PHILADELPHIA, Pa. --- Doug Collins almost signed up for a second stint with the Bulls before he and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf decided that Collins working for him might strain their close personal relationship.
The Bulls hired Tom Thibodeau while Collins landed in Philadelphia, where he began his coaching career.
Talk about a win-win. The Bulls have blossomed into title contenders under Thibodeau while Collins inherited a team that went 27-55 in in 2009-10 and improved them by 14 games last season, which was the third best improvement from one season to the next in franchise history.
The Sixers are currently gunning for their first division title since 2000-01. Collins has also beaten the Bulls three straight times heading into Sunday night's game at Wells Fargo Center, which no other coach can claim.
"They are a proud team," Collins said of the Bulls. "They defend very, very well. Tommy Thibodeau has done a wonderful job with that team. They're defense is terrific. They rebound the ball, they shoot the three well. They have all the elements of a championship team."
Collins' team plays terrific defense as well. The Sixers lead the league in scoring defense. The 87 points they allow is the fewest points in franchise history since the shot clock was implemented in 1954-55. They also lead the league in field goal defense. The Bulls are second in points and allowed and seventh in opposing field goal percentage.
"Doug has done a great job with their team, not only with their individual defense but their team defense," Thibodeau said. "They have great speed, quickness. They play together defensively. You have to be careful. You have to take care of the ball. They're going to be in passing lanes. You can't be loose with the ball. If you turn it over they can convert very quickly."
There have been some strange games between these two teams dating back to last season, including the Bulls 121-76 drubbing of the Sixers at the United Center last season.
"It was one of the toughest losses I ever had," Collins said. "I was going back to Chicago and seeing all my friends and stuff and [was] a former Bulls coach. It was around Christmas time and they messed up my Christmas the way they hammered us that night. But I thought it was a great experience for us. We came back a better team."