The 76ers: What went wrong

The 76ers: What went wrong Just a little over a year removed from an unexpectedly deep playoff run and from acquiring a center they figured to be their centerpiece for years to come, the 76ers find themselves still searching for a coach and a way forward. The draft left some clues as to where they are headed, and free agency is just ahead. So the task of rebuilding the team has begun – minus, of course, all-star point guard Jrue Holiday, who was traded Thursday. While no one knows what the Sixers will do next, it’s becoming clear how they arrived at this point. Interviews with sources high in the Sixers leadership and throughout the NBA revealed poor decision-making and internal strife that yielded a disastrous 34-48 record last season and left fans feeling hopeless. Did the 76ers investigate Andrew Bynum’s health as well as they could have before trading Andre Iguodala and young assets for the oft-injured center? And was Doug Collins’ last season as head coach doomed before it started because of offseason moves he advocated? The Sixers refused comment for this story. The Bynum mess In Bynum’s seven seasons with the Lakers, multiple teams, including Houston, New Jersey (now Brooklyn), Indiana, and Orlando, inquired about trading for him. After all, as the Miami Heat found out this year in their grueling, seven-game victory over Indiana and Roy Hibbert in the Eastern Conference finals, a dominating 7-footer is a force to be reckoned with. So why was the talented big man even on the block last summer? The March 2012 surgery on his knees to clean out damaged cartilage marked his fourth knee surgery as a professional since 2008. He underwent arthroscopic surgery in May 2008 on his left knee, and in the summer of 2010 he had surgery on his right knee to repair torn cartilage. Bynum also had his knees drained countless times during his career, which is never a good sign for a man whose weight hovers near 300 pounds. But Bynum’s knee issues began long before the Lakers selected the then-17-year-old with the 10th pick in the 2005 draft. Bynum had his first knee surgery at the age of 12. After they drafted him, the Lakers discovered that Bynum’s out-of-the-ordinary “Q angle” – the angle between hip and knee – could affect the way his kneecap glides along the thigh bone and could cause foot problems, which Bynum has also experienced in his career. “We had four well-known doctors look at it and they all approved the trade,” majority owner Joshua Harris said at a news conference the day after the season ended. “I don’t know that there was a rubber stamp. I wouldn’t characterize it that way.” One of those surgeons said to have signed off on the deal sat courtside prior to the team’s home finale April 14. Asked how he could have cleared Bynum for the trade, the doctor, speaking anonymously, shook his head, saying, “Who says I cleared him?” The Lakers viewed Dwight Howard as a better center than Bynum, but another prevailing factor in the Lakers’ decision to deal away Bynum was the front office’s belief his degenerative knees would worsen progressively, league sources said. A trade to Orlando was rumored last summer before the four-team deal in which the Sixers acquired Bynum. But Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, an Orlando source said, was also skeptical that Bynum would ever be healthy enough to contribute, an Orlando source said. Bynum had appeared in 55 games or more just three times in his seven seasons. One source who has seen Bynum’s MRIs within the last year said the 25-year-old might again be the player who averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds just over a year ago. But “there’s a chance he will never be healthy enough to ever play at a high level again.” The Sixers became involved in the talks after asking the Magic about the possibility of trading for Howard last summer. The Magic, however, were already in deep talks that eventually resulted in the disgruntled Howard’s going to Los Angeles. Orlando needed more dance partners to make the trade happen, and the Sixers saw an opportunity to get Bynum. The four-team, 12-player deal, consummated Aug. 10, cost the Sixers Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless, and a lottery-protected first-round draft pick. Vucevic, who averaged 13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds for Orlando this past season, finished fourth in voting for the league’s most improved player. “They gave up too much based on who they gave up and the expectations they had for a player that they thought could be a franchise player for them,” said one director of player personnel for a perennial Western Conference contender. “I’m surprised, with his history, that they suspected his knee issues were that far behind him.” The Sixers always described Bynum in risk-reward terms. They say his knees worsened