ORLANDO, Fla. Throughout Doug Collins' coaching career, Year two has usually been pretty good for his teams.
In his three previous head coaching stints (Chicago, Detroit and Washington), Collins' teams averaged six more wins from the first year to the second.
And his latest team, the Philadelphia 76ers, continue that trend.
Despite playing 16 fewer regular season games because of the lockout-shortened season, it's not that big a stretch to believe that the Sixers (20-14) will win more games than last season's team that finished with a 41-41 record and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Philadelphia has been atop the Atlantic Division for most of this season. They head into the all-star break with 3.5 game lead over New York and the Boston Celtics trailing by four games.
Finishing atop the Atlantic Division would bode well for the Sixers when you consider the last time they won the division was 2001.
That year, they advanced to the NBA Finals where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Philadelphia forward Andre Iguodala isn't surprised at how quickly the franchise's fortunes have changed under Collins.
"It didn't take us long, but we had to figure out what he was about and what he was trying to do," said Iguodala, a first-time All-star this season. "And we figured out that he's kind of the right guy, and his track record shows that he's been able to come in in different situations and get things turned around in the first couple years."
Will the Celtics part with the right to Brooklyn’s 2017 first-round pick in order to get a star before Thursday’s trade deadline?
MORE TRADE TALK
Citing a pair of NBA executives, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News wrote this week that Danny Ainge’s willingness to trade the pick should be in doubt.
Sola named Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and Paul George as potential targets, adding that the C’s might include the latter.
Two executives doubt that Ainge, who historically plays it close to the vest, would give up the Nets pick in a deal for Butler. However, Ainge might consider it in a trade for George, the Pacers-free agent-to-be who has expressed doubts over re-signing with the Pacers.
‘With Danny, no one ever knows what he might do,' said the executive. ‘He's one of the best. If he thinks he can make a run at the Cavs this season, considering all the injuries Cleveland has had, I can see him making a move.
‘Everyone is talking about Butler to Boston but Danny and Larry Bird go way back. Paul George could be the sleeper.’
This season, the 26-year-old George is averaging 22.3 points 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists a game.
LeGarrette Blount knows where he wants to be for 2017. Ever since he re-joined the Patriots in 2014 following a short stay in Pittsburgh, the 250-pound back has been very open about how he wants to play out the rest of his career in New England.
Those feelings haven't changed, even as he faces free-agency after having recorded the best season of his seven-year career.
"I just want to make sure that I go to this free agency with an open mind, knowing that I definitely want to go back to New England," he told NFL Total Access on Monday. "I love it there. I love the culture. I love the players. I've become close with a lot of the guys. Obviously you know how my running back group is.
"We'll cross that bridge whenever we cross it. On that point, I feel great. I'm in amazing shape. I feel like I could play 100 more years if I have to."
Blount finished 2016 with career-highs in attempts (299) yards (1,161) and touchowns (18). His ability to help the Patriots close games in the fourth quarter was notable throughout the course of the season, and he was among the most effective goal-line backs in the league. His 18 rushing scores are a franchise record.
Toward the end of the season, as Dion Lewis worked his way back into the Patriots offense, Blount had his workload cut into, and his fumble in the Super Bowl was a near-catastrophic moment -- his devastated reaction to which was caught expertly by NFL Films. But a big-picture view of Blount's year would reveal that he posted the most prodictive "big back" season the Patriots have had in more than a decade.
Blount signed a one-year deal with the Patriots last offseason after seeing his 2015 prematurely ended by way of a hip injury. He turned 30 in December.