Both the Philadelphia 76ers and the Cleveland Cavaliers are eying the future with nothing to play for in the final week of the season. Whether respective coaches Doug Collins and Byron Scott are part of those long-term plans is uncertain as the teams meet Sunday in Philadelphia.
The 76ers (32-47) will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2010, and there has been plenty of speculation Collins will not return for a fourth season at the helm. Philadelphia showed some signs of life Friday at Washington, ending a brutal three-game losing streak in which it had been outscored by an average of 21.0 points by rallying from a 13-point second-quarter deficit to beat the Wizards 97-86.
"It would be very easy -- we didn't practice yesterday -- to come in here, throw your sneakers out there, you get down 13 and get beat by 20," said Collins, who danced around his job status with reporters prior to the victory.
Jrue Holiday scored 22 points and Thaddeus Young added 18 and 13 rebounds for the 76ers, who are still stinging from the disappointment of failing to qualify for the postseason.
"I think whether it's a conscious thing or a subconscious thing, when you officially get eliminated, it kind of hits you, it takes some of the wind out of your sails," said Spencer Hawes, who had 15 points and eight rebounds. "But then you regroup and refocus and try to take out of it whatever you can from the last however-many games."
Evan Turner, who went 0 for 11 on Friday and failed to score, has averaged 18.0 points on 52.4 percent shooting in helping Philadelphia win two of three versus Cleveland this season. He had 23 points and 13 rebounds in the most recent meeting, a 97-87 road win March 29.
Turner, though, has totaled 20 points on 7-of-33 shooting in his last three games.
Scott, who earlier this month said he would "give (himself) a 'C' or incomplete" when asked about his coaching effort, has also endured speculation about his status despite the Cavaliers (24-55) already picking up his option for the 2013-14 season. Owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Chris Grant have not publicly commented on Scott, who is 62-160 since joining a franchise that has been stuck in rebuilding mode since LeBron James departed for Miami.
While Scott does have guard Kyrie Irving as a cornerstone and forward Tristan Thompson emerging as a vocal leader, the young Cavaliers have struggled down the stretch. They suffered their 13th loss in 15 games on Friday, 101-91 to the New York Knicks, as Irving scored 31 points and Thompson added 15 and 11 while fighting uphill for most of the game after a poor second quarter.
"I think our pace slowed down a little bit, I take responsibility for that," Irving said after the Cavs were held to 19 second-quarter points. "Coming out, we wanted to make an emphasis on pushing the ball and be more aggressive. I felt like some of the opportunities as a team we didn't exploit."
Irving has missed the last two games against the 76ers due to injury and was held to nine points on 4-of-14 shooting in an 86-79 loss at Philadelphia on Nov. 18. Thompson has averaged 9.3 points and 9.7 rebounds in the three games, but has shot only 34.4 percent (11 for 32).