Inside the Sixers: Doug Collins doesn't deserve to be fired

MIAMI – So how will Doug Collins’ third season as 76ers coach be evaluated when it mercifully draws its last breath 10 days from now in Indiana?

Will Sixers owner Joshua Harris, a huge fan of Collins who extended the coach’s contract through next season, see the team’s backward step into the lottery after two playoff years as the by-product of poor coaching?
Probably not.

The loquacious Collins has become a lightning rod for criticism as this season has gone south. Andrew Bynum never played a minute for the Sixers, but Collins has absorbed the vitriol of the fans, some of it deserved but most of it not.

But Harris isn’t going to fire Collins, and here’s why:

Since starting last season 20-9, the Sixers were 46-66 in the regular season before Saturday’s game at Miami. That’s not an impressive record, but you have to give Collins credit for leading last year’s team into the second round. (And it doesn’t matter that they beat the Bulls without Derek Rose and mostly minus Joakim Noah in the first round.)

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Inside the Sixers: Doug Collins doesn’t deserve to be fired

MIAMI – So how will Doug Collins’ third season as 76ers coach be evaluated when it mercifully draws its last breath 10 days from now in Indiana?

Will Sixers owner Joshua Harris, a huge fan of Collins who extended the coach’s contract through next season, see the team’s backward step into the lottery after two playoff years as the by-product of poor coaching?
Probably not.

The loquacious Collins has become a lightning rod for criticism as this season has gone south. Andrew Bynum never played a minute for the Sixers, but Collins has absorbed the vitriol of the fans, some of it deserved but most of it not.

But Harris isn’t going to fire Collins, and here’s why:

Since starting last season 20-9, the Sixers were 46-66 in the regular season before Saturday’s game at Miami. That’s not an impressive record, but you have to give Collins credit for leading last year’s team into the second round. (And it doesn’t matter that they beat the Bulls without Derek Rose and mostly minus Joakim Noah in the first round.)

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76ers rise up to beat the Bucks

Doug Collins does not want to hear the word spoiler used in the same sentence as his basketball team.

“We’re not done yet,” Collins said Wednesday night after the 76ers beat the Milwaukee Bucks, 100-92, at the Wells Fargo Center. “Are we eliminated? Thank you. We’re not quitting. We are going to keep playing, man.

“I have never quit before I got to the finish line, and I’m not going to start now. And our team doesn’t have that personality.”

The Sixers (28-43) had six players score in double figures against a Milwaukee team that leads them by 61/2 games in the race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

The Sixers have 12 games remaining, and the Bucks have a dramatically tougher schedule in front of them. Six of their remaining games are against teams that would be in the playoffs if they began today.

So the Sixers, who won Wednesday for just the sixth time in the last 22 games, are not mathematically eliminated.

“Until the math says it, we are going to keep playing like we are fighting for [the playoffs]”, said Sixers center Spencer Hawes, who finished with 15 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. “You are always being judged, and you are always being watched. We just want to continue to improve individually and as a team.

“This season didn’t go as we would like, but there is something left, and there is a bright future beyond that.”

Hawes was as important as anyone in helping the Sixers to their fourth win in the last seven games. He notched his fifth double-double in the last seven contests.

Damien Wilkins continued his strong late-season play as well, tying Jrue Holiday with a team-high 18 points.

None of Wilkins’ points were any bigger than the last two, as he converted a steal into a dunk with 41.7 seconds left. It was the final bucket of the night, and it helped spare the Sixers, who blew an 18-point lead in the second quarter and trailed by 83-76 early in the fourth, from what could have been just one more ugly loss.

“I saw it coming a mile away, and I knew he didn’t see me,” Wilkins said of the pass thrown by Ersan Ilyasova, who finished with 13 points and 18 rebounds for Milwaukee. “I knew I had to get it or Doug would have had a fit. So I’m glad I did it.”

Monta Ellis scored 29 points, 19 of which came in the second half, for the Bucks, who lost their fourth straight. They were looking to sweep the season series for the second time.

Bucks coach Jim Boylan may have hurt his team by playing Brandon Jennings for only 17 minutes. Jennings, who averaged more than 26 points in the team’s first three meetings, went scoreless.

“You need to have some intensity, and it was lacking tonight,” Boylan said. “So I felt I needed to do something to energize the team.”

Sixers get throttled by Jazz

SALT LAKE CITY – The inability to be consistent, something that has haunted the 76ers all season long, reared its ugly head again Monday night.

One night after the lowest-scoring team in the NBA played with bounce in its stride, the sluggishness that has been a hallmark all season returned in an ugly 107-91 loss to the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena.

 

The Sixers (27-43) shot the ball poorly and never led. They trailed by 19 at the end of the third quarter. Utah, which began the night 11/2 games out of the final Western Conference playoff spot, led by as many as 22 points in the fourth quarter.

 

The loss came at the end of a four-game Western Conference road trip for the Sixers. It also came one night after they ended their road losing streak at 15 games.Both teams were playing for the second straight night. The fact that the Jazz still have something to play for should not have been a factor, Sixers coach Doug Collins said. “In this league, you play back-to-back,” Collins said. “I think they played last night, too. So I’m not going to give that excuse.”

 

Former Villanova star Randy Foye led the Jazz with 17 points. Foye was one of seven Utah players to reach double figures. The Jazz connected on almost 49 percent of their field goals.

The Sixers shot 38.6 percent from the field. After they notched 31 assists Sunday night in a win over Sacramento, they finished with a season-low nine against the Jazz.

