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Once an afterthought, Sixers' Meeks playing big role

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Once an afterthought, Sixers' Meeks playing big role

Saturday, April 2, 2011
Posted: 12:55 p.m.By Reuben Frank
CSNPhilly.com

Scott Skiles didnt play him, mainly because last years Bucks team had so many terrific three-point shooters.

Eddie Jordan didnt play him, mainly because Eddie Jordan was Eddie Jordan.

Even Doug Collins didnt play Jodie Meeks for a single minute the first two weeks of this season because, as Collins jokes now, I didnt realize one of our best players was sitting on the bench.

Meeks, now 22-years-old, in his second NBA season and playing for his third NBA coach, is headed for the playoffs as a starting guard a year after getting traded and riding the bench for two different teams.

Im happy for everybody, teammate Andre Iguodala said after the Sixers beat the Nets to clinch a playoff berth Friday night. But especially for Jodie Meeks, because of everything hes been through.

Meeks is one of three Sixers starters wholl make his NBA playoff debut later this month. Spencer Hawes and Jrue Holiday are also playoff newbies, as is backup Evan Turner.

Ive never been there, but the guys say the intensitys much higher, like the game in Miami we just played last week but even more intense than that, Meeks said. Everybody has to pick their game up, but everybody really just has to do what weve been doing all year and well be fine.

Meeks has made 42 percent of his three-pointers this year, the fourth-highest figure in franchise history behind Dana Barros (49 percent in 1995) and Kyle Korver twice (44 percent in 2007, 43 percent in 2006).

After averaging just 4.1 points in 41 games with the Bucks last year and 5.9 in 19 games after being traded to the Sixers in what at the time was considered a virtually irrelevant move -- Royal Ivey, Primoz Brezec and a second-round pick for Francisco Elison and Meeks -- Meeks is now scoring 10.6 points per game for the Sixers.

Hes started the last 59 games of the season and in March averaged a career-best 14.4 points per game -- second-best on the team, just behind Iguodalas 14.7.

Ive definitely worked my tail off to get to this point, from not playing in Milwaukee to getting traded midway through my rookie year, said Meeks, who scored a Kentucky-record 54 points in a game against Tennessee two years ago this week. Andres helped me a lot. Hes kind of mentored me not only on the court but off the court. I just thank him for what he did for me this season.

Meeks is eighth in the NBA in three-point shooting, a fraction behind Korver, whos now with the Bulls. He made 46 percent of his three-point attempts in March and is shooting 44 percent from long range since New Years Day.

Obviously, everybody wants to play as soon as they come to the NBA, but its not always like that for everybody, Meeks said. I kept my focus, kept my faith, and knew Id get my opportunity eventually.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

Jimmy Butler-only observations for his Sixers debut

Jimmy Butler-only observations for his Sixers debut

Jimmy Butler’s debut didn’t end the way he would’ve liked, but he showed flashes of why Elton Brand made the move.

He finished with 14 points (6 of 12) in the Sixers’ 111-106 loss to the Magic Wednesday (see non-Butler observations).

Here are a few observations from Butler’s performance to hold you over before our film review Thursday.

• Early on it looked like Butler was really just trying to let the game come to him, which makes sense in his first game with the team. 

He was perhaps a little too unselfish on the Sixers’ first possession of the game. They ran him off a double screen with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and it looked like Butler had a mid-range jumper that he passed up.

But he was doing a lot of the little things that maybe not every star player does. He moved well away from the ball and was engaged even when the offensive set wasn’t meant for him.

• His first bucket was a thing of beauty. Butler and Embiid ran the two-man game much like Embiid and JJ Redick do. Embiid faked the dribble handoff and Butler made a great cut to the basket to get the easy bucket.

This is something Brett Brown will surely be taking a long look at. Keep in mind, Brown has basically had one shootaround to get Butler acclimated. As the season goes, he’ll learn what works well for Butler and the rest of the team.

• The diversity of Butler’s offensive game is impressive and it was on full display. He’s outstanding in the mid-range …

He’s also so strong finishing around the basket. You can also see how his ability to create shots is going to help the Sixers.

This play where he splits the defenders and finishes is as pretty as it gets.

• Butler has made the NBA’s All-Defensive first team four times and it’s easy to see why. Butler is so much fun to watch on defense. 

He has such quick feet and awareness. You can see how uncomfortable he makes offensive players with the pressure he puts on them. His recovery speed when he cheats in the passing lanes is also really impressive.

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Magic 111, Sixers 106: Joel Embiid has career first but Sixers lose in Jimmy Butler's debut

Magic 111, Sixers 106: Joel Embiid has career first but Sixers lose in Jimmy Butler's debut

This isn't the debut the Sixers wanted for Jimmy Butler.

The Sixers had a huge third quarter only to allow a 21-0 run in the fourth in a 111-106 loss to the Magic in Orlando Wednesday.

Here are observations from the brutal loss.

You can find Butler-only observations here. 

• Butler flashed a few of the reasons why Elton Brand acquired him. He made shots from the mid-range, moved well without the ball and played excellent defense. He finished with 14 points (6 of 11) in 33 minutes.

We’ll have more on Butler’s debut shortly but here's his first bucket, which came off a great cut and two-man game with Embiid.

• Joel Embiid was cooking early. He was his usual dominant self in the first half and had his best overall game of the season, recording his first career triple-double with 19 points, 13 rebounds, and a career-high 10 assists. He did so while only turning the ball over twice. He's doing an oustanding job of understanding defenses and double teams and it's made him even more dangerous.

He had a rough second half scoring wise, going 1 of 10 with just three points, but it appears that even with Butler, Embiid will be a serious MVP candidate. 

• It looks like Redick has shaken off his early-season shooting slump. With the Magic coming out hot early, Redick played a big part in keeping the Sixers in the game in the first half. The two-man game with Embiid and Redick is lethal.

He also took this ridiculous three to get the Sixers a 2-for-1 at the end of the third ... and he let the Sixers' bench know.

He finished with 22 points on 8 of 13 from the field and 4 of 7 from three. He made a three that would've tied the game with under ten seconds left but he stepped out of bounds before making the shot.

• You have to give Fultz a ton of credit. After he threw up the oddest free throw maybe ever on Monday night in Miami, he came back and made a confident mid-range jumper on his first look of the game.

Though he was taken out of the starting lineup, he still got 21 minutes and had eight points on 4 of 6 from the field.

• Wilson Chandler started at the four and made his presence felt. This is the most spry the 31-year-old combo forward has looked this season after starting the season on the shelf with a hamstring injury.

He had 14 points.

• Ben Simmons had one of his quietest games of the season. He finished with just nine points, six assists and three rebounds. He did make two huge free throws late in the fourth quarter.

• Former Sixer Nikola Vucevic continues to haunt his old team. He finished with 30 points.

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