We’ve taken issue with Doug Collins in the past. Through his four NBA stops in Chicago, Detroit, Washington and Philadelphia we’ve raised concerns about his rotation choices, minute allotments, play calling, and strange aversion to learning more about the game he’s dedicated his remarkable life with.
It wouldn’t be appropriate in the slightest to take issue with his post game press conference from Tuesday night. On the heels of Philadelphia’s sixth straight loss, to the lowly Orlando Magic, the 76ers coach rightfully tore into his disappointing roster. Watch:
Nothing against the Orlando Magic, a hard-working outfit that has done well to compete and keep their heads up despite the Dwight Howard mess, a limited roster, trade rumors and injury woes, but to give up a 78-55 game-ending run to the Orlando Magic is “mind-numbing,” as Collins puts it.
From here, in order, we’ll go into some of the more impressive parts of a frustrated rant given by one of the more brilliant basketball minds of our time.
*Re-telling a quarter-century old anecdote from legendary Tennessee Volunteers coach Pat Summitt (Collins refers to her full name, Pat Head Summitt), regarding a coach’s role in encouraging “energy and effort” to 76ers reporter Dei Lynum. That was fantastic. Lynum is the daughter of former NBA coach Jim Lynum, and what I wouldn’t give to spend an evening anchored in front of a basketball game with the four of them holding figurative court.
*Returning to the Philadelphia 76ers, who selected Collins first overall in the 1973 draft after the worst 82-game season in NBA history, was a special payback for Collins in 2010. And he did, to paraphrase, give his body to the team. Collins worked through unending foot and leg injuries, playing just 415 out of a possible 656 games in eight seasons with the 76ers before being forced to walk away from the game (and a championship-level 76ers squad) before he turned 30.
Feel bad for Brandon Roy right now, as the former star potentially nears retirement? Picture Brandon as a member of those lottery-scraping SuperSonic and Thunder clubs from years ago, having to retire midseason before the team takes another shot at the title. That’s what Collins went through in 1980. This is why you can probably understand why he has “no idea” why his team couldn’t find a way to compete and end a significant losing streak.
*”The team that we tried to put together we’ve never seen.”
We ranted against the 76ers cutting Elton Brand and bringing in Kwame Brown last summer, but let’s not forget that the team that was a game away from the Eastern conference finals last year dealt its best player, best young big man, and best rookie prospect for a chance to turn Andrew Bynum into an unabashed franchise player.
It’s true that the Sixers needed an opponent’s injury woes and an aging Boston Celtic roster to nearly make it to that third round in 2012, but this was a team worth remarking upon last season. So remarkable that the team made a move that only Laker teams of the mid-1970s or mid-1990s seem to be able to pull off – dealing assets for a low post center that can score and defend. And Andrew Bynum may never play a game as a Philadelphia 76er, as he bowls his way through ridiculous haircuts and knee rehabilitation.
To coach this long into a season, 55 games and counting, without being able to draw up any of the plays constructed last August? That has to be a killer. An absolute killer.
*It is sadly telling that the first name Collins points out for praise is veteran Damien Wilkins – always a smart player and underrated passer – as being the lone player that returned from the All-Star break ready to play. DW has played well since the break – hitting half his shots and contributing over eight points a game in 17.5 minutes a contest – but this is what 33 year-old role players should be doing.
The rest of the 76ers? Especially on Tuesday? There’s no excuse not to Damien Wilkins it up.
*The “if everybody looked inside themselves as much as I did, this world would be a CAT scan” line doesn’t make literal sense (or, um, “scan”), but it’s true that Doug “Play a Day” Collins is constantly tinkering and rarely sleeping.
Though we would like it if he would take a shine to the hard work that some Collins-esque statistical thinkers are coming through with.
*The clarity to Collins’ recollections, just off hand revealing that the Magic had scored on 14 of 20 possessions to end the first half and the 7-0 run that Orlando opened the second half with … so telling. This is a basketball mind to be admired.
*The delicacy that the journalist uses in questioning the “material” on the team, in terms of leadership, and Collins’ talk about the “capabilities” of certain would-be leaders – it speaks to a roster that isn’t full of bums worth booing. Rip on Kwame, and make fun of Spencer Hawes’ hair, but Collins likes his guys. So does the press, in this regard. They just aren’t playing up to potential.
*This: “They say it’s a player’s league … well, then, take ownership.”
*Um, Doug? “There’s nothing wrong with our preparation?” There are a few printouts we’d like you to see.
*Doug remarks that “three guys weren’t even sweaty when we started the game,” and that’s classic Collins. This is the same guy that constantly used to lament the way players slept through the warm-ups post-halftime, and how teams weren’t properly steeling themselves for the final 24 minutes.
*Collins: “I’m having fun.” I actually believe him. He wants to talk about basketball, even after six straight losses.
*Rip Andrew Bynum all you want for myriad issues, but Bynum is under no obligation to fold himself into a seat on the bench every night while working through knee woes.
*A Hank Iba reference. Doug Collins probably still goes through a bottle of Tums a day in tribute.
*Doug comes as close as he can to making excuses – “we made a huge deal” – without letting his team off the hook for its recent lethargy. Masterfully done. And he’s not wrong in his passive/aggressive take.
It’s true – former 76er and current Orlando big man Nikola Vucevic pulled in 19 rebounds in 35 minutes on Tuesday, while his ostensible replacements (former teammates, but rotation step-ins) Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen combined for five boards in almost 39 minutes.
*Thaddeus Young is very important. More specifically, Thaddeus Young at one hundred percent is very important.
*With Thaddeus and Andrew Bynum, “we got a chance.” And he smiles, effortlessly. Sorry for fawning, but this is a coach that wants to see great basketball, whether it’s on his side or not. We all can get behind that.
*It’s not true that 12 of the 76ers’ next 14 games are on the road, but the team does have a brutal schedule to finish the year, with 11 of the squad’s final 15 to be played away from Philadelphia. And the team is about to play five of its next seven away from home.
*No practice tomorrow. Plane at 3:30.
This is Doug Collins, at his absolute core. And this is a video to remember, the next time we think about an NBA coach just rolling the ball out to the middle of the court.
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