While the Flyers are making noise in the NHL, the Phillies are starting to get ready for Opening Day.
With all the hoopla around these two teams, it’s easy to forget about the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Sixers have quietly nestled themselves in the sixth position in the Eastern Conference standings and are playing their best basketball right now. With the team almost the same from last season, what’s the difference?
Short answer: Doug Collins, my vote for the 2010-2011 NBA Coach of the Year.
Last season, the Sixers were 27-55 and finished 13th in the Eastern Conference. If you weren’t unfortunate enough to see Eddie Jordan run his terrible Princeton offense last season, then thank your lucky stars.
After winning 27 games last season, they reached 27 wins this year before the All-Star break, making them only the second team in NBA history to achieve such a feat.
Collins and the management didn’t make many changes: They sent Samuel Dalembert out and brought Spencer Hawes in, Allen Iverson was asked to leave and Jodie Meeks was asked to start.
The Sixers are 38-36 this season under Collins and have improved in every facet of the game. It was rough at the beginning, with the team going 5-18 in its first 23 games before finally buying into Collins' system.
The key to Collins' success this season has been getting the team to play tough defense and getting his bench players to work as hard, if not harder, than the starters.
Tough defense breeds offense, and the Sixers players are really starting to see what Collins has been talking about. Whatever defensive scheme that Collins can come up with, the team is executing it in a way that can keep it in every single game it plays.
People clamor because there is no star power on the Sixers, but Coach Collins has his boys bringing their hard hats every day and playing blue-collar basketball. They don’t mind playing hard defensively and the bench players come off the bench ready to roll, and that’s because the coach has them in the right mindset.
Collins has his players playing in roles that suit them well and he is getting the most out of almost all of his players.
He has players like Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand playing at the elite level that they can on a good team, and has young players like Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams playing the best basketball of their lives.
The Sixers bench is the highest-scoring bench in the league, which alleviates the pressure on the starters almost every night.
No matter what happens for the rest of the season, I believe that the clear choice for coach of the year for the NBA is Doug Collins.
He has turned a flailing franchise into a contender in less than a season.
Philadelphians are getting behind their coach and come playoff time, the city will be in playoff mode.