‘Ev­ery game the same way’

In­ten­sity is a given when 76ers’ Collins is call­ing the shots

The Washington Times Daily - - Weather - BY CARLA PEAY

PHILADEL­PHIA | Doug Collins was full of ner­vous en­ergy — stand­ing, pac­ing the side­line, shout­ing in­struc­tions. He ap­plauded good plays, and greeted his play­ers with slaps on the back when they re­turned to the bench. But mis­takes were not tol­er­ated and were greeted sternly, with a harsh, cor­rec­tive tone.

The game in ques­tion? The first pre­sea­son game of the year, in which Collins’ Philadel­phia 76ers were lead­ing the Washington Wiz­ards, a team he once coached, by 30 points. For the in­tense and pas­sion­ate Collins, one game is the same as any other.

“From our stand­point, we sort of fo­cus ev­ery game the same way,” Collins said af­ter a re­cent morn­ing shootaround be­fore his 76ers faced the Mi­ami Heat. “I’ve never seen our guys say ‘Boy, this is a big­ger game than an­other game.’ I just have not seen that. I just know when you play the elite teams, when they play a game that they’re not happy with, they have an­other gear.”

The 76ers are not in that elite cat­e­gory just yet, but if they are to get there, they couldn’t do much bet­ter than to have Collins at the helm.

Long­time bas­ket­ball fans re­mem­ber Collins as a mem­ber of the 1972 U.S. Olympic bas­ket­ball team, then as a four-time All-star

that are go­ing to help us win,” for­ward Matt Hen­dricks said.

Asked what the Caps had to do, for­ward Joel Ward said: “Win. That’s pretty sim­ple. Win and you’re in, I guess.”

Washington no longer con­trols its destiny and is forced to root against the Buf­falo Sabres, Florida Pan­thers and Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors in the hopes here that one of those teams stum­bles.

That’s an un­usual po­si­tion for this Washington core, which has been ac­cus­tomed to just jock­ey­ing for seed­ing.

“We’ve al­ways had sea­sons like last year and the year be­fore; be­ing in such a close bat­tle right up to the end is a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent,” Alzner said. “I like the pres­sure and that ev­ery game is so mean­ing­ful. It is nice, but I think start­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence both I think I pre­fer to go in with a lit­tle more ease.”

Ease is not a lux­ury the Caps can af­ford right now. So they’ll be lean­ing on the hand­ful of guys in the locker room who have re­cent ex­pe­ri­ences go­ing through sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions.

Ward and the Nashville Preda­tors made the play­offs twice in his three years there, once fin­ish­ing 10th and out of it. Hen­dricks and the Colorado Avalanche won just three of their final 13 games dur­ing his lone full sea­son there but made it in. Troy Brouwer and the Chicago Black­hawks backed into the eighth seed last year.

To­mas Vok­oun and the Pan­thers missed in 2008-09 de­spite win­ning eight of the final 10 games. That’s a painful pos­si­bil­ity for these Caps.

“We still weren’t in con­trol of what’s go­ing to hap­pen,” Vok­oun said, re­call­ing that miss and turn­ing to this sea­son. “Right now, we shouldn’t be look­ing at any­thing, just at win­ning . . . and play­ing like we need to.”

Brouwer said it’s just a mat­ter of get­ting points. That could mean need­ing to get six or more of the final eight avail­able. Ward called this “fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory” for him and voiced con­fi­dence.

“I think once you just be­lieve in your abil­i­ties and your teammates, I think once ev­ery­one kind of gets that re­spect from one an­other mov­ing for­ward, I think we’ll ex­e­cute,” Ward said. “I’m not wor­ried at all. I know it’s dif­fer­ent ter­ri­tory for a lot of peo­ple, but you’ve just got to stay in the mo­ment and be re­laxed and ex­e­cute.”

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Doug Collins coached Michael Jor­dan for three sea­sons in Chicago, and the two were re­united in Washington for the 2001-02 and 2002-03 cam­paigns.

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