Collins has grandchildren he wants to spend more time with in his golden years, he wants to watch his son, Chris Collins, now the coach at Northwestern, thrive in the family business.
After giving the last 40 years of his life to the game he loves and the merciless grind that is the pursuit of a championship ring, Collins wants his next four or five years to be on his terms.
“There’s a lot of things I want to enjoy,” Collins said. “I think it’s every man’s dream to be able to live that life that you work so hard to try to live. And that’s what I want to do.”
He knew it at Christmas, when he had to be away while “the grandkids were opening their presents,” that he was done coaching, that he didn’t have the energy to give to the profession the way he knows great coaches have to if they’re going to do the job the justice it deserves.
It wasn’t about wins and losses, Collins said this morning as he addressed the media in Philadelphia. No amount of either would have changed his mind. The sacrifices had become too great, the benefits, financial and otherwise, that come with a NBA coaching job were outweighed by the important moments a proud father and grandfather had to miss.
“I didn’t get down to a Duke game last year,” Collins said. “My son … I want to see him grow, want to see him coach. That’s important to me.”
If only Jrue Holiday, Even Turner, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes and the rest of the players he coached through a tumultuous season this year in Philadelphia had been just as important. Collins never told them of the exit strategy that had been brewing for months. They were left to the rumblings that grew into rumors the past couple weeks and into full blown hysterics last week.
Collins is a brilliant basketball mind. No one disputes that. And he’s a fine coach, as passionate as he is relentless about teaching the game and as focused and fanatical as they come in his profession. Widely regarded as one of the best analysts around, Collins chose to dive back into coaching three years ago with the franchise he’s always considered home.
He was not pushed out the door. Sixers owner Josh Harris made that clear before Collins said a word this morning.
“Doug is not being pushed out,” Harris said. “I would love to have him back as my coach. This is his decision … I want to make that unequivocally clear.”
Andrew Bynum, the Sixers’ prized summer acquisition from a blockbuster trade that saw Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless traded away for the All-Star center, didn’t play a single second this season.
Instead of contending in the Eastern Conference a season after a surprise run to the conference semifinals, the Sixers finished ninth in the East and four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot, despite playing their “best basketball” in the six weeks after his frustrations boiled over.
I don’t care how diplomatic they try to be, the Bynum debacle stained this season for Collins, Harris and the entire organization.
“We spent $84 million and don’t have much to show for it,” said Harris, who was extremely careful when talking about Bynum and what the Sixers’ plans are regarding the soon-to-be unrestricted free-agent big man. “You look at our cost per win, and its pretty low.”
Collins plans to serve as an adviser to Harris the next five years, a time-frame both men referenced, as they work to increase that cost per win number.
His days of, as he put it, “trying to be Frederick Douglas, Dale Carnegie, Dr. Phil and then trying to draw up a play to win the game,” are over. He said he won’t get the coaching itch again.
He’ll leave that to guys like Michael Curry, the only one of his assistants to get a public endorsement for the coaching vacancy in Philadelphia during Monday’s festivities.
“Michael Curry has been a head coach before,” Collins said. “What he’s done here defensively has been remarkable. I think Michael’s ready. The thing about it is, they are going to get a great coach. This is a great city … to me, this is a win-win. They get a great a coach and it gives me a chance to do some of the things I want to do.”
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Corey Brewer is no longer just a smiling, string-bean of a kid who likes to remind people he’s a two-time NCAA champion. Nope, the 6-foot-9 Brewer is now a smiling, string-bean of an NBA man.
Finally having found a home with the Denver Nuggets where he can stretch his legs and exploit his raw athleticism, Brewer is also becoming something else: Clutch.
Brewer saved the Nuggets’ winning streak that reached 14 Thursday night with a career-high 29 points that included outscoring the Philadelphia 76ers, 6-0, in the final 9.2 seconds to secure the improbable 101-100 victory. Brewer first drilled his fifth 3-pointer of the game on a play out of a timeout in which Danilo Gallinari, Denver’s most dangerous 3-point threat, got the ball to Brewer open on the wing to make it 100-98.
