Sixers Hit Rock Bottom – Why and What Remains?

Posted: April 8, 2012 in Hoops, Sixers
Tags: , , , , ,

If you haven’t read Kate Fagan’s recent take on the trials and tribulations of the Sixers it’s definitely worth a read.  Kate was always the most plugged-in reporter on the Sixers beat and it makes sense that she would be the one to break this story.  Even if a bit of it may be conjecture, its clear that her words are informed by legitimate information from the Sixers players she developed relationships with while working with the team.  The blowout loss to the Wizards, the blowout loss to the Raptors, and the back-to-back losses to Magic and Celtics all make a lot of sense within the context of the notion that the players have hit the wall with Doug Collins.  His history with teams speaks for itself, and many of us who have written about him with the Sixers have ignored it because we were so pleased with the results he brought in his first season and a half with the Sixers.  Maybe we also wanted to give the guy the benefit of the doubt that he had changed his approach and learned from his mistakes in the over half a decade he took away from the bench.  Sixers fans inherently want to believe in Doug for other reasons:

1) He was a former #1 pick of the team, a four time all-star with the team, and was on the 76-77 team that went all the way to the NBA finals before losing to Bill Walton and the Portland Trailblazers.

2) He came in as a coach after one of the lowest points in team history.  The post-Iverson years have not been kind to the team, and Eddie Jordan’s tenure was easily the ugliest portion of that timeframe.

3) He was able to alter the perception of two of the biggest perceived busts in recent franchise history: Andre Iguodala & Elton Brand.  Brand had a stellar comeback campaign last year, although despite strong defense, he’s reverted significantly this season.  Iguodala who when I moved to Philly in 2010 was the object of more scorn from Philadelphia fans than any current athelete across the four major teams in Philly (including Michael Vick when he first came to town after serving out his jail sentence), has managed to become an all star and Collins’ team defensive structure and multi-ball-handler approach has highlighted Iguodala’s strengths on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.

The problem is that their issues haven’t changed over the course of his tenure.  Collins co-signed Iguodala when he came in and he let Iguodala be his primary isolation player late in games last year with horrible results.  Collins has also put a lot of faith in Lou Williams, who has not improved on the defensive end, and continues to be a woefully inefficient player late in games.  Collins has stood by Brand, which while it worked last year, hasn’t really panned out this season.  Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner have both made some strides, but probably haven’t had enough leash to learn from their mistakes and grow on the court with out worrying about losing p/t, losing touches, or dropping in the rotation.  The team lacks a go-to scorer, and Collins’ lineup changes and rotational adjustments seem to have more players on their toes, playing their worst basketball at a time when they should be playing their best.

At this point, nobody looks good in the situation and there is definitely a high probability at this point that the Sixers do not make the playoffs, which may not be the worst thing for the organization.  Likely that could mark the end of Doug Collins’ tenure with the team, which would be unfortunate, but at this point it looks like a logical move.  When you have multiple outlets now reporting that you have lost your team, and the performance on the court seems to back up that assessment it may be time to go.  The more unfortunate part of this is that the Sixers may just have been playing over their heads.  They beat up on weak teams early, but can anyone really say that the Sixers are objectively a better team than the Celtics, Knicks, or Bucks?  The Knicks have the Sixers depth as well as Carmelo, and even without Jeremy Lin and Amare Stoudemire, their two best players (Carmelo and Tyson Chandler) are undoubtedly better than the two best players on the Sixers.  The Celtics have the best true point guard in the NBA and an aging Big three. The Bucks have Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, and Ersan Ilyasova – all of whom are playing better than anybody on the Sixers these days.  The Sixers will miss the playoffs not because of an implosion, but because they’re just not as good as these other teams, and the schedule is finally proving this.  If they had their legs and their confidence, and Doug had the ear of his team, maybe things would be different.  But at this point, it looks too late to turn it around for this season.

Ownership does need to be careful in their off-season dealings.  The Sixers cannot be turned into a contender with the addition of one piece, and they already have some very strong young players who should continue to stay with the team to develop long term.  They may have to flip one or two of those players, but ultimately they have tools at their disposal that they should consider, such as the amnesty clause to free up cap space, the trading of an upcoming lottery pick packaged with Jrue Holiday or Lou Williams in hopes of netting a higher pick, or taking a crack at a solid veteran from another team.  The key is not to make the same mistakes that the Sixers made with the contracts of Brand and Iguodala – don’t max out a guy who doesn’t deserve max money.  This is not Sacramento, and players should want to play in Philly – it’s a major city with a lot to offer.  The Sixers don’t need to throw the kitchen sink at guys who “might” be difference makers.  The Sixers need to build the core, pick up some upgrades and leave the opportunity open to catch that big fish.

  1. […] Sixers Hit Rock Bottom – Why and What Remains? […]

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