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?

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

NEW ORLEANS — Nerlens Noel made another step toward his return from arthroscopic left knee surgery by joining the Sixers in New Orleans for their game against the Pelicans.

Noel arrived on Wednesday with Robert Covington, who is slated to start after missing the last three games with a left knee sprain. Noel is not cleared to play, but Brown doesn’t think it will be long until he suits up. 

“I don’t think far away,” Brown said of Noel’s regular season debut after shootaround.

When asked about the possibility of Noel playing this weekend when the Sixers face the Pistons on Sunday in Detroit, Brown replied, “Maybe.” 

Noel has missed the entire regular season recovering from elective surgery for an inflamed plica in October. He completed the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Ala. and has been continuing his work with the Sixers. This trip to New Orleans is the first time he has been with the Sixers on the road. 

“[He is] integrating with the team, studying a lot of tape, scripting with his teammates with the understanding that we have a chance to see him soon,” Brown said. “All that trying to ramp it up where he can go to an NBA court more comfortably.”

Noel spoke out about his displeasure with the Sixers crowded frontcourt at the start of the preseason. He recently stuck with his stance, saying, “I don’t think the roster’s changed.”

Brown is working to keep the team moving forward as a unit while still being aware of and recognizing Noel’s perspective. 

“It does,” Brown said when asked if Noel’s open frustration concerns him as it pertains to team cohesiveness. “But I feel like it’s so much a part of what we try do around here that it’s not like you’re going to blink and you’ve forgotten something that equals camaraderie, that equals team, that equals trying to keep this together, and you’ve left it for a week … 

“It’s a day-to-day focus for me and it’s a very candid conversation with me and the player. The team hears it, the individual hears it, we all understand it … We need to coexist and we need to understand the reality of it all, too. There’s a human side you understand. It’s also pride, it’s competitiveness, it’s do your job, it’s nothing is given, you’ve got to take stuff, draw your own line in the sand, competitors rule the day.”

Last season Noel averaged 11.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game. The Sixers will look forward to having him back on the court in that once-crowded frontcourt that is now shorthanded. Jahlil Okafor remained in Philadelphia with gastroenteritis. Ben Simmons still is rehabbing from a right foot fracture. 

"Soon you’re going to see Ben Simmons coming to a team bench where he doesn’t come out with boots and have to push him in some type of wheely apparatus," Brown said. "We’ve dealt with so many injuries trying to find that balance of dealing with their health and so on, and then trying to integrate them back into a team is part of growing a program."

Sixers-Pelicans 5 things: Joel Embiid takes on dominating Anthony Davis

Sixers-Pelicans 5 things: Joel Embiid takes on dominating Anthony Davis

76ers (4-18) vs. Pelicans (7-15)
8 p.m. on TCN and CSNPhilly.com, Pregame Live starts at 7:30

The Sixers will try to snap their eight-game losing skid when they take on the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center on Thursday night.

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Walking wounded, part II
After the Sixers were limited to nine available players in Tuesday's loss to the beat-up Memphis Grizzlies, things won't be much better in the health department in New Orleans.

Sure, Joel Embiid's expected return after sitting out the second half of a back-to-back set for rest will be a welcome boost. However, the Sixers are still dealing with a host of other ailments that will likely limit them to just 10 healthy bodies on Thursday night.

The Pelicans surely won't shed a tear for the Sixers because they have their own injury issues. New Orleans could have as many as five players sidelined, including former Sixer Jrue Holiday with turf toe.

2. The next big thing
All of the injuries won't decrease the game's intrigue, mainly because of the matchup at center between Embiid and Anthony Davis.

Embiid is coming off a subpar performance in his last outing against the Denver Nuggets, but the big man has still been as advertised this season. The rookie is putting up 18.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 23.3 minutes a game. Embiid is also shooting 46.8 percent from the field and an even 50.0 percent from three-point range.

On the other side, Davis has been an absolute monster for the Pelicans this season, even if it hasn't translated into many wins. 

The three-time All-Star leads the NBA in scoring with 31.6 points per game on 50.3 percent shooting. While carrying the scoring load, Davis has still been able to average a career-high 11.5 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, 2.2 assists and 1.8 steals a night.

This should be the first of many meetings between two big men that look to dominate the future of the league.

3. Glass repair
With Embiid out on Tuesday, the Sixers were dominated 69-54 in the rebounding battle against the Grizzlies.

They should find things a little easier in that department against the Pelicans. Despite Davis' best efforts on the boards, New Orleans has allowed a league-high 48.9 rebounds to opponents this season. 

With Embiid back in the lineup, Ersan Ilyasova coming off a 17-rebound game and Richaun Holmes always active, the Sixers should be able to control the rebounding category.

4. Injuries
Robert Covington (knee/illness) is available to play. Jahlil Okafor (illness), Jerryd Bayless (wrist), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Ben Simmons (foot) are out for the Sixers.

Holiday (toe) and E'Twaun Moore (toe) are questionable. Tyreke Evans (knee), Dante Cunningham (knee) and Quincy Pondexter (knee) are out for the Pelicans.

5. This and that
•  The Sixers are trying to avoid a franchise-record 24th straight road loss.

•  The Sixers and Pelicans split the season series in 2015-16 with each team winning at home.

•  Ilyasova is averaging 16.2 points and 8.2 boards so far in December.