Sixers guard Evan Turner then missed both free throws with 7.1 seconds left to set up Brewer’s final act, calmly sinking three consecutive free throws after inexplicably being fouled by Damian Wilkins on a deep 3 that didn’t seem to have a prayer. Brewer, a 67.5 percent foul shooter this season (but much better the last two months), hit them all.
After the first and second free throws, he walked to mid-court, could be seen talking to himself, then walked back up to the line and buried the shots that kept the streak alive.
Nuggets coach George Karl has talked a lot recently about his high level of trust with his team and he showed it in leaving Brewer in for the crunch-time minutes. The emerging sixth man has done it before. According to NBA.com/Stats, Brewer has scored 12 points in eight minutes while playing in the final minute of games that Denver either trails or is tied.
During those confidence-building opportunities, Brewer is 3-for-4 from the floor, 2-for-3 from 3-point range — where he’s just 30.4 percent on the season — and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. His plus-minus rating is a plus-16.
Brewer, who turned 27 on March 5, has been coming on strong over the last couple months and particularly during the win streak. Traditionally an inconsistent shooter, Brewer has averaged 14.9 points in March and is shooting 48.9 percent from the floor and 34.4 percent from beyond the arc. His free throw shooting is also vastly improved — 76.3 percent in February and 72.4 percent in March.
His plus-minus rating might be the most significant jump of all. In November, December and January, Brewer was a plus-two overall, meaning the Nuggets outscored their opponents by two points with Brewer on the floor. In February and March he’s an astounding plus-87.
Brewer has found the perfect home for his raw talents with Karl’s up-tempo Nuggets. Brewer languished on a young Minnesota Timberwolves teams in the post-Kevin Garnett era, and as part of the blockbuster Carmelo Anthony trade, he landed with the New York Knicks, but was released and signed by the Dallas Mavericks.
He played sporadically for the Mavs, but provided the key energy boost in the third quarter of Game 1 of the 2011 Western Conference semifinals against the Lakers. He then played a total of 11 minutes the rest of the way as the Mavs won the title.
Dallas then traded Brewer and Rudy Fernandez to Denver for a bag of beans (2016 second-round draft pick).
On Thursday, Brewer provided the energy and scoring punch (10-for-18 shooting and 5-for-6 on 3s) for a Nuggets team playing without Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler. It marked his 12th double-digit scoring game during the win streak and eighth in a row, and it was his third game in the last 10 to score at least 20 points.
But none were bigger than six he dropped on the Sixers in the final 9.2 seconds.
“It’s a pretty big highlight,” Brewer told the Denver Post of the frantic finish, “Probably my best highlight since I was in the NBA.”
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: The NBA got back to regular-season work after All-Star weekend in Houston and there were plenty of choice matchups to pick from. Bucks vs. Nets was a nice way to get things rolling, especially given Joe Johnson‘s display of clutch-itude in both the fourth quarter and OT. There was a great East vs. West matchup in the Mile High City as the Nuggets took on the Celtics, with Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson powering Denver to the win. But we’ll go with a good matchup between two teams scrambling to solidify their playoff footing: the Warriors visiting the Jazz. Multi-faceted forward Gordon Hawyard was back in the action after a 10-game absence due to a shoulder injury while Utah’s big men combo of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson shook off the trade rumors surrounding them to lead the Jazz to a win and move them into a tie with the Warriors for No. 6 in the West.
Celtics expected to make some kind of deal — Celtics boss Danny Ainge has steadfastly denied that he’s looking to tinker with Boston’s makeup or trade franchise stalwarts like Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo or Paul Pierce. But rival GMs are saying just the opposite (in what may be a smokescreen act) and think the Celtics are priming themselves for a deal of some kind. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald has more:
As Danny Ainge downplayed the possibility the Celtics will be involved in a transaction before tomorrow’s NBA trade deadline, general managers and personnel people around the league are saying quite the opposite.
