A group led by Joshua Harris, a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, who has watched the Sixers play for a long time, officially purchased the Philadelphia 76ers from Comcast-Spectator this week. Actually, Harris, 46, became a fan of the team during the 1982–83 season.
That was a big year for professional basketball in this town. The Sixers, led by Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney and Bobby Jones, won an NBA championship.
Adam Aron, an Abington High graduate, is the Sixers’ new chief executive officer. Aron has watched the Sixers play even longer than Harris. He remembers the 1983 championship team, but also the 1966–67 team, which featured basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham, Chet Walker, Wali Jones and Luke Jackson.
Harris and Aron are joined by investor David Blitzer, who will serve as co-managing owner and an alternate governor of the NBA.
Other investors include Martin Geller, David Heller, Travis Hennings, James Lassiter, Marc Leder, Jason Levien, Michael Rubin, Philadelphia’s own actor Will Smith, and his wife and actress Jada Pinkett Smith, Handy Soetedjo, Erick Thohir and Art Wrubel.
All of the aforementioned have made personal investments in the team and would like to give pro basketball a boost in this town. Harris bought the Sixers for a reported $280 million.
The announcement was made on Tuesday at the Palestra, the city’s legendary basketball arena, which has provided basketball fans with some of the most exciting games this town has ever seen. Harris and Aron talked about slashing ticket prices in addition to receiving input from fans on basketball and other marketing efforts.
The two things Harris and Aron seem to bring to the Sixers is a sense history and genuine interest in the organization beyond money. They’re both successful businessmen. Harris is a managing partner of Apollo Management, L.P., which he co-founded in 1990. According to Forbes, Harris is worth $1.45 billion. Aron was the former chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts, the world’s second largest ski resort operator, which under his direction became one of the nation’s premiere ski destinations.
When Harris was a student at Penn, the Quakers’ big stars were Karl Racine and Perry Bromwell. They won a lot of games for Penn along with a couple Ivy League championships. So, The Palestra was a good backdrop for him. He has a good flavor for basketball in this city and what he would like to accomplish with the Sixers.
“I’m going to be a great fan,” Harris said. “I’m going to be excited. I’m going to be upset when we lose and excited when we win. Having said that, we are going to try to be rational when it comes to making decisions about how we run the team and I think it’s pretty simple. We want to be world class and cutting-edge up and down. Everything we do with this team we want to reflect well on us and to be positive to the community. That’s on the court, that’s off the court and it starts with how we all conduct ourselves.”
Harris and Aron will have a lot of help with running the organization. Rod Thorn, Sixers president, will have a bigger role with the departure of Ed Stefanski, who was the team’s general manager.
As followers of the team, Harris and Aron are aware of what Doug Collins, Sixers head coach, was able to do with this team. Collins led the Sixers to a playoff appearance with a 41-41 record after a 3-13 start. Philly lost to the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. The Heat went to the NBA Finals before losing to the Dallas Mavericks. The Sixers key players were Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young.
“Well, I’ll have to be careful with what I say, because I lived in Miami last year,” Aron said. “I watched every game of the Heat-Sixers series, and I can sure tell you, as Josh said, our allegiances are Philadelphia 76ers all the way. Not just to basketball, but maybe to all professional sports. We’re going to be watching a lot of Sixers basketball.”
They’ll be very busy.
The Palestra has been the site of a number of great college and high school basketball games over the years. The famed gymnasium also known as “The Cathedral of College Basketball” on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania will be the site of professional on Sunday, Sept. 25, when Team Philly faces Team Melo at 6 p.m.
Rahim Thompson, commissioner of the Chosen League in Philadelphia, is presenting the Team Philly vs. Team Melo event. Tickets for this game will be $50 for seats in the 100 sections (lower bowl) and $35 for seats in the 200 sections (upper bowl), with number of upper-bowl seats being donated to community groups throughout the city.
“We’re pleased that The Palestra was chosen as the site for this extraordinary exhibition of some of the greatest basketball in the world,” said Steve Bilsky, Penn’s athletic director. “These NBA players will witness firsthand what Philadelphians already know, that The Palestra is the most exciting venue for basketball in the country.”
The game will be broadcast live via the web on The Basketball Channel, hosted by Fox Sports’ Marques Johnson and former Dobbins Tech and Loyola Marymount basketball star Greg “Bo” Kimble.
Carmelo Anthony leads the Team Melo All-Stars, who will face his former Syracuse teammate Hakim Warrick from Friends’ Central and his Philadelphia-born squad. Confirmed participants to date include Warrick, Carmelo, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Lou Williams, Wayne Ellington, Markieff and Marcus Morris, Jason Thompson and Ronald “Flip” Murray.
