In the next 11 days, starting Monday, the 76ers will play their final seven games. Six of them will be on the road, almost all of them will go a long way towards deciding whether the team makes the playoffs or not.
Does it make a difference? Is a one-and-done this year any different than it's been in the prior years?
If it's Miami and a sweep or a five-game ouster, I say no. Been there done that. The players probably will not gain any more experience than they did last year from going through the same thing. Will that benefit rookies Nik Vucevic or Lavoy Allen? Maybe a little, but not enough to override that same-old, same-old feeling that the veteran players will ingest.
If it's a playoff series against the Chicago Bulls? Yes, I think that could be beneficial. That would mean a look at another team, another organization that is among the elite in the East. It would give the young players another look at what an elite team does during the course of a series to advance to the next round. Not to mention, the Sixers seem to match much better against the Bulls than the Heat. Winning a couple of games wouldn't seem impossible.
The problem is, quite frankly, the Sixers appear to have many players who don't know how to, or at times want to, compete. There have been so many instances in the last month or so where the competitive nature of the players just doesn't seem to be at a level where it should be - or was when they were winning 20 of their first 29 games. When push comes to shove, getting pushed seems to be absorbed, shoving back seems to be an afterthought. I'll take the every day efforts of a few players every night. But watching other players droop their heads in disgust after a play is not called for them, or after they get scolded by a coach for not doing what was asked, is old, tiresome and not helpful to the team now or in the future.
There has been much talk over the past couple of weeks about the hold coach Doug Collins has on this team. I understand how an overbearing coach can rub players the wrong way. But when you haven't been winners in so many years, why is a super cometitive coach a bad thing? How could Collins have worn out his players in a season when there has been limited practices due to the shortened schedule? At last count, they've had five full practices the past three-plus months.
So what if the coach is overly competitive? These players, this franchise hasn't proven anything over the past 10 years. So what's wrong with someone coming in, with 40 years NBA experience, pounding his wisdom on the players? What's wrong with the new ownership putting their trust in Collins and seeing what young players can adapt and try to compete at the level he wants to?
Has Collins done some things that could be questioned? Certainly. Chief among them, according to many fans, is his use of Evan Turner. I see the head-butting between the two. I see Turner's up side. But I also see the many times he doesn't make the proper rotation on defense, or get to the right spot on an offensive set after being told to do so many times.
What is the best thing that can happen over these next 11 days? I think it is making the playoffs, preferably against someone other than the Miami Heat. I think not making the playoffs and hoping for a higher draft pick is a waste of time. Finding out who wants to compete for this coach, for this organization, will prove itself even more in a playoff series.
And after that? The new ownership, with Collins' guidance, will know what changes need to be made in order to move this organization forward - away from another .500 regular season and a one-and-done playoff.