Sixers flawed all the way across the board

Sixers flawed all the way across the board

February 27, 2013, 4:45 pm

You can’t fire the players, so you fire the coach. But maybe the Philadelphia 76ers can flip the script.

At 22-33, the Sixers are 11 games under .500 and are in last place in the Atlantic Division for the first time since the 2009-10 season. Back then, in Eddie Jordan’s lone year as the coach, the Sixers brought in Allen Iverson as a means to get fans through the doors -- instead of a bazooka that fires t-shirts into the crowd.

By February, Iverson had broken down.

From that terrible, 27-55 team, only Thad Young and a rookie named Jrue Holiday remain. Holiday, an All-Star, and Young, an elite defender and energy player extraordinaire, likely will be the only two players guaranteed to return next season, too.

No, you can’t fire the players. But you can buy them out.

Along with Holiday and Young, the Sixers are on the hook next year for $44.4 million to Spencer Hawes, Jason Richardson, Evan Turner, Lavoy Allen, Kwame Brown and Arnett Moultrie. Beyond that, only Holiday and Young have deals past next season, not including the player and team options for Richardson and Moultrie.

In other words, take a good look at this Sixers’ roster, folks, because it’s going to change, and quick.

Over the final months of the season, a the postseason bid becoming more unlikely by the game, the Sixers can begin to plan for the future.

Maybe Andrew Bynum will play.

Maybe Evan Turner will develop some type of consistency and figure out what type of style best accentuates his skill set.

Maybe Spencer Hawes will reemerge as the red-hot, two-way player he was at the start of last season.

Maybe Lavoy Allen will find a motor and maybe rookie Arnett Moultrie will get into shape.

Maybe Collins and Tony DiLeo will come to some meaningful conclusions about how to rid themselves of a bunch of players that were acquired simply to be pieces around the big man in the middle.

Maybe some day the Sixers will find the needed players with energy and effort.

“[Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt] is one of the all-time great coaches, and she spoke at my clinic when I was in Chicago, and she was incredible. And I'll never forget what she said,” Collins said after Tuesday’s loss to the Magic. “She said when she goes into young ladies' homes to recruit them, she said there are three things that you have to bring in my program: energy, effort and execution. And I'm in charge of one of them: execution.”

There are two ways a team can be exciting. One is if it's a contender and making a march to a championship. That one is obvious. But the other way is building from the ground up. The Sixers aren’t quite there yet, but with a few moves and strokes of the pen, the chaff can be jettisoned.

Sure, it’s easier said than done and the Sixers are intent on taking a look at what they have when Bynum gets out on the court. But given the way the offense has stagnated in the half-court -- more or less giving up on the pick-and-roll, motion or any low-post threat -- it’s clear that the team is lost without a big man.

Perhaps that comes down to the part Collins spoke about in execution.

Consider this … the Sixers lead the NBA in shots from “the yard” with 24.5 per game, according to HoopData.com. “The yard” is the area beyond the paint and in front of the three-point line and is the least effective shot in the court -- otherwise known as a mid-range jumper. Collins bases his defensive philosophy on forcing teams to take shots from “the yard” simply because those shots aren't mathematically sound.

“We don’t feel like contested two-point field goals will beat you. At the end of the day, you’ll get beat in the paint, you’ll get beat with fast breaks and you’ll get beat behind the three-point line, but we just don’t feel like teams are going to beat you making contested two-point shots,” Collins once explained.

And yet the Sixers take more shots from  “the yard” than any team.

Meanwhile, over the past two seasons, the Sixers have been the worst team in NBA history in foul shots per field-goal attempt. Last season, the Sixers got just 16 percent of their points from foul shots per field-goal attempt and this year they are at 14.5 percent. In the history of the league, only this season’s Orlando Magic, to whom the Sixers lost on Tuesday, are anywhere near equaling those records in futility.

Fortunately, the Sixers play good defense. Otherwise, this season would be a complete mess.

Collins is always to point out that sometimes a coach has to focus on soothing the players’ egos and sensitivities over the scheming and playmaking. More than anything else, the inability to actually coach basketball has to be the most frustrating part of the 22-33 season.

“I’ve always been able to find some answers and I’ve not been able to find answers. And from my standpoint that is very disappointing because I’m paid to do that,” Collins said on Tuesday. “I want you to know, that in no way am I casting dispersions on somebody else’s fault. We’re all in this together, but there cannot be a game that you just don’t go out and put your heart and soul into the game. Can’t do that. Had an off day, we’ve been on the all-star break. There’s no reason for that. None.”

Last month Collins said that if the Sixers would have had Bynum from the outset, it could have been a 60-win season.

Maybe. Maybe not.

The shame of it is that when/if we finally get to see Bynum play this season, it will be nothing more than a great big tease of what the season could have been.