addition of Jason Kapono to solidify the team’s terrible three point shooting, concerns about depth and frontcourt play will continue to haunt the team into the start of the season. Other questions loom large as well, including Elton’s health, Lou’s team-leadership ability, and the circus of uncertainty that usually surrounds a coach during his first year with a new squad. The Sixers appear to be equipped with adequate answers, but will need breakout seasons from some promising players if they hope to improve upon their finish from last year and make some noise in an ever-improving Eastern Confrence.

Monday, October 19, 2009

K-B's Call Review: NBA 2K10

Some video games are meant to blur the line between fantasy and reality, and NBA 2K10 is one such game. With double-take worthy graphics and NBA authentic presentation, the appearance of the game is certainly on point, but can the anniversary edition match up to its predecessor?

The bar was set extremely high for the 2K team in an attempt to follow up one of the most realistic and successful basketball simulations of all time in NBA 2K9, not to mention the fact that NBA 2K10 represents the ten year anniversary of the game. So, with that being said, the pressure was clearly on the development team to produce an outstanding product. With the scenario being set the next question to be asked should be if they were successful in their mission. My answer: Mostly yes.

While NBA 2K10 doesn’t venture too far from the winning formula that produced last year’s game, it certainly incorporates enough new features to keep players busy. As most have undoubtly noticed, player rankings have dropped significantly this year, along with the addition of a stamina meter, and an increased rate of fatigue. These changes successfully aim to make the game more realistic, and prevent one from dominating too heavily with one player. Where in past years when you could have relied on Kobe for seven straight possessions, utilizing a player to that extent will certainly result in a necessary trip to the bench to fight off fatigue. The gameplay, although tightened up, remains largely unchanged, as the team used the “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mantra in this regard. There are less missed lay-ups and gimme’s, but three’s are more difficult to convert, along with baseball passes. Aside from a few minor glitches (slight sliding, along with the late-game fouling issue) the gameplay remains as real as it can get.

With such a beautiful presentation, complete with life-like fans, mascots, astonishing player and coach models, and precise player animations, it is easy to forget that you are actually playing a game. Details were paid to every aspect of the players, from their tattoos to the way they dribble; NBA 2K10 is one of the most shockingly realistic games I have ever seen. Players move, play, and react like their real-life counterparts, providing you with a one-of-a-kind playing experience. Garnett’s scowl is captured perfectly, along with Kobe’s fist pump and Yao’s baby-hook. It’s all there. The ease of the alley-oop, and the cartoonish appearance of the Gatorade “G” Moments throughout the game are necessary to serve as a reminder that it is truly a video game that is being viewed. Highlights are presented cleanly and serve as an example of how clear high-definition can truly look, as they are scattered throughout the game and halftime show.

Although there is enough to occupy even an avid gamer with regular exhibition games, this year’s edition is once again rich with game modes, including a new mode entitled, “My Player,” where you develop a player and lead him through the summer circuit and D-League ranks to NBA stardom. This new mode along with the franchise, situation, and black top modes provide plenty of options, keeping the games replay value at high. Despite the lack of changes to the NBA Black Top mode it is still an extremely addicting area of play, as the dunk contest remains one of the video game world’s best kept secrets.

With out-of-this world presentation and unparalleled game play, the 2K franchise delivers a gem in their newest installment, NBA 2K10. Aside from a few minor glitches, NBA 2K10 is a slam dunk.

More Three's Please

With so many big names being moved this summer, it is easy to see how some offseason acquisitions were able to fly under the radar. Moves such as shipping Andre Miller to Portland and adding depth in the form of Rodney Carney and Jason Kapono didn’t necessarily make national headlines, but they were certainly of much interest to us here at Sixer nation, especially the much needed three-point relief that comes in the form of Kapono. It is no secret that the Sixers were horrendous in the three-point shooting category last season, as they haven’t had a true threat in that area since Kyle Korver left for Utah. Therefore, the addition of Kapono was a logical move, solidifying the Sixers outside shooting and providing another scorer off the bench. However, maybe it’s the optimist in me, or maybe it is my reaction to seeing Jason so lively and excited for the season at media day, but I believe that maybe, just maybe, Jason can bring more to the Sixers’ collective table than sniper-style shooting. If used properly, Jason could work to spread the floor, thus opening up the inside for the bigs and giving the playmakers (Lou,Igoudala, Young) more space to create. This may be a lot to ask for a player with a career ppg of 7.5, but it can’t hurt to ponder the potential upside.

“With the up-tempo style played here and the new offense under Coach Jordan I should be able to find a lot of opportunity to get looks,” Jason stated, clearly excited about the potential for clean looks courtesy of his new teammates. Jason will surely work to capitalize on those opportunities, but Jason, who has been known for his deadly shooting well before his days at UCLA, hopes to show another side of his game this season. “I worked out very hard this summer,” Jason continued. “It’s important for me to be an all-around threat for the team, and that is what I have been working for. If I can hit some shots and get some shots in transition, that will open things up for the other guys, which will help the team.” Kapono will certainly not be relied on to carry the team offensively, but rather to knock down shots and provide a spark off the bench, a role he is comfortable with. “I’m going to look to make my shots, and open up the floor for the rest of the bigs.

Secure seeding in the ever-improving East will be no easy task for this young Sixers squad, and the addition of the hot-handed Kapono is by no means a cure all, but he adds depth and a much-needed long distant threat to an otherwise solid team. Kapono can provide a potential spark; it will be up to the rest of the team to spread the fire.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Iverson lied to in D-Town?

Apparently there were some behind-the-scenes issues involved in Iverson's short stint with the Detroit Pistons. Iverson recently stated that he was lied to by (now former) Coach Michael Curry. Check out the full article below: