You might be more focused on other sporting events this afternoon, but if you have a spare minute in between checking fantasy scores and throwing bad juju at Eli Manning, maybe flip over to NBA TV to check out your Philadelphia 76ers tip off the first chapter in what looks sure to be one of the most epic 15-win seasons in NBA history. The Sixers have traveled to Bilbao, Spain for their pre-season opener, and will be facing the Bilboa Basket squad at Noon EST.
Two Sixers who will not be making their pre-season debut today--in addition to first-round acquisition Nerlens Noel, who is of course out for the entire pre-season and much of the regular season while he recovers from his torn ACL--are Royce White, who did not make the trip over, and Lavoy Allen, whose lingering knee issues will keep him temporarily sidelined. We may, however, get to see our first glimpses of newest Sixer Gani Lawal, a power forward taken with the Suns' first-round pick four drafts ago, who was snatched up by Hinkie and co. after slithering out of his EuroLeague contract a couple days earlier.
Bilbao has former Jazz forward Raul Lopez, recent Heat Summer Leaguer Jackie Carmichael, and a whole bunch of dudes you've never heard of. They're a professional squad, of some sort though, and that might be more than you can say for the new look Sixers at this point in time. Expect a close one.
Tip-off coming momentarily on NBA TV. Evan, Thad, MCW, T-Wrote and Spence should all be there, so it'd be nice for you to at least take a moment to make an appearance and say hi.
The NBA has determined a new date for the Sixers home game against the Kings, which was postponed on Nov. 30 because of unsafe playing conditions on the court.
The game has been rescheduled for Monday, Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. This will create back-to-backs for both teams.
The Sixers are playing in Chicago on Jan. 29. They will play consecutive games against the Bulls and Kings, then have a road back-to-back against the Mavericks and Spurs on Feb. 1 and 2.
The Kings will be on what is now an eight-game road trip. They will play a back-to-back against the Rockets the next night in Houston.
Bill Dineen, who had the distinction of being Eric Lindros’ first NHL coach, died early Saturday morning at his home in Lake George, New York. He was 84.
“Such a wonderful person, who got along with everybody,” Flyers president Paul Holmgren said. “I never played for him, but worked with him in scouting. Just a great guy.”
Dineen succeeded Holmgren as head coach during the 1991-92 season.
“When I got fired, a lot of our guys were squeezing their sticks,” Holmgren said. “They were tight. It shouldn’t be hard to play the game. When things got tough, they were a little under stress, Billy coming in, he loosened things up.”
Dineen coached parts of two seasons here from 1991-92 through the 1992-93 season, which was Lindros’ first year as a Flyer.
“Bill treated everyone with the utmost respect,” Holmgren said. “He was the perfect guy for Eric coming in here. That respect goes both ways. He was almost a grandfatherly figure for Eric at the time.”
Dineen served as a scout with the organization from 1990-91 until succeeding Holmgren as coach. He then returned to a scouting role in 1993-94 and remained with the Flyers as a scout through 1996-97.
Mark Howe, one of the greatest Flyers defensemen of all-time, played for Dineen as an 18-year-old rookie in the WHA with the Houston Aeros (1973-74), and also had him during his final year as a Flyer in 1991-92.
“He was one of the best people I ever met in the game of hockey,” Howe said. “He was a real players coach. Of all the guys I ever played for. Maybe a little Paul Holmgren, too.
“If you lost the game, he was one of the very few people if you went for a bite to eat or a beer after the game you lost, you actually felt poorly for letting the coach down.”
Howe said Dineen’s teams weren’t all about skill.
“He picked people that were about ‘the team,'” Howe said. “He made me earn my spot that first year in Houston.”
Dineen posted a 60-60-20 record with the Flyers. His son, Kevin, played on both of those teams before assuming the captaincy from Rick Tocchet in 1993-94.
A gentleman behind the bench, Bill Dineen was much the same person as a player. A former right wing who spent the majority of his six-year playing career with the Detroit Red Wings, he had just 122 penalty minutes in 322 games, scoring 51 goals and 95 points.
“I knew Billy for a long time," Flyers senior vice president Bob Clarke said. "He was a player and coach at the minor league level and the NHL level, but I think more importantly he was a really, really good hockey person and really good person.”
Dineen won two WHA titles coaching the Aeros and two Stanley Cups as a player with the Red Wings. A member of the AHL Hall of Fame, Dineen also coached the Adirondack Red Wings from 1983 through 1988-89.
Three of his five sons — Gordon, Peter and Kevin — played in the NHL. Sons Shawn and Jerry had their roots in the AHL.
“His boys are scattered all over the map,” Holmgren said. “Just a tremendous hockey family.”
Dineen is part of Flyer folklore trivia. He, along with Keith Allen and Vic Stasiuk, were all Red Wings teammates during 1953-53. They also shared something else in common: all three later became Flyers head coaches.