Sixers really, really high on Jrue Holiday

March 30, 2010: Philadelphia 76ers guard Jrue Holiday (11) going up for the shot attempt during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Thunder beat the 76ers, 111-93.

I can see being optimistic about a 20-year-old point guard who averaged 13-4-6 and shot 50% from the field and 46% from 3PT in 17 games in March, but new head coach Doug Collins might be going a little overboard here…

“I honestly believe that next year, you’re going to be talking about him being one of the top five point guards in the NBA. I think you’re going to speak about him in the same breath as Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose and Jrue.”

Good grief, Doug. Whatever happened to keeping your players hungry for praise?

For what it’s worth, Andre Iguodala supported Collins’ praise…

At Monday’s media day, Andre Iguodala admitted that he raved about Holiday, not even four months past his 20th birthday, to Collins and Sixers owner Ed Snider back in June. And he’s still doing it today.

“I said he’ll be one of the top point guards in the league,” Iguodala said. “In his prime, he’ll be a top five point guard and he might go down as one of the greatest point guards, defensively. He’s got kind of a Gary Payton presence, where he can pressure a guy full-court.”

Keep in mind that Iggy said “in his prime” that Holiday would be a top five point guard. That’s more reasonable than Collins’ assertion that it’s going to happen this season.

Either way, fantasy owners should take note — the Sixers are really high on this kid.

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Sixers hire Doug Collins

After years — literally years — of flirting with a return to the NBA, Doug Collins is reportedly set to become the 76ers next head coach. Per…

The 76ers have agreed to terms with Doug Collins, ending their search for a new head coach, an NBA source said Thursday night.

An announcement is expected Friday. Collins could be formally introduced by the team as early as Monday.

Another source confirmed that the two parties had agreed to a four-year deal, although the contract’s exact value was not known.

Collins sure gets a lot of attention every offseason given his coaching record:

Collins, currently working as an analyst with TNT, previously coached the Chicago Bulls (1986-89), Detroit Pistons (1995-98), and Washington Wizards (2001-03). His career coaching record is 332-287.

He has had winning seasons in four of eight seasons, and coached two teams to 50+ wins. He has never coached in the NBA Finals.

His teams did show improvement in Chicago and Detroit. He has stayed relevant by becoming one of TNT’s top color commentators.

Stephen A. Smith thinks that the signing is a coup for the franchise:

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Why was Vinny Del Negro fired?

Vinny Del Negro has been fired as coach of the Chicago Bulls.

The decision to fire Del Negro came after organizational meetings last week and over the weekend. Del Negro met with Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf on Sunday and made a pitch to return for a third season, citing the accomplishments during his two seasons.

But, in the end, Reinsdorf took the recommendation of Forman and executive vice president John Paxson and decided to make a change.

But Del Negro did lead the Bulls to two playoff appearances. With the likely addition of a big-name free agent this summer, the franchise seems poised to become a serious contender in the East. Why exactly was he fired?

The major reason was the growing rift between him and management, which gained national attention when news broke of a postgame confrontation between Del Negro and Paxson in late March.

”That was a toxic situation,” TNT analyst Charles Barkley said Monday night. ”Vinny’s a good guy; Paxson’s a good guy. I said two weeks ago they had to fire him.”

Is Del Negro a good coach? It’s tough to say. He’s 82-82 in two seasons with two playoff appearances, but one could argue that the talent in Chicago is better than that. He was unable to develop Tyrus Thomas and John Salmons flourished in Milwaukee after he was moved at the trade deadline.

By removing Del Negro now, the franchise may be able to use the opening as a selling point to potential free agents. Would LeBron James or Dwyane Wade sign with the Bulls if Phil Jackson agreed to return to Chicago? How about Doug Collins or Avery Johnson?

Though the Bulls do expect to have the position filled by the start of free agency, I fully expect that they’d put feelers out to see how their top free agent targets feel about their top coaching targets. They’d be fools not to.

West wins in a snoozer

The picture says it all. Shaq and Kobe won co-MVP awards as the West rolled over the East, 146-119.

While jealousies and drama tore Shaq and Kobe apart years ago, there was nothing but love Sunday at U.S. Airways Center. They shared the stage at the end, too, each grabbing his third All-Star Game MVP award. Bryant put this pairing with The Big Legendary in perspective.

“We’re not going to go back to the room and watch Steel Magnolias or something like that, you know what I’m saying, crying, all that stuff,” Bryant cracked. “We had a good time. That’s all.”

Bryant led all scorers with 27 points. LeBron James paced the East with 20. But it was O’Neal, the self-proclaimed “Godfather of the NBA”, who owned the highlight of the night. The third-quarter delight began at the 3-point line in a matchup of one-time Orlando centers.

The Magic’s first All-Star center (O’Neal) passed the ball through the legs of the latest, Dwight Howard, and into the waiting hands of West teammate Chris Paul. O’Neal took the return dish and nearly took the basket down with a two-handed ferocity.

The fun didn’t end there. Two slams later, Shaq decided to do pull-ups on the rim. Working against East backup “center” Rashard Lewis, the dunks kept coming and the West’s lead expanded accordingly. Kobe helped set up a few of O’Neal’s signature scores.

For the record, I thought the duo’s camaraderie was fake. After all, it was only a few months ago that Shaq wanted Kobe to tell him how his a** tastes. Kobe was probably instructed by his PR people to go out of his way to make nice with Shaq, as it would only help his image.

The game itself was competitive for much of the first half, but the West pulled away with a run in the third quarter. It seemed like the starters of the East could keep things tight, but when the Eastern reserves came into the game, passing went out the window and players started jacking up really quick shots. It didn’t help that the East didn’t have another true big man outside of Dwight Howard. One of the reasons Shaq had a big night was due to the fact that Rashard Lewis was covering him when the second units were in. That’s just not going to work.

Joe Johnson might want to forget his All-Star experience. He was 0-4 from the field and failed to score. Doug Collins suggested that it might have something to do with returning to Phoenix, where Johnson once played.

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