Monday, March 7, 2011
Posted: 7 p.m.
By Dei Lynam
Then, there were 20.
Between Tuesday night and April 13 the Sixers will play their final 20 games with the next eight in particular posing a daunting task. They play at Indiana on Tuesday before coming home the very next night to face Oklahoma City. Boston, who has the best record in the Eastern Conference, is at the Wells Fargo Center Friday. Then, Saturday night the team begins a five-game road trip in Milwaukee before heading west to see Utah, the Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento and Portland.
We cant get excited; we cant get discouraged, Doug Collins said his team, which is a season-best two games over .500. It is navigating those emotional waters of the NBA during the course of the season that you have to do and we really have to make sure we stay sharp at that.
To date, the Sixers have done an excellent job avoiding long losing spells. They havent lost back-to-back games since mid-January and their longest losing streak of the season was five games from Nov. 10-17.
Time and again Collins has stressed that the Sixers can beat anybody, but they can also lose to anybody without the right focus and preparation. He likes to call it having a respectful fear.
Surprisingly, rookie Evan Turner, who is coming off a game where he scored 20 points and collected seven rebounds, finds navigating the NBA season easy because he never looks past the present.
I look at today, thats pretty much it. One game at a time, Turner said. Thats all you can do. You have to finish off every step of the way and not look forward. I forgot who we were playing before I got here until you guys mentioned it. I just try to prepare one day at a time.
While his words may sound clich, Turner says them in a way that you believe he really does keep it that simple. Early in the season, the 22-year-old seemed lost, even uncomfortable when he was answering questions about his game or his rookie experience. Those days are gone and now a confident Turner has arrived both on and off the court.
After Mondays practice, Turner was asked about hitting the infamous rookie wall that so many first-year players experience just because the demands of an NBA season are that much more challenging than in college.
I was blessed to have a few DNPs (did not play) by Coach early in the year, Turner said to laughter. I am well rested. I think our whole mentality is that we are hungry, we just want more and more everyday.
Turner has a dry sense of humor and joking about his coach is not off limits. He enjoys comedy and often surfs YouTube for the funniest stand-up performances. But the Ohio State product knows one thing that is no joke committing turnovers when playing for Coach Collins.
Back in college I used to turn the ball over five, six times a game, Turner said. Here if you turn it over Coach doesnt really accept that at all, so you really have to make the smart plays and I learned to take the risk out of my game a little bit.
Collins believes the reason his team averages the second-fewest turnovers in the league is because he was so anal about errors taking place during training camp and he would not let one turnover go unnoticed.
I would stop them after every play and say, Guys, we cannot make that turnover. Our margin of error is too small to make that play, Collins recalled. And guys took that to heart.
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