CHICAGO - Walking down Chicago's famed Michigan Avenue at this time of the year, it is an endless parade of people carrying bags and bags of holiday gifts.

This is where the Sixers have been since leaving Florida after Saturday's game at Orlando.

Count the players among the people who frequented the city's shopping area.

"This was a player call [to go to Chicago]," coach Doug Collins said before the Sixers lost to the Bulls, 121-76 last night. "I'm along for the ride. It's a nice place to spend a couple of days. Sunday, we had a nice meal together as a team. [Monday], we had some practice and then time to get out and do some Christmas shopping and get some rest."

Collins is very familiar with the Chicago area, having spent 3 years here as the Bulls' coach and then more as a resident in the city. It is a special place for him to come back to, much like Philadelphia.

"This is a great place for me," Collins said. "I spent 10 years here with my wife and children. [Son] Chris and [daughter] Kelly spent their formative years here, went to high school here. I had a wonderful time here, loved coaching the Bulls. This city is such a great place. After those [championship] runs and during a 12- to 13-year window, they had some bad teams, but every night this place sold out. They have great, great fans here."

During his time in Chicago, Collins won 137 games, including 50 in 1987-88. He sees himself as a little calmer now, but the same in many ways.

"I saw [Bulls television announcer] Neil Funk and he said 'I saw you guys early and you had a couple tough losses. I saw you walking off the floor and how calm you were. I was just waiting for some chairs to start flying.' I said, 'I'm too old to do that kind of stuff now.'

"I think the compassion and the competitiveness and all is the same. I don't think I'm any different there. I just think I channel it out a little bit better. I just think the guys feel as bad as I do [after a loss], so why go in and make it worse? Sometimes when you're venting, you're only venting to make yourself feel better. I've been much better at that, and I'm enjoying it a lot more. I look at myself and wish I had taken the time to enjoy it more when I was younger."

Turner back home

Rookie Evan Turner was busy settling ticket issues in the locker room before the game for family and friends coming to see him play in his hometown.

"It's been good. I was able to go home and kick with my mom and see a couple of friends and get some food from my favorite spots," Turner said before reeling off his many favorite food spots. "I missed a couple, but I'm coming back in a couple of days and I'll get to them."

After tonight's game in Boston, the team has a few days off before getting back together for the western part of the road trip, which begins with a game Sunday in Denver.

Meeks still confident

Though he is mired in a bit of a shooting slump, having made only 14 of his last 51 shots (27.4 percent), including four of 25 from three-point range, Sixers starting guard Jodie Meeks has the mentality of most shooters - forget and move on.

"It's not something I worry about, my shooting I don't really worry about," he said. "If I'm not making shots, I just do other things to help the team win. We've been winning, so it doesn't really matter to me how many points I score."

Since being put into the starting lineup, Meeks has averaged 12.7 points a game, but reached double figures only once in his last six games. Still, no worries on his part.

"Once the game is over, I try not to think about it, good or bad," he said. "If I have a great game, I don't think about it; if I have a bad game, I don't think about it. It doesn't do anything to change things, so I move on to the next game." *

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