They’ll be stunned if the Celts don’t make a deal of some sort.
“They’re too active,” said one. “They’ve been putting a lot of different things out there, and you’d have to think at least one of them is going to come through.”
If the Celtics do pull off a trade, it’s likely something beyond what’s already in the public domain, and many of those talks were dead on arrival.
For example, the Celts did have a brief discussion with the Lakers, but word is Mitch Kupchak said flatly they are not going to deal Dwight Howard, stating that he is part of their future. It’s possible that outlook could change, but with Rajon Rondo rehabbing from ACL surgery, the Celts wouldn’t have enough to get in on such talks.
The Clippers remain a good target, with Eric Bledsoe an intriguing talent.
“An awesome athlete, but not really a pure point guard,” said one personnel guy. “He could be a Russell Westbrook type if he keeps developing.”
The Hawks’ Josh Smith talk seems a bit of a mystery from the Celtics’ standpoint. To begin with, it would be hard to put together the right package to get him. And it’s even more doubtful they would be willing to part with the kind of things Atlanta is looking for.
Start with the fact Smith almost certainly won’t be signing a three-year extension right after a trade when he can wait until summer and get a longer deal as a free agent. So there’s no guarantee a team trading for him has him beyond the next few months. Then there are the questions of just how much Smith is worth relative to what he can contribute.
“If you could get him to just do the things he does really well and stick to that, I think he’d be one of the best players in this league,” said one ranking team official. “But you get the whole package with Josh. You can probably absorb most of that on a really good team, but is he the kind of guy you’re going to go to in your halfcourt offense in the fourth quarter of a Game 7? For the kind of money you’re going to be paying him, you have to think about that.”
Jennings ‘untouchable’ for now — Just six days ago, Bucks guard Brandon Jennings reportedly had expressed frustration with the front office and had “irreconcilable differences” with team brass. But Jennings quickly reversed field on that story and, although he didn’t commit to a long-term future with the Bucks, seemingly patched things up. Maybe that has led to the news reported by ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that Jennings has become ‘untouchable’. More details here:
The Milwaukee Bucks continue to discuss Josh Smith trade scenarios with the Atlanta Hawks in advance of Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.
But those discussions, sources say, also serve as a strong indication of the rising likelihood that Brandon Jennings will not be moved this week.
ESPN.com reported Tuesday that Monta Ellis is the primary player Atlanta is targeting in its discussion with Milwaukee. Sources say that the Hawks, furthermore, want Milwaukee to add at least one expiring contract to the equation with Ellis and possibly take on some salary.
ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard, meanwhile, reported Wednesday morning on “SportsCenter” that Smith would be interested in playing with both Jennings and Ellis if he wound up in Milwaukee, leading the Bucks to try Wednesday to make the deal without surrendering Ellis.
Yet amid all of those talks, sources say, Jennings has moved alongside Larry Sanders and John Henson on the Bucks’ list of near-untouchables.
The Dallas Mavericks were at the forefront of the list of teams hoping that the Bucks would make Jennings available this week, but Milwaukee appears intent on taking its chances in the offseason, knowing that Jennings will be a restricted free agent and thus unable to leave town unless the Bucks decline to match an offer sheet he receives.
Millsap, Jefferson shrug off trade chatter — As our own Fran Blinebury pointed out yesterday in this space, Jazz GM Dennis Lindsay could end up being active on trade deadline day … especially considering Utah’s bevy of big men. Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are the names most teams would want to acquire and that duo is used to hearing their names bandied about in trade talks over the years. While no solid suitor has emerged (we’ve seen talk of Jefferson-to-San Antonio here and there), the Jazz’s veteran big man duo isn’t letting the talk affect their game. Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News has more:
When asked about trade rumors after returning from the All-Star break, Jazz players and coach Tyrone Corbin all shrugged off any talk about the subject.
“I’ve been in this league a long time. This is my ninth year and Paul’s seventh. We’re used to this,’’ said Jefferson.
