With rant, Collins invites us inside his head

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With rant, Collins invites us inside his head

Doug Collins is in his own head. He climbed in there a while ago and built a camp for himself and now he can’t get out. At the moment, it is a bad place for him to be.

The no-good Sixers lost to the no-good, even-worse Magic, 98-84. They lost at home. They lost to a team that hadn’t beaten an Atlantic Division opponent all year –- until Tuesday evening. They lost to a team that, before arriving in Philly, had dropped 17 of its last 18 games –- and 22 of 25, and 28 of 31, and so on.

You can understand what losing to a team like that does to someone. What it did to Collins was trigger an amplified version of a performance we’ve seen him deliver a few times this year. I call it “Frustrated Collins Theater.” It always scores high marks for raw emotion and candor. None of the previous shows were quite like this, though. There was Collins, trapped inside his head, when he invited us all in.

"Can I tell you something?” Collins asked. “If everybody looked inside themselves as much as I did, this world would be a CAT scan. OK? I mean, believe me, there's not two days go by that I don't to go Rod [Thorn], I don't go to Tony [DiLeo] –- 'what can I do? Can I do anything different? How can I be a better coach? How can I be a better leader? How can I help these guys?' Sometimes you've gotta help yourself. You know? Sometimes you've gotta help yourself. Youth is a very blaming thing."

He was missing the raincoat and the angst, but as Howard Beale bits go, it was a solid effort. The Sixers' effort, however, was not so solid. Collins called it “mind-numbing to me.” He was referring to the team’s performance, or lack of same, against Orlando, though he could have meant the six-game losing streak or the whole season and everyone would have nodded in agreement.

Mind-numbing, yes. That man speaks truth.

You know how, after suffering some severe mental or physical anguish, a trauma victim will sometimes lapse into a catatonic state? That might have happened to Collins on Tuesday.

“We went up 29-20,” Collins said, recalling a game he and everyone else clearly wanted to forget, “and, from that point on, I couldn’t even tell you what occurred.”

What occurred wasn’t good. But that’s been the story of this season. It was merely rewritten in large, bold letters and then underscored and highlighted by the Magic. It wasn’t a surprise that Collins seemed so flustered and beaten after the Orlando loss. The surprise was that it’s taken this long for him to redline his tolerance RPM meter.

He was asked a lot of questions and he gave a lot of answers. The only way to get a real sense of how plain and painful his frustration has become is to go back and watch the full video, which you can see above and read in full here. Even that might not do it justice. In that tiny room on Tuesday, standing at that podium, he looked and sounded powerfully lost.

“No one takes this harder than I do,” Collins said. “Nobody. And I am a guy who, when I have coached, I’ve always been able to find some answers and I’ve not been able to find answers.”

Someone asked whether the Sixers had finally bottomed out -– if losing to the lowly Magic was as bad as it could possibly get. Collins said he sure hopes “it can’t get any worse than this” -– then he detailed how it could still get worse than this. The Sixers play 17 of their final 27 games (and 12 of their final 16) on the road. Nine of the final 16 come against teams that would be in the playoffs if the postseason began today. It doesn’t begin today, which is good news for the Sixers because then they wouldn’t be involved.

The Sixers are 11 games under .500. Only 27 games remain. Do his players not realize how desperate they should be?

“You know what, man, I wish I knew,” Collins said. “I wish I knew. I really do. I got to tell you, I’m sitting there … I mean, I gave my body to this franchise. I was never booed as a player. Never. I ran through my sneakers.”

Toward the end of the Magic game (while his players were getting booed), it looked like Collins ran through his wingtips on the way out the door. There was some chatter on Twitter and press row that Collins left the bench a few seconds before the contest was actually over. Collins said he didn’t realize there was a shot clock violation. He said he thought the clock would “wind down” and he’s “done that before.” So it wasn’t a statement about his frustration?

"Oh no no no no no,” Collins insisted.

OK. But, if it had been, would you blame him?

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Joel Embiid not named All-Star starter, can still make it as reserve

Joel Embiid not named All-Star starter, can still make it as reserve

Joel Embiid will have to hope NBA coaches trust the process.

Embiid on Thursday was not named a starter in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler locked in the three Eastern Conference frontcourt spots. Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan rounded out the backcourt.

James (25.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.1 assists) and Antetokounmpo (23.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists) were locks as starters. That left Butler, Kevin Love and Embiid as the next in contention. Butler is a two-time All-Star averaging 24.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 36.8 minutes for the 21-22 Bulls. Love is posting 20.7 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 31.6 minutes per game on the Eastern Conference-leading, 29-11 Cavaliers.

The Western Conference starting spots went to Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis. 

The voting was made up of fan votes (50 percent), player votes (25 percent) and media votes (25 percent). Embiid has a chance to be voted in by the NBA coaches, whose reserve selections will be announced on Jan. 26. 

Embiid would have been named a starter had the results been based on fan voting (50 percent). He finished third ahead of Love and Butler.

Embiid was in the running for a starting role during a breakout rookie season. He is averaging 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game. Even though his playing time is capped at 28 minutes, he ranks seventh among all players in scoring per 48 minutes. He is eighth overall in free throw attempts per game (7.9) and 10th in those made (6.2).

Embiid had obstacles, though, when it came to the voting: rookie status, 28-minute restriction, limited games played (29) because of his allocated workload, and the Sixers’ record.

Even though the All-Star Game highlights individual achievements, team record is often taken into consideration. The Sixers have won seven of their last nine games (see story), but still stand well below .500 at 14-26.

When it came to the players’ vote, it is hard for a rookie who hasn’t even competed against every team in the league to make a strong enough impression for another player to influence their perception of the top talent. Embiid finished outside of the top five in the players' vote, behind James, Antetokounmpo, Butler, Paul George and Kristaps Porzingis. Meanwhile, the Sixers' big man finished fifth in the media vote.

Embiid and the Sixers were very active in pushing for the fan votes. Embiid received the social media support of celebrities including Triple H, Kevin Hart and MLB MVP Mike Trout, among others. The Sixers promoted Embiid through a Shirley Temple campaign based on his favorite drink.

Embiid picked up major steam in the last week of voting. He had trailed Love by 16,028 fan votes in the second returns on Jan. 12.

He took to Twitter to express his gratitude.