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?
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.)
You can’t blame Collins for not having Andrew Bynum. Let’s not forget who Bynum is, either. He was good enough in the lockout-truncated 2011-12 season to join Kevin Love (Minnesota), Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City), Tony Parker (San Antonio), and Blake Griffin on the all-NBA second team.
Take any of those players off of their respective teams, and they all would be substantially worse than they were in 2012. Love was the only player on the second team who didn’t reach the playoffs. Love, however – as the case would have been with Bynum – didn’t have high-level teammates equal to Westbrook (Kevin Durant), Parker (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili), or Griffin (Chris Paul).
Bynum’s second-team status is a testament to the level of talent that he brings when he is healthy. Because of the dearth of true game-changers in the NBA, the loss of one from a roster can dramatically alter that team’s season.
It has forced Collins to give Lavoy Allen, expected to be a nice reserve with a solid second unit, starter’s minutes that he’s not ready for.
The next biggest criticism of Collins was his refusal to use rookie Arnett Moultrie earlier.
But is this realistic?
While the Sixers are very high on Moultrie, the 27th pick of the draft acquired from Miami, there is a reason he was drafted at the bottom of the first round. We are not talking about Anthony Davis.
Moultrie’s sprained ankle – he spent three months last summer in a walking boot – set him back significantly.
In a weak Eastern Conference, Collins can’t be crucified for not playing a rookie who didn’t distinguish himself in the NBA Development League.
Make no mistake about it, Collins’ third season – the point at which his past employers have chosen to sever ties – has been his least impressive with the Sixers. This team doesn’t defend as well as last year’s, and the offense is often putrid.
But Jrue Holiday is an all-star; Thaddeus Young is much improved as a starter; and Evan Turner, though he whines too much for everyone’s taste, is improving, albeit not at the speed most expect of a No. 2 overall selection.
The team took a step backward, but is this a fireable offense?
I don’t think it is.