In Atlanta, Young and Wilkins recall bitter college rivalry


In Atlanta, Young and Wilkins recall bitter college rivalry

ATLANTA -- At Georgia Tech’s basketball facility, where the Sixers practiced Thursday morning, some names from the team’s past adorn a wall filled with former Yellow Jackets who’ve made it to the NBA: Matt Geiger, Matt Harpring, Brian Oliver.

Thaddeus Young’s name is there, too. And he, present for practice, was able to re-live the big rivalry between Georgia Tech and Georgia – even if just for one day.

“I didn’t know how big it was until the game was coming up,” Young recalled of his freshman year. “Of course, football season was first and just seeing that we were like, ‘Oh my God, this is crazy.’ I think when I played, the football team had to travel to Athens and they ended up losing, but I got my win over them as far as basketball goes.”

Damien Wilkins, a former Georgia Bulldog, has memories of the rivalry as vivid and sharp as an HDTV, even though it’s been 13 years since he was a college student.

“I played well against Georgia Tech every time I faced them,” Wilkins said. “They were No. 3 in the country and 12-0 when they came into our building in Athens, and we won in a double-overtime game. It was a really good game on CBS. Bitter rivalry. Great battles – football, basketball, ballet, everything is a rivalry between Georgia and Georgia Tech.”

Young, too, hasn’t forgotten anything about the experience.

“I remember the game like it was yesterday,” he said. “Coach Young, the assistant coach at the time, he was like, ‘They take away all the passes. Your first play we are going back-door to you for the dunk to send a statement, and yes, we went back-door for the dunk. I think it is on YouTube. I tried to monkey dunk and everything. I almost fell on my face just to send a statement, and we ended up beating them. It was definitely a fun game.”

Young only played one year at Georgia Tech before the Sixers selected him 12th overall in the spring of 2007. His time on campus was short but meaningful, and the smile on his face as he looked around and soaked in the memories of being young and impressionable was wide.

He remembered being a college kid five years ago, ready to learn and grow, which he did.

“All this wasn’t here. It is much bigger, wider, open space,” Young said. “If you made a lay-up in the practice facility when I was here, you usually ran into the wall. It was definitely much smaller when I was here. Everything is beautiful, and this is definitely where it all started for me, so I am happy to be here and see my name on the wall of fame when you first walk in the door.”

Brett Brown: Sixers' Nik Stauskas set for 'breakout year'

Brett Brown: Sixers' Nik Stauskas set for 'breakout year'

CAMDEN, N.J. — The irony of Nik Stauskas’ reputation as a three-point shooter is that he doesn’t view himself that way.

Stauskas was drafted eighth overall by the Kings in 2014 after shooting 44.1 percent from three over two years at Michigan. But that’s not how he envisioned himself being in the pros.

“It’s crazy,” Stauskas said after practice Thursday. “I know I was a great shooter coming out of Michigan, but I don’t consider myself a shooter. I consider myself a gamer. I don’t think I’m an effective NBA player when I just stand and spot up and shoot threes. That’s really not my game.”

Stauskas has struggled to find offensive consistency in the NBA. The third-year two-guard averaged 32.4 percent from long range in his first two seasons. He wasn’t reliable as a knockdown shooter and bounced in and out of the starting lineup last season.

Rather than being a finesse player, Brett Brown encouraged Stauskas to get aggressive. Brown wanted to a see an edge from Stauskas and not hold back at the basket.

Stauskas displayed that side to his game on opening night against the Thunder. In 23 minutes off the bench, he scored 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting. His only miss came on a three-point attempt. His 83.3 shooting percentage was a single-game career high.

“He was cocky,” Brown said. “He was in attack mode. He was not afraid to put it to the floor and get to the rim. I feel like he’s got a real chance to have a breakout year. We need him to have a breakout year.”

The Sixers picked up the options on Stauskas, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor on Thursday.

“I think the statement the club made on his contract lets him probably have a little bit more comfort on what we think of him,” Brown said. “I was really happy with his swagger last night.”

Stauskas is figuring out his role on the Sixers this season. It is one that can change often given injuries. A key to being successful, whether he is on the perimeter or at the rim, is feeling confident and in a rhythm on the floor.

“I had fun out there,” Stauskas said. “More than anything, I think yesterday was the first time in a while that I’ve really enjoyed myself out there and had a smile on my face.”

Sixers players 'thrown off' by anthem ordeal, figuring out how to respond

Sixers players 'thrown off' by anthem ordeal, figuring out how to respond

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers held a team meeting on Thursday to address the situation surrounding the national anthem performance on opening night. 

Sevyn Streeter was slated to sing the anthem Wednesday. She said she was replaced that night for wearing a shirt that said "We Matter.” On Thursday, Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo brought in a representative from the organization to meet with the team for around 40 minutes. 

“I think right now everybody’s learning what’s gone on, trying to gather information,” Brett Brown, who heard of the news Thursday morning, said. “Clearly our players are concerned and we hear them. We’re with them. I’m with them. I think how it’s handled going forward, how we share an inclusive sort of decision on how we deal with this moving forward will be discussed later. But right now it has been brought to the players’ attention and my attention.”

CBS3 reported Thursday that Streeter had signed a contract that barred her from making a political statement during the performance.

Brown was asked by a reporter if he would like amends to be made to Streeter.

“I think all that is on the table,” Brown said. “I think how we handle it as a group is going to be thoroughly discussed. We understand the situation and we respect the social issue involved. We completely get it. As a group, we will try to find a way to deal with this.”

The team is considering numerous options, Nik Stauskas said. He recounted there was a sense of disappointment among the players that Streeter was not able to sing. 

“I think the team, not only do we want to speak up on the matter that happened yesterday, but I feel like we’re now starting to push, like it’s not just about saying something, it’s about making a difference,” he said. “It’s about going out there and doing something. So we don’t really know what we’re going to do yet, but I know a lot of guys on this team are eager to go out there and make a difference one way or another.”

Robert Covington said many of the players were “kind of thrown off” when finding out what transpired. 

“Collectively, we talked about it, everybody expressed their emotions about it,” Covington said. “We know that we want to take steps about it. We just don’t know exactly what steps we want to take. We talked about a lot of different things. That’s one thing that, as a team, we’re very aware of now that the whole incident’s happened. It’s not something we’re going to look over. It’s just a matter of time.”

The Sixers have not set a timeline of when they will decide on a next step. Their next game is Saturday afternoon at home against the Hawks.