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?

Cold can't keep Joel Embiid away from first Sixers practice

Cold can't keep Joel Embiid away from first Sixers practice

STOCKTON, N.J. — Joel Embiid awoke Tuesday morning and was still feeling ill from a cold and virus he has been battling since last Friday. He had been coughing, experiencing a bloody nose and even vomiting, but all those symptoms could not stop him from a day he has been eyeing for over two years: his first NBA practice.

Embiid had stayed back in Philadelphia on Monday night while the Sixers traveled to training camp at Stockton University in South Jersey. On Tuesday, he decided to leave the city and join the team on campus.

“I woke up this morning and I was like, ‘I waited too long for this time, so I’ve got to go and try to do some work in there,’” Embiid said.

Embiid had been sidelined by foot injuries since the Sixers drafted him third overall in 2014. Tuesday marked his first NBA practice, and he is eyeing his first preseason game next Tuesday against the Celtics.

Embiid was not expected to be part of training camp Tuesday because of his illness. He surprised the team when he arrived while practice was underway. The Sixers' medical staff cleared him before he took the court.

“He forced himself into practice today,” head coach Brett Brown said. “He said, ‘I feel good, I want to go.’ With the time that he has put in the last few years, he meant it. You respected that instruction.”

Embiid is following a minutes restriction during training camp, which currently is 25 minutes for the morning session and 20 minutes for the evening session. His previous physical restrictions have been lifted and the team is monitoring him for workload and time on the court.

“I step back and figure out how do I want to spend my money?” Brown said. “If we’ve got X amount of time, where do I feel like he can make the most improvement? Where do I feel like he’s going to have the best chance to get on the court and play minutes, as we expect against the Celtics?”

Tuesday morning’s session focused on the defensive end. While Embiid had trouble breathing at points and tired quickly, he made an effort to give 100 percent on the court. The only lags in Embiid’s game Brown noticed were attributed to his illness, not because of his foot.

“I don’t think he’s missed a beat from a great month of September,” Brown said.

The Sixers sensed the enthusiasm from Embiid. Regardless of his restrictions, his energy was felt among the team.

“When he did get in, he played well,” Ben Simmons said. “He’s a big inside presence. He got a lot of boards and crashed the offensive glass.”

Added Jahlil Okafor: "He’s excited to be here. Obviously, he’s had a couple tough years with his injuries that he couldn’t control. But he’s finally here and he’s taking advantage of that."

The Sixers will hold training camp through Friday at Stockton University. Embiid is looking to push past any symptoms to be on the court as much as he can.

Nerlens Noel's complaints only damage Sixers' trade leverage

Nerlens Noel's complaints only damage Sixers' trade leverage

Silence is golden.

It's a phrase uttered often by parents and teachers. It can also be an effective phrase when dealing with negotiations.

I'm not revealing a big secret by saying the Sixers have a logjam in their frontcourt. At some point, something has to give.

Nerlens Noel, a key component of the aforementioned logjam, doubled down on his quotes from over the weekend about the Sixers' "silly" frontcourt situation.

"I don't see a way it can work," Noel said on Monday. "It's just a logjam. You have three young, talented centers that can play 30-plus minutes a night."

Uh-oh.

Bryan Colangelo acknowledged that teams have been trying to "poach" a big man off him. He's been adamant in saying that he's not shopping any of his bigs. For leverage purposes, that's wise.

Any leverage Colangelo may have accrued through his media tour this summer took a hit. With the health of Joel Embiid still a question mark, it's important that the Sixers take a wait-and-see approach to their situation. Noel may have just put a damper on that plan.

I'm not advocating for the trade of Noel and keeping Jahlil Okafor. In fact, I've said that if Embiid proves he's healthy, I'd move both Noel and Okafor if the value was appropriate.

There can be arguments made for keeping Noel over the other two centers. His athleticism and rim protection skills fit Brett Brown's system and the way the NBA is trending. And it's important to note that Noel isn't wrong. It won't benefit him to take a cut in minutes. It won't help Okafor either. It's not the most pleasant situation to be sure. He has every right to be unhappy, but getting the media involved doesn't benefit Noel or the Sixers.

Anyone in any job should have the right to speak out if they feel they're being slighted, but sometimes you have to "play the game." If Noel were a poker player, he just revealed his hand. He should've shown up, said the right things and allowed Colangelo to negotiate a deal.

The best parallel is what the Eagles and Sam Bradford went through this offseason. Bradford was unhappy the Eagles traded valuable draft picks to acquire Carson Wentz. Understandable, but when he threw his rattle down and sat out part of camp, it helped nobody. The Broncos tried to lowball Howie Roseman, figuring Roseman had no leverage with Bradford's intent to get traded out of town. Roseman stood his ground and the Eagles were able to hold the Vikings hostage when Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending knee injury.

It's not something you hope for by any means, but these things happen. Players get hurt and teams are left scrambling to find a replacement. Take a look at the Chris Bosh situation with the Miami Heat. Bosh, who's had a tremendous career, will likely never play again because of issues with blood clots. The Heat are likely not a match for the Sixers given defensive-minded center Hassan Whiteside's new contract, but the point is that you never know what will happen between now and opening night.

For Bradford, it was resolved just a week before the season started. If Noel follows suit with Bradford, perhaps there will be a similar solution.

"Things need to get situated," Noel said. "I think things obviously need to be moved around, someone needs to be moved around. It's just a tough situation. I can't really say too much because I have no say in the matter, so obviously that's for who can handle the situation in the right manner."

Well, Nerlens, you said too much already.