While the negotiations of a new CBA for the NBA are still stuck in neutral, Philadelphia 76ers fans everywhere can take solace in the knowledge that head coach Doug Collins is not. Collins is known around the league as one of the most prepared, focused and motivated coaches—characteristics unlikely to vanish because of a labor dispute.
When the Philadelphia 76ers hired Collins, they knew he wasn't one to sit around in the event of a lockout. They knew he possessed the vision and the drive to turn around the once-proud franchise. But they could not have known he'd do it this quickly.
However, despite all of Collins' recent success, the Sixers have not yet returned to glory. There is still work to be done. There are goals that have yet to be set and accomplished. Here are just five examples of what might be on Collins' restless mind and to-do list.
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It's no secret Andre Iguodala is one of the key pieces of the Philadelphia 76ers franchise. And it's also no secret that he's been linked to more trade speculation than just about anyone...ever. Prior to the lockout, the rumors that Iguodala might be headed off to Golden State in exchange for dynamic scorer Monta Ellis were stronger than any other Iguodala rumor to date.
It seemed like only a matter of time before the "Other AI" was playing games on the other side of the country.
Fast forward to the present day, and the only thing keeping a relatively secure lid on the Iguodala trade rumors is the NBA labor dispute, which is preventing everyone in the front office from talking about trading anyone. If the fallout from the NFL lockout was any indication, it's a good bet that once the lockout is lifted, the basketball world is going to be anything but normal—it's going to be chaos.
Doug Collins needs to set a goal now for the Sixers' new management: the Iguodala situation needs to be resolved before the iron curtain lifts and pandemonium ensues. The Sixers need an action plan. It doesn't have to be as dramatic or far-reaching as ones used earlier this summer by the Eagles and the Flyers, but it needs to be in place.
If the team is going to trade Iguodala, they need to have a plan in place to trade him, and that plan needs to be passed along to the coaching staff. Collins needs to be prepared to dedicate additional time to working with Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young—the two players who stand to benefit the most from Iguodala's departure.
The key here is not whether Iguodala plays another game in Philadelphia—it's the decision to definitively resolve this situation and move forward. It's the elimination of a distraction, which is what all of this trade speculation has become for the team. For the Sixers to take the next step, they need to know the status of their star player's situation.
Collins should put that goal atop his offseason to-do list—if he hasn't already.
Regardless of how the Andre Iguodala situation ends, Doug Collins and the 76ers organization must continue to focus on developing the young core of Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner. Of those three players, Holiday is the farthest along in his development and looks poised to become one of the NBA's elite point guards within the next two seasons.
Turner and Young are a different story. Both are incredibly talented players with high basketball IQs. Both have the potential to blossom into All-Star players at the NBA level. But both need individual attention, coaching and playing time in order for that to happen.
Collins must make it his mission this offseason—whenever it begins—to devote considerable time to helping his two young stars take the next steps. That may well mean staying after practice, hiring an additional coach or bringing them in on off-days to watch film, improve their shooting or master other facets of the game.
But it's clear that for the 76ers as a franchise to take the next step, their young core must take the next step. Collins needs to do everything in his power to make that happen.
The Philadelphia 76ers were one of only two teams that averaged over 41 rebounds per game to post a negative rebound differential in 2010-2011. The other was the Washington Wizards—not exactly the company the Sixers want to keep.
In terms of team defense, the Sixers have improved dramatically under Doug Collins. Opponents are shooting a solid 45.1 percent against them from the field. The problem is that the Sixers allow far too many second-chance points because they don't rebound at a high level. Most of the NBA's top teams secure well over 50 percent of all available rebounds—the Sixers currently stand at 49.6 percent. That is unacceptable.
If the Sixers hope to compete with teams like the Miami Heat (51.8 percent), Orlando Magic (52.1 percent) or Chicago Bulls (53.5 percent), Collins needs to teach his team to rebound. Playing great defense is a wonderful thing, but when a great defense forces a missed shot and a player on the offensive team lays the rebound in for a bucket, there's a problem.
For the Philadelphia 76ers to take the next step during the 2011-2012 NBA season, Collins and his staff must improve the team's rebounding.
The Philadelphia 76ers were a middle-of-the-pack team shooting the ball in 2010-2011. The team was 15th in the NBA in field-goal percentage at 46.1 percent and 15th in the NBA in three-point percentage at 35.5 percent. Those numbers must improve next season if the Sixers hope to win the Atlantic and contend in the East.
I do believe that at least part of this problem will naturally resolve itself as Jrue Holiday matures into a floor general. As Holiday becomes more comfortable handling the ball and controlling the game, he will make better decisions with the ball, which in turn will lead to higher-percentage shots, which ultimately results in a more efficient and productive offense. All good things for the Sixers.
Regardless of the outcome of the Iguodala situation, Collins must make it his goal to keep the ball in Holiday's hands for longer periods of time. The more Holiday controls the pace of the game and the rhythm of the offense, the quicker he will mature into the floor general the Sixers desperately need him to become.
The Philadelphia 76ers were among the worst teams in the NBA in 2010-2011 at getting to the charity stripe. Once they were there, they managed to make a solid 77 percent of their attempts. But when a young, fast and aggressive team like the Sixers is only getting to the line 22.6 times per game, there's a problem.
The Sixers need to be more aggressive and more determined to get to the line in 2011-2012. That is something that starts with head coach Doug Collins and must translate into on-court play through leaders like Jrue Holiday and Elton Brand. And when the Sixers do get to the free-throw line, improving their accuracy wouldn't hurt, either. Free throws are something every NBA player—regardless of talent—should practice and be able to consistently convert.
But in terms of getting to the line more often, Collins must design some new offensive approaches to take advantage of the youth and athleticism of his team and help them get to the charity stripe more often.
If the Sixers could have gotten to the free throw line just two additional times per game in 2010-2011 while maintaining their 77 percent shooting percentage, they would have finished ninth in the NBA in points per game. As it stands, they finished 18th.
Collins, more than most coaches, understands the importance of doing the little things right. He must instill that same attitude in his young team, especially when it comes to free throws. There's simply no excuse for not being able to make them.