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?

Sixers look forward to results of Ben Simmons' CT scan Thursday

Sixers look forward to results of Ben Simmons' CT scan Thursday

CAMDEN, N.J. — Thursday is significant for the Sixers beyond the trade deadline. It is also the day of Ben Simmons' CT scan to evaluate how his right foot is healing.

"I feel like tomorrow at some point we're all going to be able to lay out a more genuine plan for him," Brett Brown said Wednesday. "I feel like we're going to be good to go with some greater news and a more advanced detail of his plans after this scan."

Once all parties involved assess the results, the team will provide an update, which may not be Thursday. Simmons has been sidelined all season after suffering a Jones fracture during the final scrimmage of training camp. 

On Wednesday, he went through his individual workout plan, which included five-on-none scripting with teammates.

"He's still getting a feel for all of us," Nerlens Noel said. "He's learning to throw it up to me, bounce pass to whoever. It's learning certain tendencies that'll make you start to feel more a part of the team."

The Sixers have not placed a timetable on Simmons' return. The first overall pick has not been cleared for full contact five-on-five practice, the next step in his recovery. Prior to the All-Star break, Brown said he expects Simmons will play at some point this season. He stands by that projection with 26 games remaining. 

"I personally would like to see him play this season. I don't backpedal from that," Brown said. "I think my comments are really very much influenced by his reciprocal desire to play this year, which we all respect. Everybody's got clandestine conspiracy theories on why he might not want to play. I know in my heart and speaking to him, he wants to get on a court and play basketball again.

"I hope he can do that, too. If for some reason he can't, we'll deal with it. But I think it would help him to play NBA basketball and get his competitive juices going again if the doctors point us in that direction."

Simmons' teammates are ready to welcome him into the mix when he is given the green light. Their limited glimpses into his talent have them eager for his debut.

"Unlimited potential," Noel said. "I think with Ben, the thing that makes him so special is his IQ for the game, a sixth sense on the court. Him being able to find little things that not very many 6-10 guys can find. I think that's going to propel his game and make him a special player in this league." 

Added Joel Embiid: "I'm excited ... I thought he was our best player in training camp."

Trade deadline looming, Sixers cherish what could be final day together

Trade deadline looming, Sixers cherish what could be final day together

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers looked around the court on Wednesday and knew it could be their last practice all together.

The NBA trade deadline is 3 p.m. on Thursday. The Sixers are scheduled to practice that day, but who is there for it remains to be seen.

“Honestly, I’m scared. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Joel Embiid said. “Hopefully I’m here and hopefully my teammates are here. We’ve been playing great basketball when we are healthy and we all play. Hopefully we keep the same group and you never know what can happen.”

The Sixers have stayed tight knit through losing, ups and downs and trade talks. In their ideal world, they would remain teammates for the rest of the season. In the basketball world, there is a strong possibility at least one of them will be moved.

“You’ve learned that you’re not confident on anything,” Brett Brown said when asked about having the same players after the deadline. “There’s nothing that would point to either my 16 years of experience in the league or my three previous trade situations here in Philadelphia that would make me say anything otherwise. We’ve maintained a very high level of transparency with my team. We talk freely. It doesn’t feel as dramatic perhaps as it might have in other years.”

Jahlil Okafor has been the focal point of trade discussions. The Sixers were close to a deal for him last week, to the point where they sat him out two games and did not send him to Charlotte. Okafor will keep his phone close as the deadline approaches.

“I did the best I can to just focus in with the guys [at practice], going over the plays and working on defense,” Okafor said. “But it was definitely on my mind that I could be out of here tomorrow.”

Okafor said he would not have hard feelings if a deal did not happen after being on the trading block. At the same time, he just wants to know what his NBA future holds.

“If the Sixers decide to keep me, I’ll be happy," he said. "I have amazing teammates that I love being with every day and I’ll go back to my everyday routine. If that’s here or somewhere else, I’m just ready for 3 o’clock to happen so I can continue with my career and start doing what I love to do, and that’s play basketball.”

The Sixers' trade talks, to this point, have centered around the bigs because of a logjam in the frontcourt. At the start of the season Nerlens Noel said the team had to make a change. Noel said he was not worried about the deadline and noted the Sixers' first practice after the All-Star break was upbeat, not anxious.

“It’s been such a long season with so many things that were said, so now at this point it’s whatever happens happens,” Noel said.

So who will stay and who will go? With the Sixers' roster in question, Embiid summed up the trade deadline in Embiid fashion.

“It’s business,” Embiid said. “Anything can happen. So you’ve got to trust the process, I guess.”