With rant, Collins invites us inside his head


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?

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday in the season opener (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular-season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot, it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as the big man liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 minutes and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fadeaway jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guys' first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of [Hakeem] Olajuwon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).