after the trade. “There was a bunch of work done around the Bynum trade,” Harris told reporters April 18. “At a later time his knees definitely deteriorated. You can look at those MRIs during the season, get them all up, get a bunch of doctors, and they can show you kind of what happened. No one knows why.” Bynum will become an unrestricted free agent Monday. His agent, David Lee, has been shopping him to teams that appear interested. If he signs elsewhere, the Sixers will have given away a potential all-star center (Vucevic), all-star (Iguodala), and a first-round pick – for nothing. Collins’ rise and fall After the Sixers posted a 27-55 record under Eddie Jordan in 2009-10 – their worst season since going 22-66 in 1996-97 – Doug Collins turned them around in 2010-11 (41-41) and led them back to the playoffs. Although Miami eliminated the Sixers, four games to one, the team played hard and appeared to be on the upswing. The fans were happy and Collins, the overall No. 1 pick by the Sixers in 1973, became the face of the franchise. Harris, admittedly not basketball savvy, seized on Collins’ popularity and had no problem with the hometown hero in the starring role. Collins, who declined comment for this article, made a push for more power, for control of all player personnel decisions – which at the time was then team president Rod Thorn’s responsibility. According to sources with intimate knowledge of the situation, Collins wanted to sign center Kwame Brown to a guaranteed five-year, $30 million deal before the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. Harris, on Thorn’s advice, vetoed the signing. Unfortunately for the Sixers, it was revisited. Following a surprising playoff run in 2012 that featured a first-round victory over the shorthanded Chicago Bulls (MVP Derrick Rose appeared in one game; 2013 all-star Joakim Noah in three), the Sixers fell just short of the Eastern Conference finals, losing Game 7 at Boston. Last summer, Harris said, he considered replacing Thorn, now a consultant, with someone steeped in advanced statistics. However, at Collins’ urging, Harris promoted Tony DiLeo to GM. But after a disastrous season, Harris fired DiLeo last month. “We achieved more than people expected in a strike-shortened season,” Harris explained after hiring Sam Hinkie as team president. “So we took a pause. That’s why we didn’t do anything at the end of the [2011-12] season.” Collins, sources say, pushed for the Sixers to amnesty aging power forward Elton Brand to clear the cap of most of his $18 million salary. The Sixers used that space to sign Nick Young and Dorell Wright – both likely to walk in free agency – and extend Spencer Hawes’ deal for another year at $6.5 million. Collins was still pushing to pick up Brown, who had played just nine games for Golden State before suffering a season-ending injury. Harris this time agreed with the coach and inked him to a one-year, $3 million contract with a $3 million player option, which he exercised on Saturday. But Brown flopped. Identified by Collins as the team’s starting center before Bynum’s arrival, Brown had feuded with Collins when they were first paired in Washington early in Brown’s career. Despite being initially high on Brown, Collins virtually ignored him once the season heated up. He played in only 22 games, and because of the player optioned that he exercised last week, he will be back. None of the new players who sources said were brought here under Collins’ direction produced in 2012-13. All the Sixers have to show for last year’s offseason moves is the $12 million still owed to aging and injured (knee surgery) Jason Richardson over two years. Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation corroborated an April 12 Inquirer story that reported that management wanted Collins, who had one year left on his contract at $4.5 million, gone. “His three-year expiration date was up,” a super agent said of Collins, fired after three seasons in previous stops in Chicago, Detroit, and Washington. “I think he is a big, noisy presence who ran the team off the rails.” After being routed at home by shorthanded New Orleans on Jan. 15, Collins vehemently denied the Sixers were “tuning him out.” But it turns out Collins was trying to figure a way out of the last year of his contract and had informed Thorn and DiLeo during the Christmas holiday of his plans to step down. When a tearful Collins and Harris appeared at a news conference the day after the forgettable season, both said that Harris tried to persuade Collins to return. But behind the scenes, according to sources, the final days were all about economics and image. For Collins, quitting would have meant forfeiting $4.5 million. And Harris was leery of bad public relations. Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/sixers/20130630_The_76ers__What_went_wrong.html#kGC1oZWKRVOkLyPU.99

