Game Preview & Chat: The Philadelphia 76ers

Kurt —  December 21, 2007

Records: Lakers 15-9; 76ers 10-15
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.4 (8th); 76ers 103.4 (23rd)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.6 (11th); 76ers 104.8 (8th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum
76ers: Andre Miller, Willie Green, Andre Iguodala, Reggie Evans, Samuel Dalembert

Lakers Notes: My junior high basketball coach taught me a couple of basketball truths that I believe wholeheartedly to this day:

1) The referees never cost you a game.
2) You don’t lose a game because you missed a shot in the last seconds.

His point was simple — it’s the team’s fault for letting the game be close enough in the first place to be decided by a referee or a desperate shot. That’s how I look at last night’s Lakers game — this was a game that never should have come down to questionable calls and the all-Kobe-all-the-time offense at the end. The Lakers bench, for one of the few times this season, let the team down — Ariza was -17, Farmar -15, Radmanovic -14, and almost all of that because of the Cavs 16-0 run at the end of the third/start of the fourth that was just ugly for the Lakers.

The game left me with concerns about focus and how, once again with the game on the line the rest of the Lakers stood around and watched Kobe, who settled for pull-up jumpers from 20+ feet. I have concerns about not putting a team away on the second night of a back-to-back. I have concerns about what happens against good rebounding teams.

All of that said, those concerns are going on hold for now and I’m going to look at this game as a one-off. For now. Teams are allowed an off night now and again.

The 76ers Coming In: They got off to a slow start, but the Sixers are 5-2 in their last seven and are playing their best ball of the season.

The Sixers have some skill guys — Andre Miller is the kind of quick PG that has given the Lakers trouble in the past (plus he may try to post up the smaller Farmar), and Iguodala loves the isolation plays because he is so explosive (plus he may be the best taking the lob in the league). Green is another good athlete, he just hasn’t quite figured out how to use those skills best yet, and Dalembert doesn’t shoot often but is efficient when he does (54% shooting this season).

Off the bench, watch for some guys who can go bombs away. Louis Williams handles the point and is shooting 43.8% from three point range, and at his side as the two guard is Kyle Korver, whose only reason for existence is he can shoot the three (43% last year, but just 33% this year so far).

The 76ers are a team that relies more on isolation and athleticism than set plays, so the Lakers need to stay focused on their team defense. And don’t leave Korver alone at the three-point line. And watch Iguodala on the back-door lob.

Factoid That May Interest Only Peter King: Allen Iverson played more minutes in Denver’s double-overtime win last night than Javaris Crittenton has all season. (Via the great KD.)

Keys To The Game: Defensive discipline. The 76ers are a team of slashers and spot up guys, plus a couple of good rebounders. What the 76ers want to do on offense is get into some isolation, basketball, let they young athletes outdo your guys. If the Lakers play team defense — rotate from the weak side to stop the slashers, stick with shooters on the perimeter, box out Reggie Evans — and the 76er offense can be slowed. The Lakers need to make this a team game, not a one-on-one show.

And that goes for Kobe on offense, who has a tendency to try to follow up a poor performance with an “I’m The Man” night. The Lakers will score plenty if they run the offense and get shots within it. And if the bench shows up and plays the way it is capable, unlike last night.

Tonight’s Game: Where I Get To Watch Unperturbed Happens: Believe it or not, I almost never get to crack-open a beer and watch a game live (or, tonight,90 minutes behind live). I DVR the games, spend time with my children and wife, then start watching about 10 on our smaller television (and with a computer on my lap). Tonight, the kids are with the grandparents, the wife is off at the movies with friends and I get to just watch a game. With a friend. In peace. So the Lakers better not blow it.

Last night, after an embarrassing loss the previous night, the Cavs came out with energy and looked like they wanted to make up for the night before. I want to see that tonight from the Lakers because, bottom line, they are the better team and if they put out that kind of effort they win.

Where you can watch: Game time is 4 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles tune into KCAL (9) but you’ll have to wait until 5:30 local time for the broadcast (so, in the comments, please use spoiler alerts).