“You don’t react. You just let it go,’’ added Millsap. “You can’t do anything about it because you don’t really know for sure. If it don’t come from (the Jazz’s) mouths it’s probably not true.’’
Millsap’s name has come up in trade rumors for years, and the Jazz forward says he’s used to it by now, saying he takes it as a compliment that he’s a wanted player. One of the latest rumors has him going to the L.A. Clippers for point guard Eric Bledsoe and others.That trade would potentially affect Mo Williams, the team’s current starting point guard, who has been sitting out with an injured thumb for more than a month.
Corbin was blunt in talking about trade speculation.
“It’s rumors and we don’t deal with rumors,’’ he said. “We are who we are and everybody here is part of our family. We’ll continue progressing in the way that we have and we expect everybody to respond accordingly.’’
Jefferson has been traded twice in his career, but he knows if the Jazz are involved, it’s unlikely anyone will know about it in advance.
“The one thing about the Utah Jazz is they’re a very professional team,’’ he said. “When a trade comes nobody’s going to know until it actually happens. They’ve been consistent with that. They’re just rumors.’’
Colangelo downplaying Bargnani deal — Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo already pulled off one significant remodel of his team this season by sending Ed Davis to Memphis and Jose Calderon to Detroit as part of the three-team trade that put Rudy Gay in Raptors red. The next name expected to be on the trade block is former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani, but Colangelo may be cooling on the prospect of trading the outside-shooting big man. Sam Amick of USA Today caught up with Colangelo and talked with him about Bargnani, Colangelo’s future in Toronto and more:
Colangelo, who came to Toronto from Phoenix in 2006 and has been attempting a massive rebuilding effort ever since Chris Bosh left for Miami in the summer of 2010, is in the final year of his contract. In an interview with USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday, Colangelo said he has no discussions with ownership about his updated status and remains hopeful that he’ll be around past this summer. The Raptors – who are 5-2 since Gay came on board and 21-32 overall after their horrific 4-19 start – play at Washington Tuesday and have a reunion game with the Grizzlies in Toronto on Wednesday night.
While Colangelo could make more moves before the Thursday trade deadline to help his team and improve his case even more, he downplayed the once-widely-held notion that center Andrea Bargnani would be traded before then. He called that situation “fluid” and said “there just may not have been enough runway prior to the deadline to get something” because Bargnani recently came back from injury.
On Bargnani, how he’s fitting in better now with Gay and the likelihood that he could be traded…
“We began this year with Bargnani as our No. 1 scoring option. He’s now No. 3 because Rudy has arrived and DeMar (DeRozan) has emerged. Now Bargnani is No. 3. There’s talk about possibly moving him – and again we’ve talked about it, not for talent reasons but because maybe sometimes a change of scenery is the best thing for somebody. But sometimes a change of scenery can happen just by redecorating the room.
“All of a sudden the outlook and the presence of a guy like Andrea is entirely different now. He’s not relied on as a No. 1 guy. He has never been paid like a No. 1 option, but people wanted to criticize that he couldn’t handle that role. I’ve always felt like he’s been slotted in salary-wise as a No. 2 or No. 3. Maybe he’s kind of fitting in nicely now.
“If a trade doesn’t occur before the deadline, or even this summer, maybe it’s because we figured out that with the evolution of the team he is the right guy to be a part of this team. He’s been through the hard part. This may be the easiest part ahead of him.
On his future in Toronto …
“There’s been no discussion (about his future since the trade). I certainly haven’t brought it up. I think that we’re, right now, transitioning with an ownership change of our own.