Dorell Wright led the Sixers with 19 points. Rookie Arnett Moultrie finished with a career-high 14 points and eight rebounds. Spencer Hawes also finished with 14 points and eight boards. Hawes and Damien Wilkins (13 points) were the only Sixers starters to score in double figures.

The Sixers trailed by just 45-40 after a jumper by Lavoy Allen with 3 minutes, 18 seconds left in the first half, but the Jazz responded with a closing flurry.

 

A three-pointer by Foye after a timeout started a 13-2 Utah run that gave the Jazz a 58-42 halftime lead. During that stretch, the Sixers’ only points came on a pair of Hawes free throws in the final minute of the half.

 

“We gave them 14 straight points,” Collins said. “Turnovers – six straight turnovers. We gave up 24 points on turnovers. I told them, ‘You are not going to come in here and beat Utah like that.’

“It’s disappointing. I was hoping we would be better tonight. We had a clunker against the Clips. Played very well against Denver and played very well against Sacramento. But we did not play well tonight.”

 

Sixers try to end road skid vs. Kings

SACRAMENTO – After blowing an eight-point lead late in the fourth quarter against Denver on Thursday, the 76ers (26-42)  will attempt to end their 15-game road losing streak against a Sacramento (25-45) team that, unfortunately for the Sixers, has been playing better lately.

Like the Sixers, Sacramento is out of the playoff race. However, the Kings are playing better than the 76ers, the lowest-scoring team (92.4) in the league coming into Sunday’s game.

“We’re really not focusing on the losing streak,” guard Jrue Holiday said at the Sixers morning shootaround at Sleep Train Arena. “No one discusses it. We’re concentrating on closing out games better.”

The Sixers have won just four of their last 19 games. They are just five road losses shy of matching their longest road losing streak in the last 25 years.

Meanwhile, the Kings, winners of six of their last 11 games, have been playing better. They will be looking to win their fifth game in their last six home games. And they are not nearly as offensively challenged as the Sixers. In their 16 games since the All-Star break the Kings have averaged 109 points per game.

Teams will come calling for Thad Young

POSTED: Friday, March 15, 2013, 7:42 PM

Unfortunately for the 76ers, one of the names that is going to be bandied about when the never-ending trade rumors start to fly this summer is going to be that of 24-year-old Thaddeus Young.

Think about it.

If there is one player on the roster that the Sixers are committed to it’s Jrue Holiday. An all-star, Holiday, though he has shown some signs of wear and tear as of late, is the closest thing to an untouchable on this roster.

And if you’re looking at the Sixers roster, of the eight players signed through next season, Young is easily the most enticing to any team looking to do business with the Sixers.

In his first full season as a starter, Young is averaging 15.2 points on 52.6 percent shooting, and he’s averaging 7.8 rebounds per game. After notching just one double-double coming off the bench last season, Young has 18 this season.  The one area of his game where he’s slipped is at the free-throw line, where Young has made just 55.3 percent of his free throws after making 77.1 percent in 2011-12.

Compare those numbers to Atlanta’s Josh Smith. Smith, who believes he’s a max contract player (another reason why the Sixers were smart in not pursuing him), is averaging 15.8 points a game and shooting 45.7 percent from the field. He’s a better rebounder (8.5) than Young, but he’s one of the worst free-throw shooter in the league (45.7).

Young is one of the hardest-working players in the league, and he’s one of the guys in the league that every coach knows plays hard every single game.

In the last five games, not long after coming back from a hamstring injury, Young has averaged 20.6 points on 69.4 percent shooting (50 of 72).  In the last three games Young has pulled down 12, 10 and 15 rebounds per game.

So get a good look at him now. The Sixers don’t want to trade him, but no one is going to be calling them this summer and not bring up his name.

Inside the Sixers: Though 76ers may want to keep Bynum, he may not want to stay

As recently as one week ago, 76ers general manager Tony DiLeo reiterated that Andrew Bynum was still at the forefront of the 76ers’ plans.

Bynum “is Plan A,” DiLeo said. “Until we get the answers, until we make a decision, it’s a calculated decision or a risk-management decision, that’s something we’ll have to make at the end of the year, going into free agency.”

By now, we are well past the team’s good intentions of last August, when the Sixers moved pieces young (Nikola Vucevic and Maurice Harkless and a lottery-protected first-round draft pick) and old (Andre Iguodala) in order to add Bynum.

As rickety as Bynum’s knees appear to be, somebody in some NBA front office this summer will be willing to offer the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent – whether he plays this season or not – a huge sum of money. NBA front offices are populated by people who believe that the magic beans will work for them.

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Inside the Sixers: Playing Andrew Bynum now won't help the 76ers

Because teams never like to publicly admit that a season is over before it really is, the 76ers shortly will suit up Andrew Bynum and send the 25-year-old center into battle.

Fans have been breathlessly awaiting this moment since the Sixers acquired Bynum in August, and members of the media have been waiting for the first appearance of the player general manager Tony DiLeo last week referred to – still – as “Plan A.”

But if Bynum is indeed still Plan A – and I have no doubt that he is – then, for the benefit of the team, no one needs to see him play this season.

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Inside the Sixers: Playing Andrew Bynum now won’t help the 76ers

Because teams never like to publicly admit that a season is over before it really is, the 76ers shortly will suit up Andrew Bynum and send the 25-year-old center into battle.

Fans have been breathlessly awaiting this moment since the Sixers acquired Bynum in August, and members of the media have been waiting for the first appearance of the player general manager Tony DiLeo last week referred to – still – as “Plan A.”

But if Bynum is indeed still Plan A – and I have no doubt that he is – then, for the benefit of the team, no one needs to see him play this season.

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