CHICAGO - 76ers owner Josh Harris on Friday night endorsed the return of coach Doug Collins for next season.

During a 12-minute conference call, Harris said he expected Collins to return as the team's coach for the 2012-13 season.

"I think Doug appreciates the situation he has here, and he likes being a part of the team," Harris said. "And I think he and I have a great relationship, at least from my point of view, and I think he feels that way as well.

"He knows that he has my total support. So I'm hopeful. There is no reason that I know of why Doug won't be returning next year. That would be a real surprise to me. And that would be a disappointment to me because I really want Doug back."

Last season, Collins' first as the team's head coach, concluded with the Sixers reaching the playoffs with a 41-41 record after a 3-13 start. The Sixers were eliminated in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs by the Miami Heat.

This season, the Sixers jumped out to a 20-9 record and held onto first place in the Atlantic Division for a while. It appeared as if they might win the division - something they last did in the 2000-01 season - but they dropped 21 of their next 32 games. The Sixers salvaged their season, however, by winning four of their last five games.

Harris was very concerned at one point that the Sixers might fall out of the playoffs altogether.

"It was not out of the question had the team not pulled together that we wouldn't have made the playoffs," Harris said. "But the team pulled together, and now we are focusing on what we can do moving forward. We are not focusing on not winning the Atlantic Division. We're focusing on this Chicago team, winning this series and winning this game tomorrow."

Better team now

The opponent for this year's playoffs - whether it was the Miami Heat instead of the Chicago Bulls - wouldn't matter if the 76ers were playing the type of basketball they displayed from the last half of February to the middle of April, when they went 11-21 after a 20-9 start.

But the recent four-game win streak calmed things, according to Collins and his players. They enter this Eastern Conference best-of-seven series against the Bulls a better team than the one that started the season with guns blazing, they say.

Talk of players turning on the coach and vice versa seemed to dominate the conversation during the losing times. Many pointed to the fact that, in his previous coaching stints, Collins was able to improve his teams immediately, then seemingly reached a plateau before losing his players, and ultimately his job not long after.

That wasn't the case here, insist the players. While Collins can be abrasive, they say they understand his motives.

"It's [Collins'] job to correct us and to right the ship," Veteran Tony Battie said. "Right now, the sea is calm and things are good . . . and we're looking forward to playing Chicago."

Six shots

Evan Turner said he tweaked a muscle in the back of his leg on Thursday while warming up. He said it was very sore Friday but he'll be fine for Saturday's opener. . . . Collins said Lavoy Allen will be the starting center, and Spencer Hawes will come off the bench. Don't expect to see much, if any, of Nikola Vucevic in the lineup.