Cheeks confident Wallace will make good coach

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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.”

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric came into the NBA knowing his rookie season would be one of ups and downs. He would have successes based on his talent and struggle because of the newness of the league and matchups.

Saturday’s performance against the Celtics was one of those highlight nights. Saric scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, both tying career-highs, for his third double-double. He was efficient in his performance, playing 27 minutes off the bench in the Sixers' 107-106 loss.

“I thought that was his best game as a 76er,” Brett Brown said.

Saric had struggled the night before against the Magic. He barely made a dent in 16 minutes, posting just two points (1 for 5 from the field) without a single rebound. The poor showing was on his mind Saturday, as he got ready for the second game of the back-to-back. He went in early to get up extra shots, met with coaches, studied film and thought about the matchup throughout the day.

“I prepared a little bit more for this game,” Saric said. “After I have some bad rhythm of five or six, maybe, games. Now I concentrate more. I try to give my best, try to play my best, try to think before everything happens.”

Saric showed his aggressiveness in crunch time in the fourth quarter, when he scored seven points and five rebounds in eight minutes. He nailed a three to cut the Celtics' lead to 92-91 with 4:28 to play. Then with 1:09 remaining, Saric’s free throws cut the Celtics' lead to two points. On the other end of the court, he snagged the rebound off an Isaiah Thomas miss and scored a game-tying layup from Jahlil Okafor.  

“He played great,” Okafor said. “He’s working hard every day, getting used to the NBA process. It was good to see hard work paying off for him.”

Saric has been adjusting to new roles throughout the season. He was thrown into the starting power forward spot when Ben Simmons was injured, and then moved to the bench when the team acquired Ersan Ilyasova. On Saturday, Brown also played Saric at small forward in Robert Covington’s (knee) absence, a shift the Sixers may try again.

“He’s a good teammate,” Brown said. “He’s biding his time. He understands he’s a rookie. Incrementally, he’ll be given these opportunities. Tonight he did and he responded and you’re seeing continued growth.”

Saric still is early in his NBA career, and Saturday's showing was a game he can look back on and study for the rest of the season. 

“I feel like tonight … you’d walk away and say, ‘Shoot, that’s a hell of a player for playing 20 games in the NBA and he did what he just did against a hell of a team,’” Brown said. “I’m proud of what we saw all over the place from Dario.”

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

As part of their “Salute Saturday” series, the Sixers honored the 1966-67 championship team at halftime of their 107-106 loss the Celtics on Saturday.

Fifty years after winning the title, the success of the squad (which went 68-13 in the regular season) still resonates with those representing the Sixers today. After all, they are the group Wilt Chamberlain described as “the best team ever.” 

“It’s just part of the history of this city and the organization,” said Brett Brown, who has established a relationship with Billy Cunningham through practice visits and emails. “There was a toughness with that team that he personified and the city sort of reflects. It’s stuff you hear me talk about all the time how you want our team to reflect the spirit of the city. That team did it.”

Prior to their tribute ceremony, members of the team reflected on their run in which they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the title. 

On Wilt Chamberlain
“Wilt was such a dominant figure, not only as a basketball player, but he’s almost bigger than the game,” Matt Goukas said. “He played so well, he was such a good team player – he started really passing the ball right around that time --and that enabled great scorers like Hal (Greer) and Billy and Chet Walker to do their thing, and Wilt was very happy to give them that leeway.”.

On fond memories
“It was a team that we played well together and we lived as a family and that’s what made it so good for us," Greer said. "A lot of fun, a lot of fun. We missed the next year, but 68-13 is not bad at all.”

“It’s hard to forget a situation like that where we had such a terrific team and the season went so quickly, we won so many games and then of course winning a championship,” Goukas said. “As a first year player I said, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.’ But of course I never won another championship as a player, but we had such a terrific group of guys and true professionals that for me as a rookie, Billy Melchionni as a rookie, we really benefited from guys like Hal Greer, Wally Jones and Harry Costello, they really showed us the way.”

On team chemistry
“It was very difficult times when you look at the sixties from a social aspect,” Cunningham said. “Martin Luther King was killed the following year we won the championship. Race relationships weren’t the best. And this time, which was just about half black-half white, I’m not even sure, it was never an issue. That’s the beauty I think of being on a team you know getting to know people, you judge them as an individual and nothing more than that.”

“I think it was our coach Alex Hannum, for one (that kept the team together),” Greer said. “And of course the big guy. He held us together most of the time, he could rebound, play defense, do it all.”