The Philadelphia 76ers have tried virtually everyone’s patience so far this season. However, coach Doug Collins still had to keep up the hope for the Sixers, no matter how dire things had become. Yet Collins couldn’t do that anymore on Feb. 26, after the Sixers gave him nothing to be hopeful for following a 98-84 loss to the Orlando Magic.
Collins let out his frustration in the post-game press conference, where he showed more effort than his players did all night. But although he claimed that he “didn’t see this effort coming” as the Philadelphia Inquirer cited, the writing was on the wall.
The Sixers hadn’t won in the second half of the season and had barely won on the road all year. They couldn’t even beat the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves on Feb. 20, despite having a week of rest and the knowledge that they would face the Miami Heat and New York Knicks afterwards.
Even after losing all three of those games, beating the much worse Magic at home should have still been easy. But the Sixers got blown out in the final three quarters, to a team that had lost 10 straight road games and had only won 15 games all year. While a loss like this is embarrassing, and perhaps one of the final nails in the Sixers’ coffin, Collins can’t say that this wasn’t months in the making.
Collins had no options, except to challenge his players to care a bit more. When they clearly didn’t get the message to start the second half, he benched several starters and then threw the whole team under the bus to the press. Since Collins claimed he was “out of answers” it was pretty much the only move he had left.
Given Collins’ history of leaving teams after just a few seasons, his frustrations may have long-term implications beyond this year. If the Sixers refuse to get the message and wake up, will Collins lose patience and leave town himself, or will the organization make him a scapegoat itself?
The Sixers already have to decide Andrew Bynum’s fate this summer. By comparison, deciding on Collins’ future looks much simpler, if it comes to that. But if the Sixers’ healthy players remain as useless as Bynum, how much more would Collins take before he takes any decision out of management’s hands?