Go Get It
Sixers look primed for more success in ’12-13.
by Jeremy Treatman
Sixers assistant coach Brian James thinks so.
James has known Doug Collins since his days at Illinois State when both were players. Collins went onto be the first pick of the 1973 Draft with the 76ers’ and an All-Star before knee problems curtailed a promising career. James became a successful high school coach in Illinois before Collins helped him launch a NBA coaching career. James worked with Collins for the past three seasons and assisted him in Detroit (1995-1998) and Washington (2001-2003).
“Yes, I think he has mellowed,” said James, who is in charge of opposition scouting and offense with the 76ers. “But his enthusiasm never has lessened. He’s excited about this year’s team and our players, and what we can accomplish. But he’s always excited about that every year.”
Collins has earned a reputation as being an emotional—sometimes overemotional coach—who loves his players. Maybe sometimes too much. Collins has cried in the locker room during speeches and even to the media in post-game conferences. He is an old-school, heart-on-the-sleeve type coach.
“He’s emotional,” said James, “Especially now that he has grandchildren. When he sees them, he is very happy but emotional.”
On paper, it would seem everybody would love an over-caring coach. But maybe not.
Though he praised Andre Iguodala as his “heart” player and touted him as an All-Star during the 76ers’ great start in ‘11-12, the Denver Nugget guard criticized Collins recently for not trusting him to take three-pointers when he was with the 76ers, adding he didn’t have fun in his last two seasons with the team. Collins took the high road saying his former player helped the team make the Eastern Conference semifinals.
There have been alleged ups and downs with young players like Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner, as well, as that duo vied for playing time and increased roles on the team in the past two seasons. Collins publicly says he loves them both.
It seems odd that Iguodola and others would take shots at Collins in the first place. But there should be no one complaining these days. And if the 76ers’ preseason—the team has jumped to a 3-1 mark—is an indication, the team is going to be very good in ‘12-13. And the players should be very happy.
Ironically, Turner and Young are two players who the team is counting on to be productive and leading the team to major success.
The 76ers appear to have gone from a medium player in the Eastern Conference to a major player. The acquisition of Andrew Bynum, one of the League’s top-two all-around centers, combined with a young, athletic and deep cast of newcomers and veterans has Philadelphia becoming a basketball town once again. (Bynum’s knee injuries have been hotly diagnosed so far but Collins and general manager Tony DiLeo insist he will be ready for opening day.)
“When we scrimmage in practice, I see 14 guys that I am comfortable putting in the games,” said Collins. “There is real competition at every position.”
James thinks Collins will be up for the challenge of putting the right combination of players on the court at the right time.
“It will be a learning process with all the new faces here,” he said. “But Doug has a great respect of these players. And I think everyone here realizes something special can develop this season. These players believe in him, too.”
Collins went to an old exercise after the last training camp practice at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine before starting the recent stretch of exhibition games.
“I asked everyone to write down on a piece of paper their expectations and roles, so we can all be on the same page,” he said.
It appears that Turner and Collins are on the same page. Turner sat behind Jodi Meeks for two seasons before jumping into the starting lineup in last year’s successful Playoff run. Now Turner’s a full-time starter in his third year.
“It was hard not really being able to get into a rhythm for two seasons,” he said. “But I knew I was going to play in the Playoffs last year and could start this season. I’m ready.”
Turner took offense to the fact that this was a make or break opportunity for him in ‘12-13.
“I don’t know about all that. It’s whatever you want to call it,” said Turner. “I just know that I am confident in my ability and can do what was expected of me when they drafted me (second in the 2011 Draft). Turner’s development is one reason why Iguodala, Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic and a 2013 first-round pick went to the Nuggets and Magic to acquire Bynum.
The 76ers also signed Nick Young, who already looks like an improvement over Lou Williams. Young has scored 19 points a game in 23 minutes per. Dorell Wright, who struggled last year under new coach Mark Jackson at Golden State but scored 17 ppg the year prior is a great fit so far in the preseason. He knocked down four threes in a blowout win over Cleveland on October 17 at the Wells Fargo Center.
“I’m very comfortable out there,” Wright said. “We have guys who can play in the second unit. We have some very good depth. I’m good starting or coming off the bench.”
Kwame Brown gives the team another banger and rookie Arnette Moultrie is another big option off the bench and one of the few recent first-round picks the 76ers were able to keep on the roster. Collins thinks he has a winner in Lavoy Allen, who the team stole out of Temple with the 50th pick last season.
“He doesn’t know how good he is,” said Collins. Allen has a plus-17-point differential average in the first 76ers’ pre-season games. Spencer Hawes should benefit by playing with Bynum. He can play power forward or center. Then there’s Turner and Jrue Holiday, who looks ready to take over the team.
Holiday had 27 points in a pre-season game last week and is improved in his ball-handling and decision making abilities. The 76ers apparently made a wise draft pick three years ago after he scored a scant 8 ppg as a freshman at UCLA. The team is talking with Holiday’s agent to perhaps sign a long-term extension.
There is also Royal Ivey, a defensive specialist, and Jason Richardson, a veteran three-point marksman, and Malik Wayns, the fastest player on the team who is in the rotation already as an undrafted rookie out of Villanova. What to do with so many players and possible player combinations? “I would say that the competition I saw in training camp alone at every position was better than anything I saw in the last two years,” said Turner. “We have a lot of guys who can play and contribute. It’s exciting.”
Wayns scored 19 points in the win over Cleveland and has no problem taking open jump shots. He is scoring 13 points per game through four games. “My teammates and coaches have confidence in me and that’s helping me with my confidence,” he said. “It’s all a learning experience, this is the NBA. You get a lot of things thrown at you at first. I’m ready for the task. I’ll get it.”
“Oh, Malik really brings it in practice,” added Turner. “His defense on all of us guards is great. He really makes us work and now he is showing he can score and distribute.”
“I would say that the competition I saw in training camp alone at every position was better than anything I saw in the last two years,” said Turner. “We have a lot of guys who can play and contribute. It’s exciting.”