Lots of fight in these Philadelphia 76ers
Before LeBron took his talents to South Beach, he had to make a pit stop in Philly. Six months ago, the new-look Miami Heat opened the season at the Wells Fargo Center with a 10-point win over the 76ers. And a new era in the NBA officially began.
Now, with a full season under their belt, the Big Three (note to headline writers: make this Big Three the last Big Three; we really don't need more) will meet Philly in Round 1 of the playoffs, and they'll be heavy favorites again. If the Sixers want to pull off a monumental upset and end the Heat's season where it started, here are seven things they'll have to do:
• Get in LeBron's head. It's hard to find a bad thing to say about James' game, but if he has one flaw, it's that at times he's had a touch of John Malkovich Syndrome -- the dude just gets in his own head. For the best basketball player on earth, Bron-Bron has a fragile psyche. And if there's one fan base that can deliver the final psychological blows that send him to the shrink, it's Philly's. But if you plan on talking smack within earshot of his mom, you should probably just skip the valet and use the parking lot.
• Andre gets Iggy with it. The Will Smith reference goes back to '98, but Andre Iguodala is going to have to dial it back to '08, when he averaged close to 20 points per game. When the Heat have gone on losing streaks this season, they've let the opposing team's superstar take over on offense. We don't have a guy that can go off for 30 on any given night -- we've been more of a spread-the-love type of team. But Andre Iguodala is our best athlete, and he's going to have to step it up and put on his scoring pants.
• Contain Dwyane Wade. If the NBA has a golden boy, it's D-Wade. He's a complete player, he hustles on both ends, and his image his squeaky clean -- he even loves his mama! But he has absolutely destroyed the Sixers this season, leading the Heat in scoring each time out (all Miami wins). I say we enlist one of Philly's favorites, Sir Charles Barkley, for some mentor sessions -- after those T-Mobile spots, he's got the inside track on what makes D-Wade tick. Maybe he can give the Sixers' big men some tips on locking him up (no, not like this).
• Jrue Holiday stays on point. The baby-faced point guard doesn't exactly exude toughness -- he's young, he's skinny and his name sounds like it belongs to a panda cub that was born on Christmas Eve. But the kid is a beast in the making. Being a young point guard is tough, and Jrue has handled the task admirably, but this series he'll have to be even better. That means limiting his turnovers and using his quickness to blow by Mike Bibby, who has been around the block more than a few times -- he's played in 80 postseason games, gotten X'ed (check out this link), and even hung out with yours truly's ex-girlfriend. Young Jrue will have to take a page out of my book and make him look silly -- because being adorable only gets you so far.
• The bench guys get their role on. Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks are two guys that live and die with their jump shots -- and they usually take the team with them. If we want to stay alive, they'll both have to do a little rain dance and hope those jumpers are falling.
• Coach Collins pulls some tricks from his sleeve. The one definitive advantage the Sixers have is on the sideline -- and I'm not talking about the Sixers' dance team. Doug Collins gets it done in Philly. Whether he's doing it in short-shorts or a suit, he's gotten this team to overperform, taking a supposed-to-be-bottom-feeder into the postseason. Erik Spoelstra, on the other hand, is a puppet figure, with Pat Riley pulling the strings (but to be fair, a smart puppet, like Scooter from the Muppets). All I know is, Coach Collins would never tolerate a player bumping him.
• Keep it loose. Hardly anyone expected the Sixers to make it this far, but now's not the time to start overthinking it. Nobody would be surprised if the Heat take care of us in four or five games. But this is Philly, where we thrive on underdog status. Look at Rocky Balboa. Look at the '85 Nova basketball team. The Sixers could take a page out of their books -- just because the Heat are favored, that doesn't mean we'll let them off easy.
Comedic actor Jamie Kennedy is a Philadelphia native and is writing an occasional column for ESPN.com. His DVD, "Jamie Kennedy Uncomfortable," is available on amazon.com and iTunes.