Collins on the Spurs, Thunder, Big Threes and the New England Patriots

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins, right, talks with Jrue Holiday (11) during a break in the action against the Phoenix Suns during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

It was very telling and instructive to hear Doug Collins talk about the NBA from the what-was and what-is standpoint.

With the 76ers facing a back-to-back with arguably the two best teams (Oklahoma City and San Antonio) in the Western Conference, Collins talked a bit out the stability that’s required to have success in the league.

Collins pointed out that the Thunder probably wanted to keep together its nucleus of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, whom the Thunder traded away at the start of the season in exchange for Kevin Martin, but the financial rules that govern the NBA made this virtually impossible.

“The one sad thing about the NBA in some situations is when you can’t keep it together because of money,” Collins said. “That’s sad. You have to make financial decisions.”

Harden is just 23. Thunder mainstays Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook turned 24 in 2012. All three made the Olympic Team last summer. However, Harden wanted to get – and eventually was – paid. For that to happen, the Thunder had to deal him to the Rockets.

“To think of this team being together with Harden for four or five years,” Collins said, shaking his head as his voice trailed off.   “But that’s the economics of the NBA.”

Collins pointed out how the Spurs, with an older Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, are different in that they have kept these players together.  He also said that the Spurs, winners of four titles under coach Gregg Popovich, are similar to a certain football team in New England.

“He’s a brilliant coach,” Collins said. “And he’s got three core guys that have been with him through thick and thin. And if you notice, they always keep those three and Pop’ together, and that’s that stability

“I think Pop’ would be the first one to tell you how blessed he has been,” Collins continued. “Those three guys and David Robinson and you’ve got years of success. “He’s won four championships – that doesn’t happen by accident. He’s one of the best coaches ever, and they do it in a market that loves this team.”

And then Collins made the comparison to the Patriots in terms of their longevity.

“Over the last 10-12 years the two franchises that have done that are the New England Patriots and the San Antonio Spurs,” he said. “They have been models about what it’s all about to build a team. They stay strong, and they have been very fortunate that those three guys have been healthy for the most part. They’ve got a great coach, a great owner and they don’t panic.”