And, a great line from The Kardiac Kid about last night’s broadcast:

Reggie Miller, however, had a rough night, with three mixed-metaphors, five idiotic/hyperbolic statements, and one grating voice.

to Game Preview & Chat: The Philadelphia 76ers

  1. i’ll try to bring a streaming video link of the Sixers broadcast around game time for those of us who are way too impatient to wait 90 minutes…


  2. hey Goo, can you do that for the NY game? I’ll be out of town and it’s not broadcast anywhere that I know of…
    (but I can get to a computer)

    Kurt, (not being critical, cause I know you did this on purpose) it’s a DVR, not a DRV. (digital video recorder)
    and enjoy the game!

    re: Reggie Miller, I once had him as a celebrity voice in a cartoon (Hercules) and he was TERRIBLE! we had lots of celebs in that series, surprisingly one of the best was that chef, Emerill.. go figure…Bam!


  3. 2. Normally I just say “TiVo’d” so I use the brand name version, ala Coke or Kleenex, but the one time I try to do it right I typo it. Figures. Well, correction made.


  4. Goo, will it be an mms link? And can we watch it at 4. Im finally back in kcal 9 zone for winter break, but I dont wanna wait.


  5. I’d say Joel Meyers deserves some blame too, along with the bench. True to form, he came through with two grade A jinxes last night:

    1) With the Lakers up 11 after a Kobe layup, Joel says something to the effect of:

    “Wow, what a third quarter by the Lakers!”

    Only to be reminded by Stu that,

    “Well, the quarter ain’t over yet, let’s see how they close it out.”

    What happened next? A 16-0 Cavaliers’ run at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth.

    2) The whole game Joel was making giddy remarks about Derek Fisher’s physical advantage over Daniel Gibson. How he can just over power him to going to the rim and get any spot on the floor, etc. And what happened at the very end of the game? A loose ball foul on Fisher grabbing a rebound over Daniel Gibson. Was it a bad call? Yes. Then why did they call it? Because Fisher’s ‘physical advantage’ over Gibson made an incidental contact seem much more brutal than it actually was.

    Thanks, Joel.


  6. Opponents offensive rebounds and 2nd chance points are the key.
    Limit those and the Lakers win.

    Win tonight, and they should go 3-1 on the road trip.


  7. that was the link for those of you who wanted to watch the game early.



    I don’t know if anyone is following gamecast but there’s 8:40 left in the 2nd quarter and Bynum has 18 points and 7 rebounds already. Someone mentioned Drew disappearing when it was him and four of the bench mob last night vs CLV. I hope this is him making up for it.


  9. Lakers are rocking the old school jerseys tonight..I really do prefer them over the sleveless dress looking things that they wear regularly


  10. hmm that link became kind of warped once i tried to paste it here, i’d suggest all of you who want to be able to watch NBA games streaming to sign up for …they almost always have streaming links to every game…if i find anything better tonight I’ll let you guys know


  11. man… am i the only one thinking kobe looks lost out there on the court?


  12. I am using one indicator for the bench mob to be effective – watch for Jordan Farmar’s 1st three. I think he is the anchor to that bench and if he struggles, the rest seem to struggle too.


  13. jellosjigglin’ December 21, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    go kobe! keep that hot shooting going! all the way up to 33%, keep forcing them, hopefully you’ll get to the 27% you hit last night.

    all sarcasm aside… kobe knows he’s hurt, phil knows he’s hurt, everyone knows he’s hurt so why is he still forcing shots? he can still contribute in other ways. what would phil do if any other player, i.e. fish or odom or luke, was forcing shots and hitting at a 33% or less clip? they’d not only be told to stop shooting, but would be yanked to the bench.

    granted its kobe, the best player on the team and the best in the nba for that matter, but still. its very frustrating. i’d much rather have sasha shoot 22 shots in a game, i’d put big money on him hitting more than 27% of them.

    could you imagine if bynum got that many touches/shots in a game?

    shoot jumpers within the offense. shoot them if you’re open, slash to the basket, create opportunities for your teammates.

    i know he’ll turn it around, but its just frustrating to see.


  14. We’re 2-1 now. Facing the Knicks on Sunday doesn’t seem to be that tall of an order so I guess 3-1 is quite reasonable to assume.

    Kobe was indeed forcing a lot of things since the last game… perhaps him not scoring enough will lead to horrible slumps? I think he should play sparingly vs New York. Play 8mins in the 1st, 6 in the 2nd, 8 in the 3rd and see if they build enough lead to stay rested in the 4th. The last thing we need is him aggravating that injury.

