Cheeks confident Wallace will make good coach


Cheeks confident Wallace will make good coach

ORLANDO -- Detroit was playing Oklahoma City in the Orlando Pro Summer League on Tuesday, and sitting on the Detroit bench was Philadelphia native and Simon Gratz alum, Rasheed Wallace.

Wallace’s NBA playing days are over, but Tuesday he starts a new chapter in his basketball career, joining the Pistons as an assistant coach to Maurice Cheeks.

“He never expressed interest in coaching, but I called him to see if he wanted to do it. And he said he wanted to do it,” Cheeks said. “I am excited about it.”

Wallace played 16 seasons in the NBA -- two and a half of those were for Cheeks when the former Sixers guard was the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers. In 2004, Wallace was traded from Portland to Atlanta and 10 days later, the Hawks moved him to Detroit.

The 6-foot-10 big man was the missing piece that helped Detroit secure the NBA championship later that spring.

Wallace was absolutely a special NBA talent, but he also had a tendency to lose his cool on the court and occasionally off the court as well. Many wouldn't look at Wallace as coaching material. Cheeks saw differently.

“If they looked at the way he played the game ... and not at some of the things that he did, they would know that he was a very valuable player on the court and he understood the game,” Cheeks said. “He was very smart in the game, and I am thinking he has the ability to transfer that over to a lot of guys we have.

“We have a lot of young guys. In particular, we have Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond,” Cheeks continued. “[Wallace's] forte, of course, was shooting the basketball, but for me his main forte was the way he talked on defense, covered the court defensively, getting to a certain area. I am hoping he will pass that on to our young big guys, and while it may not look like he would be an ideal coach, I think he will be very good at it.”

Wallace is not the only Philadelphia native venturing to the sideline for the first time this week. Germantown Academy and Villanova standout Alvin Williams, formerly a scout for the Raptors, is now an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics.

“Toronto management changed and they went a whole new direction and got new people,” Williams said. “When that happened, Jay Larranaga, player development for the Celtics, he gave me a call about working the summer league. So it is a trial period, but hopefully things pan out. But all the other teams are getting an opportunity to see me too.”

After finishing his nine-year NBA playing career, Williams said he was looking for an opportunity to stay involved in the game. Through scouting he got to know some younger players and realized the impact he could have on their careers, both on and off the court, if he went into coaching.

Should Williams’ trial period work out and land him a permanent coaching job in Boston, he sees in the Celtics an organization that, like the Sixers, is rebuilding with a plan.

“You have teams now that build through the draft -- it’s harder now because these guys are so much younger and also through free agency,” Williams said. “Fortunately, Boston has such rich tradition that it isn’t hard to attract free agents and Danny Ainge has been doing a good job through trades to also bring in talent, so we will see what happens.

“I think with the new coach (Brad Stevens), I think it is a brilliant thing or it can be. They can start fresh. He is a young coach. They got younger players, so that is a good mold because he has a good feel for younger players coming from college. Danny Ainge did his research and he has had his eye on him for a long time, so I think it is a good thing for the Celtics.”

And for those wondering if putting on a Celtics golf shirt is tough for Williams given his Philly roots, he admitted it is before smiling and saying, “I am getting used to it.”

Sixers 'all over the place' different without Ben Simmons

Sixers 'all over the place' different without Ben Simmons

CAMDEN, N.J. — It has been over three weeks since Ben Simmons suffered an acute Jones fracture in his right foot during the final scrimmage of training camp. The Sixers had constructed schemes around the rookie point-forward and watched unconventional lineups play out at Stockton University.

Those “can’t-wait-to-see” situations have been delayed to “wait-and-see” as Simmons recovers.

“Where do you begin?” Brett Brown said after practice Sunday. “I could talk for three days on what’s different without Ben Simmons. It’s all-over-the-place different. The core values of how you want to do different things there remain the same, but the whole landscape changed.”

This week was supposed to be the debut of a new-look system featuring a player who could influence the game with his versatility and athleticism. Brown even had experimented with pairing Simmons and Dario Saric at the two and three positions. Instead, the Sixers once again will start a regular season shorthanded by injuries.

Simmons was projected to start at power forward and also handle point responsibilities. His multitasking lessened the need for the Sixers to find a standout point guard this summer. They signed veteran Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez, who is returning to the NBA for his second stint.

Bayless was expected to start, with the intention of Simmons running the floor at times. Now, neither can play. Bayless has been sidelined by a ligament injury in his left wrist. The Sixers announced on Friday that Bayless will have a non-surgical rehab and will be reevaluated in two weeks.

Brown on Sunday was undecided on whether Rodriguez or second-year point guard T.J. McConnell would start at the one on opening night.

“He was going to be one of the primary ballhandlers,” Brown said of Simmons. “And with that, floor spots and spacing and how you actually set this thing up changes dramatically.”

The players also have noticed a change without Simmons in the backcourt. Joel Embiid, playing his first season after missing the past two with foot injuries, found himself struggling with his shot selection early on in the preseason. He got glimpses in camp of how Simmons could improve that.

“He’s such a big presence and he’s really important to us,” Embiid said. “He just makes plays. I’ve been rushing shots and that’s where it comes in play. Someone like him can help me get better shots because he can get me easy baskets.”

Simmons’ absence also fast-forwarded Saric’s transition in his first NBA season. The injuries to Simmons and Jahlil Okafor (right knee) have pushed Saric into the starting power forward role during the preseason. The rookie has been learning on the go in a new league.

“He has been thrown into the fire,” Brown said of Saric last week (see story).

Simmons recently went through a two-week, post-operative exam and had sutures removed. He is working on day-to-day rehab with the Sixers' staff while also spending time talking with Brown. The team is implementing a multi-faceted recovery program of education, health and shot improvement.

This includes meeting with Brown to break down his game — where it is now and where it can develop in the future. Brown wants to make sure Simmons knows the ins and outs of the system so he is best prepared to begin his rookie season once cleared to play.

“I think that part of my excitement is I get with Ben every day while we’re here and go into my office for half-an-hour and it’s like basketball-NBA 101,” Brown said.

That’s one aspect of Simmons’ injury for which Brown can prepare.

Sixers sign former Temple great Dionte Christmas

Sixers sign former Temple great Dionte Christmas

Hours before Monday's 5 p.m. NBA deadline to finalize rosters for opening night, the Sixers signed former Temple guard Dionte Christmas.

Christmas, now 30, hasn't played in an NBA regular-season game since 2013-14, when he appeared in the only 31 contests of his career with the Suns.

He was a standout at Temple, where he averaged 15.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 130 games, leading the Atlantic 10 in scoring in three consecutive seasons.

Christmas played in the NBA Summer League six years in a row after going undrafted in 2009. He was originally signed by the Sixers in September 2009 after playing with them that summer in Orlando.

Christmas has also spent seven seasons overseas, most recently with Torku Konyaspor Basket in Turkey.

The Sixers now have 20 players on their roster. They have five cuts to make by 5 p.m and likely roster casualties include Brandon Paul, James Webb III, Cat Barber and Shawn Long.