“I’ve proven that, despite all the things that have been happening with the rebuilding of this team simultaneous to the uncertainty with my contract, I always made the right long-term strategic decision with respect to the transactions that were being made or draft picks that were being made. Case in point was drafting (Jonas) Valanciunas (fifth overall in 2011) knowing that he was not going to be here for a year, and that when he did arrive that he’d be 20 and would still be considered a project. But you have to carry out your job with integrity and do the right thing for the organization. That’s what I’ve been hired to do and that’s what I’m doing. Whether or not that pays off for me long-term, with an extension or just even my option year being picked up (for the 2013-14 season), time will tell. But you can’t lose sight of what the job is.” (more…)
a a HANG TIME, Texas — Opening night in Philadelphia could now be just a month away.
That is, opening night for the team the Sixers thought they had put together when they made the blockbuster deal for Andrew Bynum last summer.
Or perhaps more realistically, opening night for the 2013-14 season.
For the first time in ages, there is more to report than an update on the 7-footer’s hairstyle as Bynum made the first step toward finally playing in a Sixers uniform when he got onto the court for a basketball workout with associate head coach Michael Curry and athletic trainer Kevin Johnson.
Bynum was seen by Philly reporters shooting jumpers from the wings and the baseline on Monday. No running, no jumping and certainly no slam dunking.
No bowling therapy either.
But following a seemingly endless series of setbacks with injuries to both knees, Bynum at last said he now has his sights set on playing this season.
“I have no idea exactly, I just want to get back,” he said. “I think, I’m hoping around the All-Star break. That’s what I’m hoping. I have no idea exactly when I’ll be back.”
The All-Star break ends Feb 20 and the Sixers would then have 31 regular season games left to play.
Currently sitting at 16-22 and ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, it would be strictly fantasy to think Bynum could lift the Sixers into the playoffs and then make them a real force once they got there.
But since one, then two bad knees kept him from being ready at the start of the season, that was never the significant part of the story. The Sixers need to know how fit and how capably Bynum can play over the final month or so of this season before committing themselves to him for the next five years with a max level contract.
The Philly front office says it has a plan to move forward no matter how things turn out with Bynum. But let’s face it, having a 7-footer who could immediately be the best center in the East, is the preferred way to start.
With Jrue Holiday having a breakout year and Evan Turner taking steps forward, putting Bynum in the lineup would make things interesting in Philly for the final 30 or so games of the season.
But these are very small steps. For now, Bynum’s conditioning workouts are only on a treadmill and a machine that lessens that effect of gravity.
“I went as fast as eight miles per hour,” he bragged.
The important part is that Bynum is no longer feeling pain in his knees.
It’s minimal,” he said. “It’s not hurting.”
The next step is to add straight line running and then lateral movements.
Bynum was asked if he felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders by returning to practice.
“No, because I’m not back,” he said. “But I’m going in a a good directions. It’s all positive.”
HOUSTON – The Sixers definitely could have used Jrue Holiday in their lineup Wednesday. Especially when Evan Turner limped off the floor in the third quarter of a 125-103 loss, their worst of the season.
But even with their quick start to the season currently in free-fall with five defeats in a row, it was an easy decision to keep the budding young star Holiday under wraps, at least for one more night. Holiday, who averages a team-best 18.4 ppg and 8.9 apg, sat out his fourth game in a row with a sprained left foot.
“He’s 22 years old,” coach Doug Collins said. “We have a huge investment in him. We’ve just signed him to a long-term deal and there’s no way in the world right now we’re going to be short-term foolish. It just makes no sense.”
Not when the first third of the Sixers’ season has been played in limbo waiting on Andrew Bynum‘s ailing knees. The 7-foot center is scheduled to have an MRI and get another update today.
Though there is no indication at this point that Holiday’s problem is serious or has long-term implications, if any team should be wary, it is the Sixers. Through their history, Philadelphia has seen the careers of All-Stars Andrew Toney and Collins, himself, shortened by foot injuries.
“I don’t think this is an injury that you would say is chronic unless you tried to do it too soon,” the coach said. “The one thing I’ve always gone on … people questioned whether I was hurt. My father had just died. They couldn’t find anything on an x-ray, it was all in my head. And I had stress fractures in both of my feet.