    Seeing what Bynum did in the box scores gives you a sparkle in your eyes. 24-11 at 10-11 shooting. The future indeed is bright.

    Over-all, seeing Kobe struggle made me happy about 1 thing: Lamar Odom is stepping up. 17-16 vs Chi, 19-11 vs Cle and 21-11 tonight. Keep it up Lamar and we need not think of trading you.


  15. Over the last 6 games, Kobe has shot .383 from the field. In those 6 games, he has attempted at least 20 shots 5 times.

    In his first 19 games this year, Kobe shot .469 from the field. He took 20 shots or more only 5 times.


  16. The other night I thought Bynum had “an off shooting game”, only to realize that he had hit exactly 50% of his shots. It was then that I realized how efficient he has actually become. Tonight, as if to prove that point, he went 10-for-11. I know I’m not the only one who thinks he should get more touches. I understand that we don’t want him operating too far outside of the box, but he has shown good judgement (most of the time) and his footwork is improving every night. We are watching the birth of a monster here, folks.


  17. 15, 16. Yeah, our team is really effing dumb when it comes to exploiting opponent weaknesses. I cringed all the way down the stretch as we kept opting for long jump shots instead of going inside against their midgets.

    It wasn’t just Kobe’s retard shot selection though. On a couple plays no one came over to help. Maybe it was iso time, but he sure seemed like he was looking for somebody before he chucked it.


  18. think you guys keep forgetting that Bynum is as efficient as he seems because he isn’t forcing the issue/teammates are finding him. That’s what role players should do, and unless you show you can create on your own, you’re only gonna get touches when your teammates see an opening.

    he still has a long way to go until we can go into ‘lob it to bynum and watch’ mode.


  19. harold,
    I don’t think you were watching the game tonite. Bynum was cutting to the basket and working around the opposing center all night – if that is not creating, as a center without the ball, I don’t know what it is.

    Bynum still doesn’t have a complete offensive game, but he does have enough to be the #2 scorer on this team on most nights. Our problem is that we too often move the ball around the perimeter without moving it inside and Kobe is a large part of this habit.

    Lamar is another key component of our down low game – if only we could get him to cut and move consistently before the ball goes up.


  20. Kobe is trying to shoot himself out of his slump. He has these stretches every year. Eventually he will get a little healthier and start hitting turn around 27 footers as the shot clock expires. And have 30-40 points for 10 straight games. Whether this will be good for the team or not is not so clear but it iwll be exciting to watch.


  21. i agree that kobe is shooting himself out of his slump, however, it seems that the major reason why he’s slumping is because of the groin injury. if his shooting slump was just that – a shooting slump – then he should be firing away, but he knows that his slump is the result of the injury. he was 6-20 tonight, thats 30%, ouch! can you imagine if bynum (10-11, 90%) or odom (8-11, 73%) or even fish (9-16, 56%) split up those 14 shot attempts kobe missed? we would have blown out philly, even if bynum, odom and fish’s collective shooting averages dropped below 50%

    i agree with those who say bynum cannot create his own shot that effectively yet; the majority of his points come from cleaning up around the basket, but he showed a couple nice touches tonight with some hooks. how often is he even fed in the post and allowed to operate in a game? i’d say on average, twice a night.

    i say give the kid the ball a bit more. remember when we won those champions with some fat dude named shaq? we ran the offense through him in the post almost every possession. will that not work with the quicker, more agile, better shooting bynum?

    what do you guys think?


  22. So… I’m following the Lakers across the country, apparently. I’m originally from Philly and am home for the holiday, so it was only natural to take in the game and catch up with my dad at the same time.

    As much as I want to add something constructive about the game, the only thing I can muster is…. Philly is in a bad way. The arena experience was horrible. The announcer / entertainment were so loud and obnoxious that I couldn’t even concentrate on the game. I wish I would’ve watched on TV.

    The point is… (there is a point)… it made me think about LA, and how we keep the lights down in the arena and the focus on the action. I had a good feeling when I thought that. We’re doing things right. In true end-of-the-year fashion, it made me want to think about all the reasons why we’re going to be huge in the next 18 months.

