November is still a teenager, there are 78 games remaining in the season for the 76ers, and Doug Collins is preaching patience as well as can be done by a man who begins every day with four shots of espresso in his cup.
If that sounds like a tall order, it is nothing compared to winning NBA games without your best players, or with so many new pieces that every practice should still begin with introductions and handshakes.
After four games, the Sixers are even on the season, but have not played a complete game yet, and the sausage-making process is so unattractive at times that the coach would prefer a little less daily scrutiny from the inspectors in the white jackets.
"This business is so different than it used to be," Collins said. "It used to be you could go ahead and play a chunk of games and then look at it and say, 'How did we do?'
"Now, it's day-to-day reaction. I was in the media 17 years. I understand how it works. If you come out and play great tonight, you're back. It's just the nature of the business now, but you have to temper all that stuff, keep the team on an even note. There's so much noise sometimes, I like to filter it out a little bit."
Well, good luck with that. If the pace of today's information flow bothers Collins, he should call Michael Vick and ask how he feels about Twitter right now. The truth is that winning is the only filter that works reliably, and while the Sixers have treaded water in that regard so far, they need to play much better quickly to stay afloat.
They play Friday night in Boston and Saturday night in Toronto to finish a three-games-in-four-days road trip that began Wednesday night with an unsightly 77-62 win over a New Orleans Hornets team that never really arrived at the arena. No win is too small to throw back, however, and the Sixers will take all the ones they can get as they await the arrival of center Andrew Bynum.
Nothing will define this season for the Sixers other than whether Bynum can play on his bad knees and how well. If the experiment doesn't work, the organization will shrug, get the salary cap space he leaves behind and move on. Everyone knew this was a possibility - or if they didn't, there should be an investigation - and accepted the deal.
That would be a drag, and it would mean a long season of sausage-making for those who have to endure the 78 games still remaining. As presently constituted, the Sixers are a team that was expected to shoot pretty well from the perimeter and struggle defensively. So, far, based on a very short sample, it has almost been the opposite. The Sixers have yet to score 90 points in a game and their 38 percent shooting puts them among the bottom-feeders of the league.
To orbit around the anticipated low-post presence of Bynum, the Sixers went out and got Jason Richardson, Nick Young and Dorell Wright, and moved Evan Turner from shooting guard to small forward where he could operate closer to the basket. All of that was supposed to improve a scattershot perimeter game that was identified as one of their two biggest problems. (Bynum would eliminate the other issue, inside presence, and - who knows? - he still might.)
Heading into Friday's game, Richardson is out with an ankle injury but was shooting 28.6 percent before hurting himself. Young is shooting 24.4 percent, Wright 29.8 percent, and Turner 35 percent, even including a season-best 7-for-15 night against the Hornets.
"At some point, the shooters have to knuckle down and start making those shots," Collins said.
In the interim, he is pushing them to stay out of their balky halfcourt game by getting into the open floor to score easier baskets on transition. It is pretty much a return to the philosophy that was necessary here in Collins' two previous seasons. The problem is that this group doesn't run the floor nearly as well as the other ones. That is owed partly to the departure of Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala, who ran it very well, but also partly to the work-in-progress nature of this team.
"Are we making progress? We've got to figure out what we can hang our hat on every single night," Collins said. "Right now, there are a lot of inconsistencies."
Although their two wins have come in low-scoring games, defense doesn't seem like a likely hat rack for the Sixers. They were built to get their defense from Bynum's presence. That leaves outside shooting as their mostly likely key at the moment, and everyone knows what a perilous perch that is for the old chapeau.
So, patience is the order of the day, and if it can come with a dollop of understanding and a side of calm, that would be nice, too. Easy to say, but difficult to do when nearly three out of every four espresso shots are splashing outside the cup.
Friday at 7:30 p.m.
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