Nets to hire Jason Kidd as head coach

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Jason Kidd and the Brooklyn Nets have reached agreement on a contract that will install Kidd as the team’s head coach. The deal is for three years. Kidd will replace P.J. Carlesimo, who took over for Avery Johnson as the team’s interim coach after Johnson was fired earlier this season. Carlesimo was notified that he would not be retained shortly after the Chicago Bulls eliminated the Nets from the playoffs in the first round. Kidd, who just retired from the NBA at the end of this season following a 19-year career, emerged as a leading candidate for the job last week. Kidd met with Nets general manager Billy King regarding the job on Monday. The 10-time All-Star spent six seasons with the Nets while they were in New Jersey. He led the Nets to the NBA Finals twice, where they lost to both the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers. The rookie of the year following the 1993-94 season, Kidd finally won an NBA championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. Kidd retired following the playoffs after spending one season with the New York Knicks, who were eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Indiana Pacers. Kidd has no head coaching experience. However, he is reported to have been extremely impressive during his interview. An announcement is expected to be made later this week and no later than the weekend, according to the source.

76ers’ coaching search going slowly

It’s been three weeks since the 76ers hired Sam Hinkie as president of basketball operations and general manager, and things have been unusually quiet for a team that has yet to hire a coach with less than one month remaining before the NBA draft. The Sixers are one of six teams looking for a coach, the other vacancies being in Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Sacramento, Detroit, and Los Angeles (the Clippers). Depending on what happens in Memphis, where former Sixers guard Lionel Hollins’ future is unknown despite his leading the Grizzlies to the Western Conference finals, that number could grow. Coaches in whom the Sixers were believed to be interested have been hired in Cleveland (Mike Brown), Atlanta (Mike Budenholzer), and Phoenix (Jeff Hornacek). Sixers associate head coach Michael Curry, who has been endorsed by players Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner, has emerged as a candidate in Milwaukee, where it was recently reported that he had an interview. Curry has yet to interview for the Sixers, who, according to sources, have yet to interview a candidate for the job. Despite the activity of other teams and the approaching June 27 draft, Hinkie, who according to sources spent the Memorial Day weekend in Houston with his family, spent much of last week continuing the process of familiarizing himself with team personnel. He is also believed to have overseen the only workout to date of potential draftees – last Friday – conducted by the Sixers. The workout didn’t include any prospects the Sixers might consider selecting with the 11th pick in the draft. The most notable participant was Davidson’s Jake Cohen, a 6-foot-10 senior from Conestoga High School who averaged a team-high 14.9 points and 5.3 rebounds as a senior. According to sources, the Sixers are expected to begin working out players in earnest either late this week or early next week in preparation for the draft.

76ers' coaching search going slowly

It’s been three weeks since the 76ers hired Sam Hinkie as president of basketball operations and general manager, and things have been unusually quiet for a team that has yet to hire a coach with less than one month remaining before the NBA draft. The Sixers are one of six teams looking for a coach, the other vacancies being in Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Sacramento, Detroit, and Los Angeles (the Clippers). Depending on what happens in Memphis, where former Sixers guard Lionel Hollins’ future is unknown despite his leading the Grizzlies to the Western Conference finals, that number could grow. Coaches in whom the Sixers were believed to be interested have been hired in Cleveland (Mike Brown), Atlanta (Mike Budenholzer), and Phoenix (Jeff Hornacek). Sixers associate head coach Michael Curry, who has been endorsed by players Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner, has emerged as a candidate in Milwaukee, where it was recently reported that he had an interview. Curry has yet to interview for the Sixers, who, according to sources, have yet to interview a candidate for the job. Despite the activity of other teams and the approaching June 27 draft, Hinkie, who according to sources spent the Memorial Day weekend in Houston with his family, spent much of last week continuing the process of familiarizing himself with team personnel. He is also believed to have overseen the only workout to date of potential draftees – last Friday – conducted by the Sixers. The workout didn’t include any prospects the Sixers might consider selecting with the 11th pick in the draft. The most notable participant was Davidson’s Jake Cohen, a 6-foot-10 senior from Conestoga High School who averaged a team-high 14.9 points and 5.3 rebounds as a senior. According to sources, the Sixers are expected to begin working out players in earnest either late this week or early next week in preparation for the draft.

What would Brian Shaw have done against Heat?

What would Brian Shaw have done against Heat? If you’re a 76ers fan and you know that Indiana assistant coach Brian Shaw is being considered for the head coaching job here, here’s a question you might like to have president and general manager Sam Hinkie ask Shaw when and if they ever interview him: What did you think about the decision to bench Hibbert at the end of overtime on the game’s final possession in overtime in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals? James’ lay-up with time expiring gave the Heat a 103-102 victory and a 1-0 lead in the conference finals. South Jersey’s Frank Vogel pulled the 7-2 big man twice at the end of the game, a move most felt was the wrong one. And granted, the moment Paul George overshot LeBron James, the greatest athlete in the game, the odds were short, even if Hibbert were in the game, that anyone was going to get over in time to seriously challenge James at the rim. While it’s not a given that Hibbert would have been able to change the outcome, you have to at least have your big man on the floor to protect the rim. You can’t weaken your team in these moments, which is exactly what Vogel did. I wonder what Shaw was thinking at that moment? I’d ask him if he protested or if he just sat idly by and watched Vogel make this blunder? In fact, it’s something I’ll ask Shaw at some point down the road, whether he’s coaching the Sixers or not.

