The Sixers are trying to accomplish a rare feat in a league where the good teams and bad ones have usually shaken out by Thanksgiving.
The last time an NBA team was 10 games or below .500 and finished with a winning record was in the 2004-05 season.
The New Jersey Nets were 16-26 through games of Jan. 27, 2005 and finished 42-40. In that same season, the Chicago Bulls were 5-15 through games of Dec. 15, 2004 and finished the season 47-35, according to STATS LLC.
“We didn’t say, ‘Woe is me, woe is us. We stink. Another dismal year,’” Brand said. “No, we played hard and got better.”
Brand has rediscovered his old double-double form (and his happiness) and sparked the resurgence into seventh place in the Eastern Conference, just a game behind the retooled New York Knicks. He leads the team with averages of 15.3 points and 8.8 rebounds, and is shooting 55 percent from the field since January.
Iguodala has developed into a well-rounded, triple-double threat, and reserves like Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams are winning games late in the fourth quarter.
Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner have erased various dry spells to prove they can be the backcourt of the future, and make deep postseason runs more of a reality.
They beat the teams they’re supposed to beat _ sub.-500 ones like Detroit, Cleveland, Washington, Charlotte _ since January, while knocking off winning teams like the Spurs, Utah, Chicago, and Phoenix. They went 9-3 in February (.750) for their third straight winning month. The winning percentage was Philadelphia’s highest in a single month since February 2003 (8-2, .800).
As much as the numbers sparkle, the Sixers credit Collins for the revival
“If we lose a game, it’s not coach Collins‘ fault,” Young said. “It’s not his fault we were 3-13. It was definitely our fault. He’s prepared, he motivates us. That’s what we love about him, his intensity, his love and his passion for the game.”
Collins has the Sixers wanting more over the remaining seven weeks. He wants them to catch the Knicks (they play once more on April 6) and lock them into a more favorable playoff series, like vs. the Bulls.
The growing crowds have been livelier, and the locker room is a fun place for the players to hang after a game. Maybe they can’t win an NBA title this year, but they have made this season matter.
“I wanted my team to have fun,” Collins said, “and they’re doing that.”