“So when a player tells me he’s hurt, he’s hurt. I will never ever question that. To me, when a guy’s ready to go, he’ll go. I know Jrue wants to go more than anybody.”
The situation is made worse by Turner’s injury and that rookie Maalik Wayns, getting his first start of the season, hurt his right foot and played just 14 minutes. Backup guard Royal Ivey got a DNP-CD in Houston and has seen his minutes seriously curtailed since early in the season. The Sixers are also in grueling stretch of the schedule where they’re playing 10 of 11 games away from home.
Collins said after Wednesday night’s thumping by the Rockets that Holiday could return on Friday night against Atlanta.
“It is tricky,” Holiday told Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News. “I feel like we could win a lot of games and I could help my team and, obviously, that’s a lot of pressure to put on me to come back. At the same time, I think I just want to be able to play basketball and walk and run and jump and all that stuff you have to do to be able to compete. I’m going to try and get back as quick as possible.”
CHICAGO – If Paul George has heard the comparisons once, he’s heard them 1,000 times. From before he was drafted by the Indiana Pacers with the No. 10 pick out of Cal State-Fresno in the 2010 Draft and ever since. Heck, he’s even heard it right here.
Likened to the Hall of Famer for his build and wingspan, for his wing position, for his potential on both ends of the court and for his place in the Pacers’ pecking order as more sidekick than franchise guy, George occasionally has played up to the comparison. Other times, he has played well below it.
Then there was Tuesday, when he played smack in front of it. Pippen, who has one of those “ambassador” jobs with the Chicago Bulls, was planted courtside about 15 feet from the Indiana bench for the Pacers’ 80-76 victory. He has watched George up-close-and-personal before, but rarely seen him as terrific as he was at United Center: 34 points, nine rebounds and three steals, shooting 14-of-25 on a night when his teammates combined for 15-of-55.
So, was there a little something extra in his performance because of the Pippen proximity?
“I wasn’t playing for Pippen or trying to put on a show for Pippen,” George said afterward. “I mean, I’ve got a lot of respect for him. During the game, I gave him a fist pound.”
Look, it can only go so far. One’s a Bulls legend, the other is a Pacers’ budding star. There’s bad blood between the teams, borne of their rivalry in the Central Division and all those Michael Jordan-Reggie Miller battles.
“Pippen … we don’t have a great relationship,” George said. “But every time we come to Chicago and play, I do acknowledge him.”
George was the guy getting the hat-tips Tuesday. He carried Indiana for much of the game. And he bounced back dramatically from his play in his three most recent games, a West Coast swing on which he shot 7-of-31, with outings of four points (2-of-11 at Sacramento) and none (0-of-7 at Golden State).
It was a pattern similar to George’s recovery two weeks ago, when he backed up a six-point night at Washington with 37 points against New Orleans 48 hours later. And it’s all part of the development process.
A few nights earlier, Philadelphia’s Doug Collins talked in a UC hallway about the importance of an NBA player’s third season. He spoke specifically of his own guy Evan Turner. But the same applies to George.
“Third year is when the game starts to get a little more comfortable,” George said in agreement. “You start to pick up the game’s speed, where shots are going to be available, the flow of the game. You start to come into your own within the offense. I don’t want to just say I’m doing so now because I had a good game. I’m still going through that process.”
Said coach Frank Vogel: “With any growth, there’s growing pains. He’s had some tougher performances this year, but some spectacular ones as well.”
Consistency is key, with George and the Pacers facing Portland Wednesday night in Indianapolis on the tail end of the back-to-back. So is diligence – which George showed when he went directly from Indiana’s flight from Oakland, which landed at 7 a.m. Eastern time, to the team’s practice court.
He hoisted half-a-thousand shots. To make sure the bad was gone and the good was within reach again.
“The way I shot the ball against Sacramento and Golden State, it really brought me down,” George said. “I let the team down. I knew that wasn’t me. I had to get back to what got me here. I had to get in the gym, put up 500 shots. From floaters to mid-range to 3-pointers, I mixed it all up. That’s something I need to keep doing.”
