Feb 27 2013

Notes on a scandal

We parse the press conference heard ‘round the Delaware Valley.


(CSN Philly)

(CSN Philly)

In Tuesday’s 98-84 loss to the Magic, the Sixers didn’t hit rock bottom as much as they flirted with it, kissed it like a plane coming in for a bumpy landing, before exploding through it, burrowing down into new and remarkable geologic depths of awfulness, like heroes in a Jules Verne novel.

Doug Collins, apparently, didn’t like what he saw down there.

In a postgame press conference that was alternately bizarre and refreshingly honest, Collins held a team of reporters rapt, deflecting blame, using the mediocre roster he’s assembled as a human shield. It was an incredible performance. The “talking ’bout practice” of its generation. Below, courtesy of CSN Philly, we frisked the transcript to try and take some meaning from the rant. (Our thoughts in italics.)


On the (lack of) effort against Orlando:

“Well I sure didn’t see this effort coming. I thought we played incredibly hard against Miami. I thought we played incredibly hard in New York on Sunday. And this is mind-numbing to me. We went up 29-20, and from that point on, I couldn’t even tell you what occurred.*

*Collins just told us what occurred two sentences before. There was little effort. The Magic—losers of 28 of their previous 31, and owners of the fifth least efficient offense in the sport—got the looks they wanted against the Sixers, and hit on 54% of them. The defense was flat-footed all night. Look at the tape: even Andrew Nicholson, who’s never, to my knowledge, been described any more charitably than “decent,” had his way with Thaddeus Young in the post. Andrew Nicholson beat Thaddeus Young. It was a disaster. That isn’t really the point though, or at least it shouldn’t be. The Sixers effort is consistently high. Tuesday was an aberration; the exception that proves the rule. It’s probably wise to interpret Collins postgame outburst as being catalyzed by the loss to the Magic, but being more an expression of season-long frustration than a one-off thing. Basically, after 55 games, the team finally broke him.

“[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. 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.”*

*Another thing that Summit and Collins are in charge of are the players they invite to join their programs. Collins has brought in bad players, so this is a pretty important omission. Players who are not good at playing basketball, like the guys the Sixers have on their roster, generally play bad basketball irrespective of things like “energy” and “effort.” That’s, definitionally, what it means to be a bad basketball player. That Collins views the Sixers’ problems through the prism of their relative energy and effort, not the state of their roster, explains a lot of his confusion. Another thing he’s in charge of is the matter of general scheme/basketball philosophy. The Sixers, personnel issues aside, run a dumb, unimaginative offensive system. This is on Collins too. So there’s two things.


On the team’s lack of desperation:

“Bob, you know what man, I wish I knew. I wish I knew. I really do. I gotta tell you. I’m sitting there. I gave my body to this franchise. I was never booed as a player. Never. I ran through my sneakers.”