A portion of the revenue generated by the game will go to charity including the West Philadelphia Community Center (where Warrick grew up playing basketball) and other community groups in the Philadelphia area.
“My Philadelphia All-Stars look forward to getting on the court and proving to Melo and the people of Baltimore, D.C. that the best ballers come out of Philly!” Warrick said. “Melo told me he was bringing a squad that can’t be beat so I have a few ‘all star’ surprises for him when my team takes the court on September 25.”
NOTES: Tickets will be available online at PennAthletics.com. A limited number of tickets will also be available starting Saturday at 10 a.m. at select Sneaker Villa stores in the Philadelphia area.
PHILADELPHIA — Amid the uncertainly that surrounds the Philadelphia 76ers, coach Doug Collins has kept some routine.
He's also maintained his optimism.
Collins concluded a week of meetings and film sessions with his staff on Friday, and more sessions like it are planned, even as the start of the NBA season is in jeopardy because of the lockout.
Collins wants to keep operations running as usual and have the Sixers raring to go whenever a labor deal is reached.
"We should be able to hit the ground running, which is exciting," he said by phone Friday.
Collins planned this week exactly as he did at this time last year when he started his first season coaching the Sixers. He's taking a weekend break to travel to Durham, N.C. for a celebration of Duke basketball (his son is an assistant on the men's team), but then it's back for more work next week.
"We're planning our season," Collins said. "We're getting together, we watched a lot of tape, watching a lot of things on film that we want to teach. We put together some practice plans. It was really to get together and start planning our training camp."
When that starts, no one knows for certain. The Sixers would usually open camp the first week of October, but the lockout has thrown a dose of confusion into the league. The two sides return to the bargaining table Tuesday, this time with more players and owners, to try and find a way to end the league's lockout and save the 2011-12 season.
Collins spent the summer in San Diego, enjoying a relaxing summer as a satisfying reward for an exciting first season in Philadelphia. He left the TNT broadcast booth to take over a team that won only 27 games. He led them from the draft lottery to the playoffs, where they lost a five-game series to the Miami Heat.
Without the stress of prepping for a game, he relived the fun this week over film sessions. His staff broke down the season into 90-minute highlight reels and they took an up-close look at how the Sixers shook off a slow start to playing some of their best basketball in years.
"It was really fun to go back and watch how well our guys were executing and how well they started doing things," Collins said. "It gives us a great blueprint so that when we get started this year, it's going to be so much different. I know the guys now. I know the things that were good to us on the floor. I know what we like to do."
He just can't personally pass along the rave reviews to his players. Like around the rest of the league, Collins and the rest of his staff and management are banned from communicating with his players.
Collins formed a tight bond with his team a year ago and was never afraid to become emotional around them. Sixers forward Elton Brand said in an interview last month how much he missed receiving the upbeat text messages from Collins.
Collins' lessons on the value of teamwork made an impact. Led by Brand and Andre Iguodala, a large group of Sixers participated in team workouts last month in Los Angeles. Guard Evan Turner, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft, stayed in Philadelphia this summer and was tutored on shooting by Hall of Fame college coach Herb Magee. Other players posted on Twitter their detailed offseason workout plans.
It's a nice way to keep updated — but it's not the same as a personal connection.
At least the Sixers are easy to find.
The new ownership has been in the NBA's version of the witness protection program. Comcast-Spectacor sold the team to a group led by New York-based leveraged buyout specialist Joshua Harris. The deal is still awaiting approval by the NBA, and that could come later this month.
Harris and other members of the group have been eerily silent since the deal was announced. Interview requests have been declined and there's no idea how they plan to run the franchise. Collins has yet to meet his new boss, though they've talked on the phone.
"I think they want to feel that they own the team before they get front and center," Collins said. "They've been very adamant in the fact that they want to keep a very low profile until they own the team."
Once the group gets settled, Collins will hire an assistant to replace Quin Snyder, who left for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Collins says he feels great and is recovered from a concussion he sustained on Memorial Day 2010.
He missed two preseason games last year because of symptoms related to the concussion, then had neurological testing and treatment for what was diagnosed as vertigo. He saw the Sixers earn their first victory of the season in the locker room on his back, not the bench because of dizzy spells.
Collins will visit Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation on Monday to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of concussions.
"I got two treatments for this positional vertigo and the concussion symptoms and it went away," after the Indiana game, he said. "I had absolutely no problem with it the rest of the year. I feel better than I've ever felt."
All he needs is a team to coach. -- (AP)
When Antonio “Scoop” Jardine, former Neumann-Goretti and Syracuse star, had a chance to participate in a NBA pre-draft workout for the Philadelphia 76ers, needless to say he was really excited. Jardine couldn’t wait to showcase his basketball skills for his hometown team.
