USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia takes the court on Thursday for the first time since a withering post-game tirade from its coach.
Say what you will about Doug Collins, but the man knows how to make an exit. The fiery coach has never lasted more than three seasons with an NBA team, and he may be on his way towards maintaining that streak in Philadelphia.
As Collins was more than happy to report in the aftermath of their loss to the Magic on Tuesday, not much has gone right for the 76ers this season. Andrew Bynum, their prized off-season acquisition, may never play in Philadelphia, while the players they gave up for him -- Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic and rookie Moe Harkless -- have thrived in their new settings. And without much size up front, Jason Richardson's injury and the continued struggles of Evan Turner have Philadelphia on the outside of the playoff race.
Nor are things going all that well in Chicago right now either. The Bulls have lost five of their last seven games, slipping all the way to the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. No one knows when (or if) Derrick Rose will return, while the insane minutes load Tom Thibodeau has been piling on his best players may finally be catching up to them. The straw that broke the camel's back, however, may be Kirk Hinrich's injury, which has left an already thin PG position positively barren.
When these two teams met in last year's playoffs, they looked like two of the most promising young teams in the Eastern Conference. Less than a year later, their futures suddenly look a lot more cloudy.
Jrue Holiday vs. The World
If there's been a bright spot in the 76ers' season, it's been the development of Jrue Holiday, their fourth-year PG out of UCLA. A skilled and athletic 6'4, 205-pound point guard with a complete game, Holiday has always had the talent. This season, with Iguodala and Lou Williams gone, he's finally gotten the opportunity to dominate the basketball. Even with the 76ers struggles, Holiday made the first All-Star Game of his career this season, averaging 19 points, 9 assists and 4 rebounds a game on 45 percent shooting.
Holiday will get a stiff test from the Bulls defense, still rated fourth in the NBA, on Thursday. Chicago will likely try to aggressively trap the young PG and get the ball out of his hands, as none of the 76ers other perimeter players are huge threats to score.
Hinrich, who returned to action in their loss to Cleveland on Tuesday, will have to play a huge role, as the Bulls other PG's -- Nate Robinson and Marquis Teague -- don't have the size to match up with Holiday. If the 76ers are going to respond to Collins' challenge, it will have to come from their best player.
The game, scheduled for an 8 p.m. ET start, will be broadcast nationally on TNT.
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