    We have:

    1) The best player in the game (who may be shooting himself through a slump, but come on… can we complain? we’re generally winning WHILE he works out the kinks…)
    2) The best coach in the history of the league. You know when he puts on all his rings at night and his right pinky is empty and cold he gets all pissed off. He wants to finish the set.
    3) A scary-high-potential youth movement. 24 and 11? wow. That was quality. Did anyone else see the hook get some action tonight?!? And Farmar? He impresses me even on his bad nights.
    4) Probably the best true leader in the game. I saw at least twice Fish called the 5 on the floor together when things were starting to get crazy. He’s the foundation for a team to build on.
    5) A front office that by the day is gaining more credibility as Bynum grows, Farmer excels, Ariza guards, Fish leads, and Kobe….well… does what he does… HERE. Not somewhere else.

    I think we have a good thing going. Not in a crazy over the top we’re going to go 16-0 in the playoffs type of way…. but we’re definitely on a solid path.

    Cheers to that.


  23. bymun’s good, no doubt, and his future is bright indeed.
    however, he’s not ready yet for all these touches you guys are demanding. if you watch him closely, he’s not always finding the right spot on the floor for the pass inside. I felt that the team was looking for him several times when he just couldn’t get into a spot for a clear pass. if they tried to force it in, well, that results in a turnover. so…pick your poison.
    I say let it gel, let it take time, he will continue to improve.
    one thing I’m seeing now that I really like is his hustle up and dwon the floor, he seems to have gotten it recently that if he lags behind his man on D, he will get burned, or let his team down, and on offense, if he gets out ahead of his man, he has a better shot at getting an alley oop, or a pass in a nice spot on the floor.
    PJ is a master at bringing his team, his players, especially the youth, to peak at the right time, this year, he really has something to work with, so sit back and enjoy the ride.


  24. The Guy Formerly Known As Lamar Odom December 22, 2007 at 12:08 am

    did ya’ll see Bynum’s running left-handed hook shot???!!!!! not a sky hook yet, but that was beautiful. Bynum’s growing so fast right in front of our eyes. How awesome! I still can’t wait to see him bust the sky hook. I know he will eventually do it. Kareem is a genius.


  25. Kareem is indeed a genius. He works well with true centers. He once upon a time had the Clippers center Olowakandi looking like a comer, before the Clippers fired him and the Candy man proceeded to slump, get traded and then disappear.
    Also, he is a decent coach just waiting for his chance in the NBA.
    The Laker’s front office deserves nothing but praise for bringing Kareem in to work with Mihm, Kwame and now Bynum. Bynum seems to have absorbed more of Kareem’s teachings than Mihm or Kwame who may be stuck in their ways.


  26. The Guy Formerly Known As Lamar Odom December 22, 2007 at 11:04 am

    It’s a good thing Bynum was so inexperienced then when he came to the Lakers, otherwise he would’ve had those bad habits that Kwame and Mihm can’t shake.


  27. I just got done watching last nights game. My one observation is that the Lakers need to start running the inside/out triangle that they used to run when they had Shaq.
    Bynum was playing so well in the first half and then in the 3rd qtr he had only 5 touches. Kobe was just looking to shoot himself out of his slump. I wonder if he’s being guilty of what Shaq was doing to him. Refusing to give some of the offense to the young kid (who obviously deserves a shot at it).
    It sure looks that way.
    From what John Ireland said at halftime, the coaches emphasized that they needed to run the offense thru AB. Then he get 5 touches in the 3rd qtr? Phil needs to reestablish his authority when stuff like that happens. Call a timeout and jump down some peoples throats. Then if they don’t implement what the coaches want, yank them out for a bit.
    And Bynum needs to show a little more cajones and get on his teammates a little when he’s not getting his deserved touches. Call them out. He was abusing the 6ers inside.


  28. There’s nothing stopping Bynum. He’s going to be special. I see this kid showing flashes of great defense against the league’s best, you’ve got to give him props. Games like these reflect a superstar in the making. I see him as being the center-version of Tim Duncan. And that my friends… is SCARY.

    We need to come up with a nickname for Bynum ASAP. 😀


  29. One more example about Bynum’s quantum leap this season, and even DURING the season: the guy is almost never in foul trouble. He used to be a fouling machine, AND fail to challenge shots. Now, he is challenging most shots inside, and he is not fouling. He only had one block last night, but he must have made 15-20 shots miss due to his challenges.


