This whole Detroit Pistons thing – which, by the way, would leave the team with like 6 players tonight if none of the holdouts played – reminded me of where the 76ers franchise was a year ago. The divide between players and coaches was so vast that, with virtually the same amount of talent, the Sixers are on pace to win around 15 more games this year compared to last.
Doug Collins didn’t have to reinvent the wheel here – he just had to get it turning again to make improvements. After all, Eddie Jordan’s laissez-faire defensive philosophy* and his unwillingness to cooperate with his team’s two best (and highest-paid) players set the team back to 27 wins last year – any sort of defensive effort on the team’s part should have at least added a few wins over last year.
*Honestly, when you’re philosophy is “our best offensive players should be our best defenders”, you open yourself up to be questioned about a lack of sanity and/or an abundance of stupidity.
Of course, more than the coach changed. Turner, Hawes, and Nocioni all came in with different levels of fanfare, while Sam Dalembert, Willie Green, and Jason Smith were sent packing. While an overall talent upgrade, the team had some serious questions: “who would score?” and “did we have any bigs who could defend?” were my favorites. The Sixers had some talent; that couldn’t be denied. But the talents were mismatched: too many shooting guards and small forwards, not enough bigs and no backup point guards.
Yet Doug made it all work, somehow. He’s not the perfect coach by any means – his rotations can be baffling at times(like random Kapono and Songaila sightings throughout the season for no sensible reason), the team has struggled in crunch time amidst his unwavering confidence in Lou Williams’ handling of those situations, and in the past he has worn out his players after a few years at each of his coaching stops. But he knew how to maximize the talent this Sixers roster has, and he’s worked hard* after an abysmal start to get this team to nearly a .500 record, which the Sixers hope to get to tonight against a team that resembles themselves from last year. That’s all we as fans can ask for.
*And if you want proof, check out his abs.