NEWARK, N.J. - Monday afternoon, before the 76ers faced the New Jersey Nets, the NBA announced that Sixers coach Doug Collins was fined $15,000 for verbal abuse of an official after Saturday's impressive 109-106 overtime win against the streaking Indiana Pacers.
The object of Collins' ire appeared to be referee Zach Zarba. There was some contact down the stretch that Collins didn't seem to care for, especially an apparent karate chop-type swipe on Jrue Holiday in which there was no call.
Following the win, Collins was seen directing some choice words toward the officials.
"I don't ever want to get fined. I've been in the NBA for 40 years," Collins said. "It was sort of a buildup over a few things. It wasn't one thing, it was sort of a buildup. It was an emotional game, and we were able to win the game and stuff. I didn't leave the court in a timely fashion, and I should have been fined. The league did what they should have done, and I apologized."
The buildup Collins was talking about probably wasn't just from the lack of calls he wanted down the stretch on Saturday.
On Feb. 19 in Minnesota, Zarba called a reach-in foul on Andre Iguodala with one-tenth of a second left in the game and the Sixers leading by 91-90. Zarba claimed Iguodala fouled Kevin Love while the forward was driving to the lane after an inbounds pass. Replays and still photos appeared to show Iguodala grabbing all ball on the play. After that game, Collins also threw some verbal lobs toward Zarba.
Asked whether that's what he was referring to when he said his Saturday outburst had been a buildup of a few things, Collins quipped, "No, because then you're trying to get me to go further, right?"
The vibes felt in the Sixers' locker room in Indiana were the best in quite some time after the team had handed the Pacers their first loss in eight games. Could that have a carry-over effect for the rest of the season?
"Our guys are focused," Collins said before Monday night's win that gave the Sixers a playoff berth. "We have to get out and play with a lot of energy. I thought our sense of purpose was very good [in Indiana]. Guys came in and did what they were supposed to do. We talked about the physicality of the game, and I thought we matched that."
The feeling was one that certainly had been unfamiliar, but was welcomed.
"I thought after the All-Star break, we won some games there and had some good wins," Collins said when asked about the last time there was this good of a feeling around the team. "For whatever reason, we weren't able to sustain it. I still think this season has played havoc with all the players and the coaches just on momentum. If you look at all the teams, I saw that Oklahoma City was 16-5 during a month and then coming back this month they were 6-5 or something like that. You saw Miami go through a stretch of games where they played like .500 basketball for 18 games. You saw the Celtics go through three stretches where they were 2-16. It's happened to every team. We're hoping we're at a point now where we can get in [to the playoffs] and then they'll be right on top of you. You could play either Saturday or Sunday. It's going to happen quickly. We sure have a lot of work to do.
"We're trying to establish that this [making the playoffs] is something that we want to do every year. Obviously, we'd like to be a team that's on the rise."
Last season the Sixers finished at 41-41. The organization has not had a winning record since the 2004-05 season.
Monday marked the last time the Nets will play in New Jersey. They will move across the Hudson River into a new arena in Brooklyn, N.Y., next season. Like many, Collins doesn't have great memories of playing in North Jersey.
"We played at Rutgers; that floor was so hard," he said. "I remember busing up there and it was a college crowd. Julius [Erving] was such a fan favorite. We had a lot of ABA guys - Caldwell [Jones], George [McGinnis], Bobby Jones, we had Julius - they were very popular. I remember playing all over the place. I remember playing a game against the Nets and I think they started five lefthanders in the game. Dave Wohl, Tim Bassett, they started five lefties."