CLEVELAND — Any coach in any sport at any level must possess a large amount of patience if he is going to be successful.
Doug Collins must have a reserve tank of it. How else could he still have his sanity after getting practically no production from starting shooting guard Jodie Meeks the past couple of weeks?
But Collins keeps putting Meeks out there, night after night, with the hope that the streakiness that makes up the Kentucky product's shooting will take a major turn upward.
Heading into Wednesday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena, Meeks had shot an abysmal 8-for-36 from the floor in his previous six games, five of them starts. Also during that time, he made only one of 17 from three-point range.
Streaky shooters will be just that and sometimes hit the type of droughts Meeks is stuck in. But it is worse than that. Meeks, who started the first 38 games of the season and 46 overall, looks unsure of himself on his jump shots, even airballing an important wide-open trey against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.
Meeks has maintained the same attitude this season, claiming that he never loses confidence in his shooting and that if he goes through streaks like this, he truly feels his next shot will go in. With the Sixers in a somewhat free fall and struggling to maintain the final NBA playoff spot, the team can ill afford for Meeks not to perform.
"The less you say to Jodie, the better," Collins said. "If there's anybody that's about winning on this team, it's Jodie. There's nobody on this team that cares more than he does. I just looked up an interesting stat, we are 17-7 when he makes two or more threes in a game and 14-23 if he makes zero or one. That's a pretty incredible stat to show what he does for our team when he's making threes."
Collins is sticking with him.
"He's always a guy who has a lot of energy. He just has to keep playing through it," Collins said.
So many times during this up-and-down season, Doug Collins has talked about how the lack of practice time has hurt his team. Besides the X's and O's part of the sessions, Collins said there is much more to being on the court day in and day out with one another.
"Practice is when you build relationships," he said. "You build them in practice when it's a different environment. It's a chance to stop practice [to teach], a chance to watch video. It's hard to teach with games. You just can't do it, and it makes it hard to develop those relationships. That's one of the things I really have missed this year is how close I feel with the guys when I'm on the floor with them every day, because that's what I really love the most, being on the floor with them every single day and watching them grow as young men."
Rookie Nikola Vucevic has had to learn on the fly this season.
"I think it has hurt us a little bit, not being able to coach us during practices," Vucevic said. "You need practice after a game, and when you want to go over things that you didn't do well, practice is good. You can do a lot of things during that time to see what you've done wrong and learn how to correct it.
"The coaches have been doing a good job, with the schedule that we have, of teaching in meetings and going over scouting reports. But I know it's got to be very tough for them. They want to get us in the gym and teach, but with the schedule they haven't been able to." n