[Jrue Holiday attempts to go behind-the-back to Andre Igoudala - photo: K. Weidie]
Doug Collins was originally scheduled to meet with the media at 5:45, so around 5:43, I left the main floor, and headed toward the Sixers locker room. When I arrived, it was clear that his media session had been moved to 6pm, so I hung around and talked to some of the Sixers players while I waited. Each time I walked in and out of the locker room, I saw Doug Collins chilling in the coach’s office, looking totally relaxed.
He had his feet up on the desk, he was watching a little ESPN, he was laughing with some of his assistant coaches; he looked the total opposite of what I imagined. The words and phrases attached to Collins are “intense”, “annoying at times”, “hard on players”, and others I’m sure aren’t quite fit to print in this family(ish) blog. On the flip side, the phrases attached to Collins the NBA analyst are “wise”, a “great talker”, and someone who knows a hell of a lot about the Xs and Os of basketball.
When Collins coached Michael Jordan and the Wizards from 2001-2003, he was basically viewed as a Jordan enabler, rather than an exceptional coach of young talent. He was never really given a chance to put his signature stamp on the team. However, when he was hired by the Sixers this summer, he was specifically brought in to guide the young talent, mainly the draft pick which turned out to be Evan Turner.
I say all that to convey that when Collins finally came out to talk to the media, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if he’ d be intense, analytical, funny, or what. I just hit record on my video camera, and hoped it would go well. It went way better than that. Collins waxed poetic about John Wall, the Wall/Turner match-up, his time in Washington D.C., Michael Jordan, etc. I could continue to write about it, but I can show you much better than I can tell you:
After his team’s tough overtime loss to the Wizards, a somber Collins spoke about his team’s play down the stretch. He said “losing teams have bad habits”, praised Lou Williams’ shooting, Elton Brand’s clutch shots, and Evan Turner’s defense and rebounding. But there was one moment in particular that was vintage Doug Collins.
Collins was in the midst of talking about the growing pains of Jrue Holiday, and he said that while John Wall has probably been a point guard all his life, Holiday is still learning the nuances of the position–with mixed results. At that moment, Holiday walked by the media scrum where Collins was holding court and their eyes briefly met. Holiday nodded at Collins, and Collins returned and winked at him. Then Collins told the media of an instance during the game when Holiday tried to do a bit too much.
“You saw the one play he made when he turned the ball over, and he immediately got it in-bounds and he wanted to throw it in real quick again and he got a turnover again. And I said that’s when you got to calm yourself down and take your time.”
When he finished that statement, Holiday again looked back at the media scrum and smiled, and he and Collins again traded looks, and then both men went on about their business. There was a subtle mutual admiration there which showed me that this team (or maybe just Holiday) believes and trusts in Collins. And to quote Collins, he’s calm and more “grandfatherly” now, which means he’s coaching with a little more patience and understanding—for now. Sixers center Spencer Hawes summed up Collins this way:
“I think Collins holds himself to a high standard, and he holds his players accountable, but in no way is he unfair … in fact he’s probably calmed down a bit from how he was in the past, but he’s still tough. And for first-time guys, and sometimes for rookies, that’s hard for them to deal with, but they have to realize he looks at us like his kids, and he’s trying to get the most out of us, himself, and the team overall. How can you get mad at that?”
Other observations from the Sixers locker room:
- Hawes is one of the few NBA players who is very vocal about his political beliefs (he’s a conservative Republican), and since yesterday was a potentially big day for his party, I asked him about how he felt about the day’s significance:
“I have definitely been paying close attention to this election, and it’s a big opportunity for the Republicans, I can’t lie about that. But it’s a big opportunity for the American people in general. Politicians on both sides need to be held accountable, and we need try to move past this damage that both parties have done over the past few years, so we can come out a better country. But like a lot of midterm elections, this will temporarily shift power, but who knows what the ultimate result will be. Everyone got worked up in 2008 when it shifted from the Democrats, and they’ll get worked again if it switches, but the ebbs and flows mean nothing without actual change.”
- I wanted to get a scouting report on Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee from a member of the Sixers frontcourt, luckily Sixers forward Mareese Speights was nice enough to do just that.
“For McGee, you know all he really wants to do is block shots, so if I give him a couple head and ball fakes, he’ll jump right by me, and if I keep my feet and don’t travel I should be good. When he’s on offense, I just want to be physical with him, because he’s stronger, but he ain’t real strong you know? He just mainly runs the floor.
In terms of Blatche, he’s always been a good player, but now he’s worked on his handle a bit and perfected his outside game, so I’d crowd him, make him dribble and hopefully Jrue [Holiday], Evan [Turner] or Lou [Williams] would swipe and pick him. But again, I’m still stronger than him, so I don’t worry too much.”
- Here is Evan Turner on what his philosophy was while guarding John Wall. I get the feeling lots of team will attempt to do this with a bigger guard who is Turner’s size:
“If you pressure him, he won’t be able to roam as freely as he wants to. We were kind of laying off him a little bit, and I just thought why not press him, while I was sitting on the bench, so when I got in, that’s what I tried to do.”
And finally, while I was in the locker room waiting to talk to Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala was looking over the stat sheet, and asked rhetorically out loud, “Damn, Nick Young had 20 points in 23 minutes? Why didn’t he play more?”
[Nick Young for the jumper - photo: K. Weidie]