There's no sense talking at length about the game between the Sixers and Magic. It was another candidate for Worst Game of the Year and the Sixers did the same stuff they always do while looking much less preoccupied with their jobs in this one. Absolutely no one played well, even Doug Collins' new fave Damien Wilkins, who matched Jeremy Pargo with a team-leading 14 points.
To talk about this game is to waste precious moments of your life that's way too short to spend on bad basketball games.
But here we are, and there actually happen to be a ton of interesting ("painful" is another word) storylines from this particularly awful game of basketball. As has been the case the last week or so, we'll focus on Doug Collins.
After wearing an especially bemused look on his face while the Sixers committed mistake after mistake on their way to a 98-84 home loss to the road-anemic Orlando Magic, Doug spent ten minutes with the media in a post-game press conference that is a must-watch.
Collins threw his team under the bus on multiple occasions while trying to absolve himself of blame. He claimed to never have been booed as a player because he tried so hard. But he gets booed as a coach of this team, and he's asking for the players to take ownership.
This is just another notch in a 30-foot belt of Collins questioning the toughness of his team, while championing his own basketball upbringing and the way things used to be done. He's turned inward to see if there's anything he could change about the way he coaches and claimed to find nothing. There's nothing wrong with the preparation, there's nothing wrong with the system. Just that they're missing the big guy and the rest of the team isn't showing enough effort.
He seemed to visibly regret the Andrew Bynum trade, noting that with Jason Richardson out for the year, they essentially traded Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic, and Moe Harkless for nothing. Now he finds himself pining for Vucevic, who he noted had 19 rebounds tonight, while Spencer Hawes had one.
None of this is particularly wrong. The team looked lackadaisical. The players said it's about "effort" and just "getting after it", which is bullshit. Yeah they didn't pass the eye test in terms of motivation, but the real crux of the issue centers around the minimal talent and the widening gap between coach and personnel. This team is broken.
But while Doug was hurling his guys under a school bus full of fat kids, he failed to mention or realize a few things.
- He assembled the team. These are the guys he wanted. Kwame Brown: Doug. Re-signing Hawes: Doug. Not trading Evan Turner at the deadline: Doug and probably the owners. Tony DiLeo, Rod Thorn, Josh Harris, Adam Aron... they're all around, probably saying what they think from time to time. But it's Doug that had final say on roster decisions. And Doug assembled this roster. Doug didn't play Vuce in the Celtics series while Kevin Garnett was roasting Spencer. Then he traded him in the Bynum deal. Must've missed that when you were looking inwards, pal.
- Doug gets to decide who plays. Just a few days after Spencer had one rebound in 25 minutes against Miami, he took the night off after his one board against Orlando and Doug rewarded him with 21 minutes of playing time. Vuce didn't do anything special aside from box out, hang around the rim, and be 7-feet tall. It's impressive how much Spencer does to avoid being big and even more impressive how Doug continues to play him in spite of his overwhelming weaknesses.
- Collins hasn't changed the offense once. Sure he's tinkered with a lineup from time to time, but they haven't tried running anything other than pick-and-pops, dribble-handoffs, and isolation plays. It hasn't worked. The stubbornness with which Doug approaches every one of his coaching decisions is palpably frustrating to the players and just as obvious to the fans.
- You can't take credit for the effort of the past two years of overachieving mediocre teams then pass the buck on effort with this year's squad. It's either you or it's not you. It can't be whatever you want it to be, Doug.
After all this, Doug went on to say he's not trying to deflect blame, which is about as ridiculous a statement as anyone could make after going off on his team for 10 minutes. Deflect blame is exactly what he did. It's not a management issue, even though the management assembled the personnel. Then when he says "I’ve always been able to find some answers. And I have not been able to find answers. And from my standpoint, that is very disappointing," it's impossible to take him seriously.
Doug has reached a point on the frustration scale where he no longer cares. Like a total shit, he walked into the locker room with about 20 seconds still left in the game because he couldn't take it anymore. He was smiling his face off during that presser. He can't wait to get as far away from this situation as possible. And it's way past time that the Sixers granted him his wish. He wasn't long for the future of this organization anyway, but now that he's proven himself to be even more out of touch than we previously suspected, the big fat clock ticks loudly for his firing.
Another coach wouldn't be able to get much more out of this squad than Doug is. But that doesn't matter going forward. Setting this franchise up to succeed in the long-run is what's important. Playing Wilkins 29 minutes and Arnett Moultrie five isn't helping that. You can't expect Collins to willingly tank, but you can expect him to evaluate talent better while putting his team in the best position to succeed, and he's bad at both. If he won't play Moultrie, they'll hire someone who will.
As we've repeated, this team is both injured and lacking serious talent. The guys that are playing have stopped listening to whatever Collins is yelling at them, which means they're probably just as inefficient by choice as Collins is coaching them to be. There's a serious case to be made for starting over from scratch -- like SCRATCH scratch -- but it remains to be seen if the organization is willing to start over.
Nothing would surprise me at this point. Collins getting fired now, at the end of the season, or never... all within the realm of insanity that's inhabited the Sixers' reality so often over the lifetime of this blog.
This season's about playing out the string and seeing what you have in guys like.... well it's really just Moultrie. Everybody else is either a known commodity or immaterial to the long-term success of the franchise. We'll see what moves await them this offseason.
For now, we can try to have fun watching a 22-33 team lose as many games as possible in order to set themselves up for a better lottery pick. All while waiting for the coach to be fired or for one of the players to pull an Eric Snow and drift asleep on the court. As much as it sucks, this team is pretty screwed. Everything hinges on the Bynum decision -- to which there is no right answer.
Tough season for everyone. Let's move on from it.