“It feels like home,” Jardine said. “I’m happy to be home. I’ve been fortunate to be called into a workout for the Sixers. I think that’s one great thing for myself and another step into my career I’m about to go into. It was great to be out here. I had a lot of energy because I was happy to be home with my family.”
Jardine grew up in South Philadelphia, not too far from the Wells Fargo Center, where he played some college basketball games when the Orange faced Big East rival Villanova.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound point guard, helped Syracuse advance to the NCAA Elite Eight in 2012. He averaged 14.7 points over the Orange’s last three tournament games. The former Catholic League standout has a busy schedule in front of him as he prepares for the NBA draft. Jardine feels very good about his position in the draft.
“Right now, I’m turning a lot of heads,” Jardine said. “My stock is really rising since the workouts have started. My dream is to be drafted. I don’t know here at, but I’m very confident I’ll be drafted come June 28.”
Jardine has a lot of confidence in himself. That’s the way he plays the game. In 2006, he guided Neumann-Goretti to the Catholic League championship. Jardine had a bundle of talent back then and has even more now following an impressive college basketball career. He will draw on his talent and experience as he displays his skills for other teams.
“I’ve worked out for New York (Knicks) and San Antonio (Spurs),” he said. “I’ve gone to the Minnesota combine where there were 30 teams there. That’s where I improved my stock.
“I’ll be busy for these next 26 days. I got Washington and New York (Knicks) again, Minnesota (Timberwolves) again, San Antonio again. Then, I got Atlanta (Hawks) and Memphis (Grizzlies). I got like 18 workouts. That’s great because that’s 18 opportunities to prove myself and show what I can do in an NBA setting.
“You know coming from Philly you’re very fortunate. That’s one thing I’ll say I’m blessed to be in a position coming from Syracuse. Now, I have a chance to do something that I dream of doing with my life and that’s playing basketball.”
Jardine has been watching a lot of the NBA playoffs, getting a feel for the pro game.
“That’s my job,” he said. “I want to learn and improve my game. You can improve by watching the best players in the world. I’ve been watching the point guards. (Rajon) Rondo (Boston Celtics [point guard) is at the top. I think he’s one of the best in the league. He’s a tough check. I’m trying to learn how to guard him before I get there.”
Jardine has been learning from a pretty good guard from Philly. Jerome “Pooh” Richardson, former Ben Franklin High and UCLA star, who played 11 NBA seasons, has been helping him out. He’s working out with him in Calabasas, Calif.
“I’m training with Pooh Richardson,” Jardine said. “It’s like a dream come true for myself also being from South Philly. He’s from Philly, a guy I always hear about. A guy I always looked up to and a guy who made it out of Philly. To go out there and pick his brain and work out is the best thing that could have happened to me. He’s really been a big brother to me since I’ve been out there. He played in the NBA 11 years. He knows what it takes. He knows the ins and outs of it. I think I’m in the same position. I just want to go in there and prove what I can do.”
NOTES: Jardine and Kentucky star Doron Lamb worked out for the Sixers on Sunday. Jardine’s grandfather is Isaiah Wilson, who played in the NBA for the Detroit Pistons and in the ABA for Memphis.
For the Philadelphia 76ers, it’s been a busy summer with all the personnel moves. Doug Collins, Sixers head coach, had a chance to talk about all the trades and free agent signings the team made in the last three weeks.
Of course, the most discussed acquisition was Kwame Brown, the No. 1 pick overall in the NBA draft coming out of high school in 2001 with the Washington Wizards. Brown, 30, signed a reported two-year deal with the Sixers for $6 million. Collins was Brown’s first coach with the Wizards.
A year ago, Brown played for the Golden State Warriors. But he only played in nine games prior to a season-ending pectoral injury. He tallied 6.3 points and 6.3 rebounds a game before the injury. Brown has averaged 6.8 points and 5.6 rebounds a game during his 11 years in the NBA. Collins believes the 6-foot-11, 270-pounder, can make a solid contribution.
“Well, I wanted him last year,” Collins said. “I think people when they view Kwame Brown they look at a guy who was a bust as the No. 1 draft pick in the NBA. And that’s not what we’re signing for. I had him at that period of time when he was 18 years old. I understand the pressure that young guy was under.
“I wish I could go back and be a better coach and a better mentor for him at that time. We feel very strongly that what we needed to do was to add size, strength, toughness and post defense. Michael Curry had him in Detroit. He felt like Kwame was one of the top five defensive centers in the NBA. So, we feel like that’s what we’re getting. We’re getting a good rebounder. We think that he can play well with a couple different guys on the floor. He can support us with his versatility. He’s in a great place right now.”