  30. Aside from the conditioning, AB (I think that is a great moniker) has learned patience this year – something Kwame should also learn. If you watch him, both defensively and offensively, you will notice he does not react to every move of his man, but waits for a real commitment and then positions himself to force the player into the most difficult shot. Also, he is not swatting at the ball, but letting the ball come to him. Both of these things result in a drastic reduction in foul calls. On offense he is willing to use his full 3sec to maneuver his man to best utilize his size and strength.

    If he continues to work on his offensive moves (he has Kobe as a driver here) he could leave Shaq in the dust and truely be a combination Tim Duncan (mister fundamental) and Shaq (mister dominant).

    I have had faith in AB over the last 2yrs, but this year is still a revelation to me. When I think he played 7 games as a senior in HS and a total of about 20 games he is really a totally new piece of clay for Kareem, Phil, and Kobe to mould.


  31. The Guy Formerly Known As Lamar Odom December 22, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    I hope Kwame and Mihm get inspired by AB. I hope they push themselves to the limit. But I know they won’t.


  32. I know this is off topic, but does anyone else think John Ireland looks a bit like the Agent from the Matrix series?


  33. Boy, we are getting off topic.

    The shape of John Ireland’s head reminds me of Richard Nixon, but the Matrix series – not really.


  34. I know a few at SLAM have commented Bynum looks like Tracy Morgan…



  35. Although Kobe seems to be pleased with the obvious development of AB and the overall improvement of the team, it still appears that kb24’s issues with the front office still run deep and there is a high risk that he’ll opt out in 2009. Very disappointing, though an informative perspective offered by my favorite Lakers beat writer, Kevin Ding. I wonder what, if anything, can be done to repair that relationship, or whether there is going to be a sad ending, regardless of how much the Lakers progress over the next two seasons.


  36. 37. This story is going to be everywhere tomorrow, Kobe sat down with a number of reporters and said his request this summer gave just four teams (suns, Mavs, Knicks, Bulls) but right now he is not thinking about it.

    What I took away from it is Kobe sees this team is good but still in the second tier, and if that is the case two summers from now he’ll have a decision to make, but that he is not looking to move right now.


  37. If he had sun glasses and a superior smirk, i’d totally buy it.

    John Ireland, to Kobe: “Mister Anderson…”

    Kobe: “Um, I think you have the wrong guy. I’m Lord Voldemort.”


  38. 38. Kurt, I guess I interpreted the article as suggesting that team performance, while important, is a separate issue from Kobe’s presently fractured relationship with the front office. But I guess time will tell. As a Lakers season ticket holder, I’m trying to just enjoy the team’s surprisingly encouraging play so far, but I do feel there is somewhat of a pall — no matter how subtle — that continues to hang over Staples Center as long as #24 doesn’t rescind his trade request. I do wish Heisler or one of the beat reporters would reveal what truly is at the root of Kobe’s alleged distrust of the front office. I just feel it has to go beyond the infamous “Lakers insider” who blamed Kobe for Shaq’s departure.


  39. Scot, I really think it is that Kobe felt they were going to build to win around him fast — that’s what Buss told him when he resigned — and he said that this summer he felt the team was not trying to do that. I think that made him feel betrayed.

    And I think there is no way he rescinds that trade request, it would be admitting too big a mistake.


  40. rofl… some hilarious comments talking about bynum with respect to shaq and even duncan. I thought I loved the kid… just as an eyeopener for some of you guys check out shaqs first season in the league of comparable age to bynum now… don’t get me wrong I love bynum but shaq is a once in a lifetime talent


  41. They can reach that level by fixing the small things:

    1) Kobe stop shooting bricks from 20+ feet with 15+ seconds on the clock. Give the rest of your team a look.

    2) LO, stop shooting 3 pointers. There are better options available. This includes taking your man off the dribble.

    3) Walton – Challenge yourself, and prove why the Lakers gave you that mid-level exception contract. I still wonder of the whereabouts of that same person who ignited the Lakers against Detroit in the playoffs.

    4) Bynum – Assert yourself and do not afraid to be emotional. Put the team in your hands and step up and be that 2ndary offensive threat that Kobe wanted.

