20-25…What the Sixers are Starting to Prove

With tonight’s 107-94 win over the Toronto Raptors, the Sixers have held onto their 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. They are currently one game up on the Charlotte Bobcats and only 31/2 games back on the New York Knicks for the 6th seed. This win has brought the 76ers to 20-25, a mere 7 games off of the win total from last season. When Doug Collins was hired, he came to the Sixers with a reputation of improving teams quickly. In each of his previous head coaching stints with Chicago, Detroit and Washington, he improved the record of the team in his first season there each time and it certainly looks like he is on his way to accomplishing that feat once again.

Throughout the course of this season, the Sixers are proving a ton of things to the world, good and bad. One thing is for certain however; they are proving that whether good or bad, they are going to fight every night, regardless of the score and regardless of the opponent.

The Sixers have had competitive games against some of the best teams in the NBA, including the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, and L.A. Lakers. They recently had an impressive win over the Utah Jazz and are finally starting to beat teams that they are “supposed to beat”. Had the Sixers not gotten off to such a dismal start (3-13) who knows what their record or seed would be. They have gone a stellar 17-12 since that start and that is a product of one key thing: confidence.

Doug Collins has brought a lot to this team but the most important thing that he has given this group is confidence. From the start Collins boosted the morale of his players and praised their strengths while also being clear and definitive about their weaknesses. He has held players accountable and divided up minutes based solely on performance. When Eddie Jordan coached the team, he focused on fitting his players into a system that was completely wrong for them. Collins has chosen to base his system on the players’ skills and that has directly correlated with more wins.

There have indeed been ups and downs. Iguodala trade rumors and Evan Turner “bust ” advocates have been mainstays in the first half of the season, but both sentiments are beginning to lose steam. People are beginning to realize that Iguodala can indeed play the game and that even though he is not a number one so to speak, his assets are indeed valuable. There are not too many 6’7 wing players who can score points, snatch rebounds, dish out assists, defend the other team’s best scorer and jump out of the building. These are assets that most NBA teams clamor for and the Sixers have it.  I believe that the organization is not 100% set on dealing A.I. and I believe that Collins is just the coach to figure out a way to make him and Turner fit flawlessly

Turner has certainly been an issue himself. He has had a number of up and downs this season but he is starting to slowly come into his own. He still needs to find a niche on the floor when Iguodala is playing but that will come in time. In the last few games Turner has looked more confident and aggressive. He is finally beginning to realize that when he is in the game, he does not have to defer to Iguodala and Holiday all the time. In fact the better he plays with the ball, the  more opportunities for Iguodala and Holiday.

When the Sixers were 3-13, it was still obvious that they were playing a better brand of basketball and now it is turning into wins. The contributions of players like Jrue Holiday who is quietly becoming one of the better floor generals in the NBA at 20 years old, Elton Brand who has indeed been the most consistent player on the team, Thaddeus Young who has shown glimpses of all-star potential, and Lou Williams who could become a six man candidate, have made the Sixers relevant once again.

Collins has proved that you can have a young inexperienced team, teach them, and still strive to win. In the last week, Collins has begun to mention the playoffs several times and the players’ games are following suit. They know what their coach expects of them and they know he believes in them.

The Sixers are proving that they are young and that their inexperience is going to cost them wins, but it is valuable experience and they are also proving that the are young, energetic, and will fight tooth and nail with any team in the NBA.

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