First job for Hinkie: Finding a Sixers coach

Now that 76ers majority owner Joshua Harris has gotten his man, Sam Hinkie, the team’s new general manager can begin a quest for his own: a new coach. Hinkie was introduced Tuesday as the team’s new GM and president of basketball operations. Taking over for Tony DiLeo, who lasted as GM less than one year, Hinkie talked about the search for a coach to replace Doug Collins. He also talked about Andrew Bynum and about his philosophy for repairing the Sixers after their disastrous 34-48 season. DiLeo began the search for a coach that included names such as assistants Mike Malone (Golden State) and Brian Shaw (Indiana) as the leading candidates. But Hinkie said that although they will remain possibilities, the new chief has some others in mind. “Those names weren’t my names, but I won’t throw them out out of hand,” said Hinkie, who spent eight seasons with the Houston Rockets, the last two as the team’s assistant general manager. “That’s just not the way I operate. I have a list of guys that I think are interesting. I’d like it to grow and I’d like to solicit the ideas of others. I don’t believe that all the ideas come from one person. I believe the opposite, in fact. “The way I think about the coaching search is getting the right coach for this franchise at this time period,” Hinkie added. “I think everything should be focused on that. I come in with a real bent to be methodical and diligent, to turn over every rock and think about things from all angles first.” Bynum will be an unrestricted free agent this summer after he missed the entire Sixers season with knee injuries. Hinkie said that the one advantage the Sixers have regarding the center is their exclusive negotiating rights with him until he becomes a free agent on July 1. “The advantage there is that we will have an enormous advantage over other teams in gathering information to make an informed decision,” Hinkie said. Hinkie was under consideration for the post last season. However, after the team’s unexpected success – the Sixers came within one victory of reaching the Eastern Conference finals last season – Harris opted to promote DiLeo. The subsequent collapse of the team and the debacle that resulted from the trade for Bynum allowed Harris to revisit hiring Hinkie. “There were a number of factors that led to this decision, which I feel as the managing owner is the most important hire that we have made since taking over the team,” Harris said. “He’s a proven innovator. He built the Rockets’ analytical efforts, which enhanced their decision-making in the draft, free agency, trades, and game strategy.” Harris acknowledged that Hinkie is steeped in statistical decision-making. But the majority owner pointed out that analytics in sports involve more than just gathering a group of guys with MBAs and having them punch numbers into a computer to create a better product. “When we talk about analytics, we are not talking about going into a back room with a bunch of computers,” Harris said. “We are talking about adding to a very strong player department and more traditional front office. He is here because his philosophy is in line with what we are trying to do, which is building a winner.” Here are some of the candidates who have been linked to the 76ers’ head coaching position: Kelvin Sampson Rockets assistant Jeff Van Gundy Former coach; NBA TV analyst Mike Malone Warriors assistant Brian Shaw Pacers assistant Michael Curry 76ers assistant – John N. Mitchell Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/sixers/20130515_First_job_for_Hinkie__Finding_a_Sixers_coach.html#QTwrcOD5dGPdzbjP.99

James: no formal conversations with Northwestern

 

April 14, 2013, 1:49pm

Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Brian James said he has not had any formal talks with Northwestern University to become an assistant coach with the men’s basketball team. Chris Collins, son of Sixers coach Doug Collins, was recently named the head coach there.

“I have not talked to anyone about a position,” James, reached this morning by phone, said. “I have talked to Chris since he got the job and I’m very happy for him. We talked about his future. As far as I am concerned, I’m here waiting to see what happens.”

James was Chris Collins high school coach before Chris Collins went to Duke as a player and eventually an assistant coach.

James has been an assistant to Doug Collins during stints in Detroit and Washington. Doug Collins has one year left on his contract with the Sixers. Earlier this week,  The Inquirer reported that Sixers management is unwilling to extend Collins’ deal past next season. Collins is owed $4.5 million next season.

“Obviously I have a very strong relationship with the Collins family; that’s something that goes without saying, so of course Chris and I have talked. But I have had no formal conversations with Northwestern.” 

 

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.)

(more…)

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.”