He did plenty of that against the Bulls. Right in front of … aw, you know.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle looked to send a clear message and jump-start two starters Tuesday night by benching Darren Collison and Elton Brand in a game with personal meaning for both.
For Collison, it was his first chance with his new team to go head-to-head against former UCLA teammate and emerging Philadelphia 76ers star Jrue Holiday. The two were drafted four picks apart in 2009, Holiday taken 17th, and Collison 21st.
The veteran Brand played the last four seasons in Philly before the club amnestied him in the summer to wipe his $18.2 million salary this season off their books.
Early on, neither player has met expectations in Dallas. Collison has struggled with turnovers and porous defense, and Brand has struggled to do much of anything. After Saturday’s appallingly sluggish 115-89 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Carlisle sought a solution with a lineup shakeup, and Collison and Brand paid the price.
Both players responded Tuesday with mostly solid efforts, although Dallas still lost 100-98, its seventh defeat in the last 10 games to fall below .500 (7-8) for the first time this season.
As the Mavs head to Chicago to face the Bulls on Wednesday night, the benchings would appear to be one-game statements, at least in the case of Collison, a young player Dallas would love to develop into its long-term point guard.
“He’s our starting point guard, but tonight he came off the bench,” Carlisle said during his post-game interview. “Jason Terry was our starting 2-guard, but he came off the bench for four years. So it’s not that big a deal. The big deal is that we’ve got to quit doing the things that are making us shoot ourselves in the foot. That’s where it’s at.”
Collison finished with 12 points, six assists and five steals in nearly 30 minutes. But he was still dogged by four turnovers, including consecutive blunders in the fourth quarter, the type of mishaps that shoot teams in the foot and drive coaches crazy. Philly went on a 12-0 run to take a 91-81 lead.
Carlisle immediately yanked Collison after the second turnover, then subbed him back in 88 seconds later.
Collison did provide an immediate jolt off the bench after the starters got down 21-13 after just six minutes. He quickly converted two backcourt steals into layups and put up eight points, five assists and four steals in his first nine minutes.
“I love the way he played, and he impacted the game immediately with quickness and energy,” Carlisle said. “So I thought he was terrific.”
However, with shooting guard O.J. Mayo struggling from the floor and scoring just 11 points, the Mavs’ backcourt was again badly beaten on the defensive end with Holiday and Evan Turner combining for 40 points on 15-for-25 shooting, and 11 assists.
Brand came through with a season-high 17 points, eight rebounds, a block, a steal and no turnovers despite logging only 19 minutes, three below his already depressed season average. Rookie forward Jae Crowder got the starting nod at small forward with Shawn Marion moving to power forward.
Dominique Jones, mostly a bench-warmer in Dallas during his first two seasons, made the second start of his career in place of Collison. Jones has become Collison’s primary backup mostly by default because Rodrigue Beaubois has failed to step up.
The Mavs reportedly tried to trade Jones before the start of the season, but found no takers. The unpolished combo guard is a non-threat to unseat Collison and proved it Tuesday by missing all five of his shot attempts and committing four turnovers in less than 18 minutes.
Holiday is leading the Sixers in scoring (18.6 ppg) and assists (8.6) and is one of the more underrated defenders at his position in the league. The youngest player in the league when he was drafted out of UCLA, his ascent will be crucial to the Sixers’ cause as this season wears on.
Because so much of what this team was supposed to be and do this season was based on Bynum and his status, professed by some, as the “new” best big man in the Eastern Conference. The Sixers traded away All-Star swingman Andre Iguodala to get him and had plans to build their team around the soon-to-be free-agent big man for at least this season.
Instead, Collins has been forced to dig into his deep bag of coaching tricks and craft a scheme for a team that doesn’t have a true anchor. He did it again Sunday in the Sixers’ win over Cleveland, mixing and matching until he found the right combination on the floor to get the desired results.
