The Philadelphia 76ers have not done well under pressure all season. The Sixers faltered under the weight of preseason expectations and the need to stay afloat while Andrew Bynum was out. But now that the Sixers have been called out by coach Doug Collins in a heated press conference, everyone will be watching to see how they respond.
The Sixers visit the Chicago Bulls on Feb. 28, in their first game since Collins attacked their lack of effort after losing to the Orlando Magic on Feb. 26. Before that rant, the Sixers had been largely forgotten and reduced to a laughingstock, especially with their 22-33 record and current six-game losing streak.
Yet Collins shattered Philadelphia’s relative anonymity by publicly boiling over on Feb. 26. By calling the Sixers’ collapse “mind-numbing” and lamenting how they’ve barely broken a sweat, all eyes will be on them to see how they respond. Will Philadelphia take Collins’ challenge and try harder to save what’s left of the season, or will it keep laying down?
If the Sixers can’t make more of an effort after that press conference, they truly are a lost cause. If Collins can’t fire them up, despite his own considerable fire, perhaps the team really isn’t listening to him anymore. At that point, serious questions would need to be asked about Collins’ future and that of his roster.
Collins is in his third season with the Sixers, which is usually close to his limit at one job. Logically, he can’t be fired for this season because he never got to coach a fully healthy team this year. Yet with the Sixers falling apart and with Bynum at risk of never playing in Philadelphia, the organization could easily overreact.
With the Sixers fading in the playoff chase, the best thing left to play for is pride. Collins directly challenged whether Philadelphia had any pride left, and it seems he will get his answer soon enough.
Another flat performance in Chicago would show how his message was received, or more accurately wasn’t. If that happens, it will be clear that the dark times haven’t even started for Collins and the Sixers yet. But if the Sixers become inspired again, if only for the next few days, Collins’s press conference will have had more than just entertainment value after all.