    5) Fish – Keep up the good work and help the youngsters learn how to perform as role players, as future leaders of this team, and as unselfish as yourself.


  42. I was just cleaning out my garage and found a complete set of autographed laker pictures from the 74-75 team. I got them at “Datsun Night at the Forum” when i was 9 years old. It’s got autographs from the whole team but most notably Stu, Riley, Gail Goodrich and Chick.
    Too bad it wasn’t from the year before(Jerry West) or the year after(Kareem).
    The Riley photo is great…..sideburns and a mustache. 🙂


  43. About Shaq being a once-in-a-lifetime player.

    I might say that if Shaq had been as dedicated to basketball as he was to self promotion. He certainly had the talent to be anything he wanted to be.

    However, once-in-a-lifetime – maybe not! Remember Michael, remember Magic, remember Bird, remember Kareem, remember Wilt, remember Oscar, remember Bill Russell, remember Jerry, remember Elgin.

    That’s just too many once-in-a-lifetime players and that’s just from a Laker perspective.


  44. I too do not expect Kobe to resend his trade request – perhaps ever. The proof will be in the puddin’ in 2009. I also doubt he would leave the Lakers for someone else unless the Lakers do not improve from today. The reason is two fold: 1) In two years his best place to win now will probably be Los Angeles and 2) he will just not get anyway near the money on another contender than what he can earn here.

    I do feel the rift with the front office is quite wide and will not be bridged this year. I suspect Mitch will approach Kobe over the summer and try to build some bridges with him. I doubt Jim Buss will ever be able to do this and Jerry Buss and Kobe will have to ‘take their sweet time’ to develop a new business relationship. Perhaps Jeannie will approach Kobe and develop a personal and business relationship – as the Buss family face of the Lakers. I do not expect any of us to ever hear much about this process.


  45. Mike in the Mountain West December 23, 2007 at 2:20 am

    If Kobe is still thinking of opting out in by the time the summer rolls around won’t the FO be forced to trade him instead of getting nothing when he opts out?

    A lot is riding on what we are able to do in the playoffs. If we can get to the second round and either make it a close second round contest or get the WCF, then I think Kobe would be foolish to leave, and he’d probably recognize that. If on the other hand we flame out in the first round again, I think it’s bye bye Kobe.


  46. Hey, first time posting here.

    I come from the same town Bynum went to school (Edison). He went to St.Joes while i went to the public school (He was senior when i was a soph) and i got to play with him at the St.Joes outdoor courts over the summer (kinda, like 2 pick up games…but i watched him a bunch). The thing is, he was a real bum back then…he didnt play senior year simply because he knew he was gettin drafted and didnt care about HS + didnt want to risk injury. He wasnt very muscle-toned and was rather laid-back, relying on his height and size and athleticism to get by.
    This is why its surprising + pleasing to see that he has matured and (apparently) developed a real drive to improve with evident results.

    Regarding Kobe – although we all love to watch him play, it may be better if he took a few games off. The Lakers can probably beat NYC without him, at the very least. The way he is playing, not taking long strides, settling for jumpers, missing, it would be better to risk losing a few games in the short run than to develop a lasting, nagging injury.

    This is a great blog, keep it up. I found it through the shoutout it received at Yahoo NBA, so you can give props to them for giving it some spotlight.

    Interesting factoid bout Bynum – he used to charge 10 bucks at the courts for people to get a chance to play him one on one…he made a killing.


  47. Mike in the Mountain West,
    Yes, Kobe would want out this summer, but…although he wants to win more than anything, he also wants to maximize his income over the next few years both because they are probably the last of his prime and because he has finally repaired some of his image from Eagle, CO. Leaving the Lakers with the young players they have would set his image back. From a business perspective, Kobe would lose the most money if he opted out this year, rather than next unless it was a sign and trade. Next year I don’t see ANY good clubs able to pay 22-24million for any non-center player (or any player now in the NBA) and still be able to remain competitive.

    While it is a tenuous position, the Lakers are still in the driver’s seat.


  48. Mike/Craig: Kobe cannot opt out this summer, his opt-out is in the summer of 2009. If they Lakers choose not to trade him, he will be a Laker next season. That gives them a little more time to figure out a way to jump from solid second tier to elite.