Collins has trouble finding the right pieces at the right time

Jrue Holiday, shown going up for a layup against the Hornets, could get an All-Star nod.    YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Jrue Holiday, shown going up for a layup against the Hornets, could get an All-Star nod.    YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Posted: January 20, 2013

No moment illustrated this 76ers season better than a 5-plus-minute segment of the fourth quarter Tuesday, when the Sixers were hosting New Orleans.

Trailing by 18 after three quarters, coach Doug Collins sent Nick Young into the game. Young had been glued to the bench for the previous seven quarters, as Collins sought a more defensive presence on a team that had allowed an average of 102.4 points during a recent five-game skid.

So what does Young do? He pours in 14 points in those 5 minutes, 14 seconds, helping to pull the Sixers to within eight and giving the Sixers and their fans a glimmer of hope in what turned into a 12-point loss.

It sums up Collins' dilemma all season - whom to play when and with whom.

Nearly every player on the roster but Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner has seen his playing time fluctuate like the recent temperatures. Dorell Wright went from 25-minute sub to afterthought and back to a heavy-minute guy. Inconsistent play from Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen has sometimes forced Collins to play Kwame Brown more minutes than he'd like, and Royal Ivey and Damien Wilkins, once deep subs, now find themselves in the regular rotation.

Nick Young was averaging 23.3 minutes a game before sitting out a home win against the Houston Rockets on Jan. 12. Then he puts together that scoring spree against New Orleans in the fourth quarter, leaving Collins with more juggling problems and some unhappy players.

"I think a guy could be the nicest guy in the world and I don't think they'd handle [sitting] well," Collins said. "I don't think anybody handles their minutes well if they're not what they want them to be. That's the essence of professional sports. Someone is always inherently unhappy. That's just the way it is.

"The past 2 years, we basically knew from night to night the nine guys that were going to do it. That's the one challenge I've had this year, is finding that. J-Rich [Jason Richardson] got hurt a little bit; he was out. Swaggy [Nick Young] was out. Jrue was out, so we've had guys in and out. This is what I'm talking about. We have really good guys, but I wouldn't want to coach a guy who was happy not playing. But I would want to make sure that it's not a disruptive unhappiness, and these guys are not disruptive. They're not like that, though.

"The one thing we had last year was that our bench was so good that it forced our starters to play well. And there's nothing like competition. [High school coach Rich] Herrin used to always tell me, 'If you don't want to play, your substitute does.' And that's the beauty of sports, the competition. Now players may not always like that competition. I talk to my son [Duke associate head coach Chris Collins] all the time. When they recruit kids, they want to make sure you're not going to recruit anybody else at their position. You want that to be your spot. If you take it on a daily basis and don't give it up, you don't have to worry about it. I just think the inconsistency to everything has led us to not having the year we'd like to have right now."

Holiday's All-Star chance

All-Star starters were announced Thursday, and the usual suspects (Boston's Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, Miami's Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, and New York's Carmelo Anthony) will be introduced in Houston on Feb. 17 as representatives of the Eastern Conference.

Sixers points guard Jrue Holiday finished eighth in fan voting among backcourt players, but I think he very possibly will make the team. We will find out Thursday, when reserves are announced.

Probably two more guards will be taken when the coaches' vote is counted. Holiday is among three guards (along with Deron Williams and Kyrie Irving) who probably will garner most of the votes. I think Williams, who is having a subpar year for him but is still an awfully big name, and Irving, sidelined most of the season with injuries, will split votes, while Holiday will get in.

When talking with NBA coaches about the Sixers, Holiday's is the first name that comes up, along with the terms "All-Star" and "soon-to-be elite." Call him a pretty sure bet to represent the Sixers in Houston.

Email questions

While almost all of the emails sent my way prove what a great and knowledgable fan base this city has, a few make me scratch my head.

The main subject for most of this season has been, of course, Andrew Bynum, who has not played this season. Here is how the emails have played out since his acquisition on Aug. 9:

* When the deal was

announced, there were great expectations. Many emailers asked whether the Sixers could challenge the Heat for the Eastern Conference title; others wondered whether the team would win more than 50 games, and some even suggested the team shouldn't hesitate in signing Bynum long-term.

* When it was announced on the

day before training camp that Bynum would be sidelined for a few weeks with a knee bruise, fans understandably felt stung. "This could only happen to Philly fans," was the theme of many emails, while a ton of others were optimistic that the news was a bump in the road in what was going to be a glorious season.

* As the team announced a

"timetable" in which Bynum would rest, get back on the court a week before the season and then hopefully be ready for the opener, the emailers' moods soured, and Jeff Ruland's name started coming up.

* When the days turned to

weeks with no Bynum sightings and no updates from the team on his condition, the same fans so crazed about the trade began questioning why the team would trade for "damaged goods." And then came the bowling incident.

* Now there seems to be a little

excitement again as Bynum has been "ramping up" his workouts, even jogging lightly on the floor and working on his shot after practice and in front of the gathered media. There also is a lot of wondering why the Sixers dealt Nik Vucevic, who is fifth in the league in rebounding (11.2) for the 14-24 Orlando Magic.

The fans' reaction is understandable and is a big reason this is one of the best basketball cities in the country, maybe the best. Here is my only problem:

I have spoken with Bynum maybe 10 times or so. All but once, other media members were there, too, probing for answers about the condition of his knees. He seemed to me to be short with his answers the first few times we spoke with him, sometimes contradicting himself. A couple of those times, I

really thought the 25-year-old was starting to wonder whether he would ever play again, and he seemed scared at the prospect.

Recently, we have spoken with a different Andrew Bynum, one more engaging and seemingly much happier with what's going on in his life.

Those are my observations. I don't know Andrew Bynum a little bit. In these few encounters, that's impossible. And while I understand fans' being upset that he hasn't been in uniform yet, the personal attacks on him emailed to me just don't make sense. People have called him a loser and a bum, said he has no heart, purposely came here to steal money, and doesn't have any desire to play basketball.

How do you know? Most would make such assessments only on someone they knew personally. None of us knows him personally. Be upset that he's not on the court; blame the team for making the move; state the case that the team should have kept Vucevic (though I didn't get one email complaining when he was moved).

But back off on the personal

attacks.

And one last thing. Got an email 2 weeks ago from a disgruntled fan saying Jrue Holiday didn't deserve to make the All-Star team because all he was doing was putting up big numbers on a bad team. Nine days later, the same emailer torched Sixers management for trading Vucevic. Isn't he also putting up big numbers for a bad team? Just wondering.

And thanks for all the emails. Keep them coming.


On Twitter: @BobCooney76

Blog: philly.com/Sixerville

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