But Cheeks lost 20 more games than he won over his 246 games, and new general manager Ed Stefanski decided it was time to go in a different direction early in the 2008-09 season. DiLeo, a longtime member of the front office, won 32 of his 59 games, but did not return for another season after taking over for Cheeks. Instead, Stefanski chose Eddie Jordan, an assistant coach for a New Jersey Nets team that advanced to two Finals while Stefanski was the general manager. Jordan's one season was disastrous, producing just 27 wins, while losing the trust and respect of his players along the way.
Again, the team decided to go with a former star player to lead them when Stefanski announced that Collins had been hired as the coach in May 2010. As if turning around a team that had lost 55 games the season before wasn't enormous enough, Collins has been given a much more monumental task.
Meet the face of the franchise.
Collins is a nearly 40-year NBA veteran, as a player, a coach and analyst. He is held in the highest regard among people in the league. He is an expert at developing relationships, can match X's-and-O's with anyone on the planet and is more than capable of handling himself in front of a swarm of media. There is barely a player in the league that Collins hasn't dissected. He knows each and every opposing coach's philosophy.
Now, after a full year of evaluating the talent he was dealt when he came here, Collins will look to improve upon it in Thursday's draft in which the Sixers will have the 16th and 50th picks. He already has shown the ability to address problem areas and improve them.
Not long after his hiring, Collins said he had some immediate goals. Getting forwards Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young back to where they are most useful was paramount. Then, improving on the team's 12 home wins from the season before was also a main concern. All three areas were cleaned up and became major factors in the Sixers getting to 41 wins.
The top priority going into this draft appears to be getting a big man who can add a physical yet speedy presence in the middle, perhaps teaming with Spencer Hawes to give the Sixers a viable combination in the middle.
Whomever the Sixers select, or whatever direction they should decide to move, there is little doubt that Collins will have the majority input on the decision. He is as passionate about the NBA as he is his family, and expects his players and assistant coaches to possess that same affection. Any player the Sixers select will have to have wowed Collins in an interview session. Character is a certain prerequisite.
That's why it would be surprising if Andre Iguodala returns to the team after standing up Collins, Stefanski and Thorn for a final meeting after the last game this season. Those types of snubs undoubtedly run deep with Collins.
Obviously, whether or not the Sixers move Iguodala before the draft will greatly impact what they will do on Thursday night. Whatever they do, Collins should be, has to be, the main voice of what happens.
Yesterday at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine the Sixers hosted 7-foot, 240-pound Lithuanian center Donatas Motiejunas for a predraft workout. Motiejunas, who was an early entry into last year's draft before pulling out late, was the lone participant. Sixers player personnel director Courtney Witte and assistant general manager Tony DiLeo met with Motiejunas last week in Italy. He has been playing the past 2 years with Benetton Treviso of the Italian League, averaging 13.1 points last season.
Motiejunas declined to talk with the media afterwards.
"This was a workout where he just felt he wanted to let his game do the talking," Witte said. "He just wanted to concentrate on his game. He just came over 4 days ago and he worked out with other teams prior to us.
"He's a fun-loving guy, but intense. He's skilled. He's over 7-foot, he's over 240-pounds. He's got a big skill package, he's got NBA athleticism, he's got NBA creativity. He's a student of the game, he watches as much as he can. He's very in tune with the NBA game and anxious to come and play. He sees himself in a few years being able to play more as a five. Now he's a four. He can go to the low post. We see him as a power four who can play maybe at center at times."
Most mock drafts have Motiejunas going before the Sixers pick at No. 16, though some have him still being available.
Today the team will work out Purdue forward/center Jujuan Johnson and France center Guy-Marc Michel.
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