“For me, I’m going to go to the store and mix-and-match and try to pick up some things that match a little bit. On a particular night I pull a play out of my tail late in the game. Sometimes you just got to do that. That’s what they pay me to do. But at the end of the day we got enough stops to beat them. We have got to be a bit smoother on the offensive end. We’re making things way, way too hard on ourselves.
“I told our guys that their starting team is the fourth-leading scoring starting team in the NBA and they’re No. 1 plus-minus. We could not allow their bench to come in and put them in a position to win the game.”
Collins’ bench was the one that provided the scoring with 34 points, including 14 from Spencer Hawes and 13 from Nick Young, who left in the second half due to dizziness. Evan Turner had a terrific all-around game with 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds and Jrue Holiday scored 14 points and dealt nine assists,while limiting [Kyrie] Irving to nine points, nearly 16 below his average.
Never was Holiday’s defense more impressive than late in the fourth quarter. With the Sixers clinging to a 77-73 advantage, Irving got an isolation play at the top of the key to the left of the basket where he crossed over repeatedly, tried stop-and-goes, went left, then right, then left. Holiday got deked out of his spot in front of Irving and the Duke product missed a forced runner to the left of the basket. Hawes then hit a 16-footer with 3 minutes remaining to give the Sixers a comfortable cushion.
A 6-4 record after 10 games wouldn’t normally be much to crow about. But in a much-improved Atlantic Division that has the New York Knicks (7-1), Brooklyn Nets (6-2) and the Sixers ahead of a Boston Celtics team that played in the Eastern Conference finals last season, you know Collins is well aware that there is no time to waste if Philly is to keep pace in the postseason chase.
Without any assurance that Bynum will return sooner rather than later, and that will he come back in the sort of shape and with the game that can immediately elevate this team, Collins will have to stick to his wizard routine for the foreseeable future.
Right now, that seems like the Sixers’ best chance to stay in the thick of things this season.
PHILADELPHIA – In getting off to a hot start last season, the Philadelphia 76ers had two big advantages over other teams. The first was continuity. They had made minimal changes to their roster and brought back guys who played an incredible 99 percent of their minutes from the previous season.
The second advantage was depth. The Sixers didn’t go 10 or 11-deep, but they had three or four guys coming off their bench – namely Evan Turner, Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young – who could keep the scoreboard going in the right direction. That trio was especially strong offensively, and the Sixers outscored their opponents by almost eight points per 100 possessions when the three were on the floor together.
“We had three guys coming off our bench who were capable of being starters,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said at training camp on Friday.
Elton Brand was amnestied. Lou Williams was shown the door. And now, All-Star Andre Iguodalais being sent to Denver as part of the four-team trade that sends Dwight Howard to the Lakers and brings Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia. The Sixers are also sending second-year big man Nikola Vucevic, rookie wing Maurice Harkless, and a draft pick to Orlando, and getting veteran shooting guard Jason Richardson from the Magic.
As much of a feel-good story as the Sixers were last season, they knew that they wouldn’t have defeated the Chicago Bulls in the first round had Derrick Rose not blown out his knee. And they clearly believed that there was a ceiling with the group they ended the season with. They were honest with themselves and there was no standing pat.
Losing Brand and Iguodala, Philly has downgraded at both forward spots. And sacrificing Brand (who was on the last year of his lucrative contract) to sign Nick Young still doesn’t make any sense. But there’s plenty of sense in taking advantage of the Magic’s desire to become the Bobcats and acquiring a seven footer who will make an impact on both ends of the floor.
Bynum’s biggest impact typically comes on defense, but the Sixers were already a top-five defensive team, and they also just traded the best perimeter defender in the league. So they’re not going to improve much, if at all, on that end of the floor. Instead, Bynum’s presence will mean more offensively.
For the first time since Allen Iverson left in 2006, the Sixers have a guy who can draw double-teams, a requisite for a successful offense. And for the first time since Charles Barkley left in 1992, they have someone to give the ball to on the low block. (more…)