In a perfect world, Doug Collins would be able to do something drastic to pull the Sixers out of their funk. In a perfect world, he would be able to shake up his starting lineup.
In a perfect world, he could make the move for which fans have long clamored on message boards and the like: Evan Turner for Jodie Meeks at shooting guard.
In reality Collins hands are tied, because Turner has not made the expected progress in his second year. (Nor are there any other obvious lineup changes Collins can make. Starting Thaddeus Young or Lou Williams makes them even smaller, and thus more vulnerable on defense and the boards. Inserting Tony Battie at center would have negligible benefit, and Nik Vucevic is much more comfortable coming off the bench.)
So they are who they are 21-15 and atop the Atlantic Division, but also losers six times in their last seven games. They cant win a close one. Theyre getting hammered on the boards. And their remaining schedule is a bear.
Turner is who he is, too a struggling second-year player caught in a vicious cycle: He gets yanked because he doesnt play well, and he doesnt play well because hes always looking over his shoulder.
He started off the season well enough, averaging 10.2 points and 6.1 rebounds in his first 20 games, while shooting 47.2 percent from the field. But in 15 February games, those numbers slipped to 5.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 35.4 percent, capped by his scoreless showing in Wednesday nights 92-88 loss to Oklahoma City the Sixers 10th loss in 12 games decided by seven points or fewer this season.
Had Turner continued at his early pace, the argument about him starting would have a lot more merit. And you could easily see how it would work, too: He could handle the ball at times (a role in which he flourished at Ohio State), allowing Jrue Holiday to run off screens. Certainly Holiday seems at his best when hes looking to score, as opposed to running the team.
Turner, a willing and able rebounder, could also help on the boards. Oklahoma City enjoyed a 56-39 rebounding advantage, the fifth time in February an opponent outrebounded the Sixers by 10 or more. It stands to reason, that if they cant tidy up the defensive glass, they cant run, one of their great strengths. And if they cant run, it appears they cant score. They havent eclipsed the 100-point mark in their last 19 games.
Collins has said he needs Meeks in the game to space the floor, and he is loath to play Turner at the expense of Andre Iguodala, his best defender. The coach has also downplayed any trust issues he might have with Turner, even though it is notable that Turners numbers have plummeted since Collins chewed him out late in a 74-69 victory over Orlando on Jan. 30, apparently for blowing some defensive assignments when the Magic cut deeply into a 19-point deficit. (Turner told Calkins Newspapers Tom Moore at the time that he has no problem with his coach.)
Clearly something has to change before Turner warrants more playing time, much less a starting berth. Clearly the Sixers world is far from perfect at present, and there are no easy paths to a better place.
Gordie Jones is an award-winning journalist who has worked in the Philadelphia market for 28 years. He also co-authored a book about the 76ers' 1982-83 championship team with former Sixers general manager Pat Williams.