‘Every game the same way’
Intensity is a given when 76ers’ Collins is calling the shots
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.”
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.