Brown has played for the Wizards, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats and the Warriors over his career. Collins feels Brown has a strong connection with this Sixers coaching staff.
“BJ (Brian James) and I were with him in Washington,” Collins said. “Jeff Capel mentored him and was with him in Charlotte. Aaron McKie played with him in L-A. Michael Curry coached him in Detroit. So, he’s coming into a place that he feels very good about. I think we’re going to see the best Kwame has to offer.”
Collins has already penciled in Brown as the starting center entering training camp.
“We’re going to have Jrue (Holiday), Dre (Andre Iguodala) and Evan (Turner) in the backcourt,” he said. “Spencer (Hawes) playing as a four, which we think he’s more comfortable doing that. Kwame will do all the heavy lifting and play against the big centers.”
PHILADELPHIA — In the end, the scene looked straight out of an ultimate Broadway encore. One and two owners on the stage turned into seven, eight, nine, all single file and holding enough personalized 76ers jerseys to fill a few racks at the merchandise store.
All that was missing was a bow.
The Philadelphia 76ers are under new management — lots and lots of management, that even includes a dose of Hollywood star power.
New York-based leveraged buyout specialist Joshua Harris and the rest of his ownership group completed the deal to buy the Sixers from Comcast-Spectacor and wasted little time Tuesday making a splash on their first day in power.
Ed Stefanski is out as general manager and team president Rod Thorn will assume greater day-to-day control in running the franchise.
Doug Collins will not only remain the coach, but was asked to stand at the Palestra and publicly heaped with praise from his new bosses.
Adam Aron, the former chairman and CEO of Vail Resort, is the Chief Executive Officer and promised cost-saving changes for fans. The announced ticket prices for nearly 9,000 seats, yes, even the good ones, will be slashed. Tickets priced at $101 and $54 plummeted to $54 and $29. The Sixers also launched NewSixersOwner.com to solicit fan feedback in an attempt to energize one of the weakest and passionless fan bases in Philadelphia sports.
Harris and Co., who could have used name tags, did everything but address the roster. The lingering NBA lockout banned specific talk about players and a blueprint to build a championship team off limits.
Among the lengthy list of new owners and investors include co-managing owner David Blitzer, former NBA player agent and Sacramento Kings executive Jason Levien, GSI Commerace CEO Michael Rubin, real estate investors, film producers, and Hollywood power couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith.
"At the end of the day, Josh is the managing partner," Blitzer said. "He's actually a great listener. He'll take in lots of great opinions. But at the end of the day, Josh gets to make the call. It's not like there's 15 people that all have rights to vote and say this and do that."
Harris is one of three founders of Apollo Global Management, a publicly listed alternative investment manager. He co-founded Apollo Global Management in 1990. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business and a master's degree from the Harvard Business School. Harris' investment is a personal one and Apollo Management, LP is not involved in the transaction.
The 46-year-old Harris was worth $1.45 billion, according to Forbes, as of September.
Apollo invests heavily in distressed properties — which one could argue would include the Sixers. They can't fill their arena, haven't won a playoff series since 2003 and have gone years without turning a profit. Comcast-Spectactor chairman Ed Snider, who called the shots the last 15 years, told The Associated Press last month that massive financial losses led the company to strike a tentative deal to sell the team in July.
"I wouldn't call the 76ers distressed," Harris said. "That has a negative connotation."
Comcast-Spectacor bought the Sixers from Harold Katz on April 24, 1996. Comcast-Spectacor also owns the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers.
"This is one of the hardest business decisions I've ever had to make," Snider said. "The Sixers are family, and it is very difficult to say goodbye to an organization of great people with whom we have worked so closely over the last 15 years."
Comcast-Spectacor also owns the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers will become a tenant in the building once the NBA lockout is over and Harris said there are no plans for an NBA-only arena. However, a new practice facility is on the drawing board.
Under Snider's ownership, Allen Iverson and the Sixers lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA finals. The Sixers have won only one playoff series since 2001 and have been mired in mediocrity for most of the last decade. They haven't had a winning record since 2004-05 and last won a championship in 1983.
The 76ers were valued this year by Forbes at $330 million, 17th in the NBA, and have a television deal with cable station Comcast SportsNet through 2029. Harris bought the group for a reported $280 million.
The Sixers lag well behind the Phillies, Eagles and Flyers — even Villanova — in interest and attendance. Collins led a rebirth on the court last season, leading them to 41 victories and a competitive, five-game playoff series loss against Eastern Conference champion Miami. Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Jodie Meeks, and Thaddeus Young form a promising core, with veterans Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala also in the mix.
The new owners understand they have to win back the fan base as much as they have to win games.
Aron sounded like he was straight out of a late-night infomercial with his passionate pitch: Ticket prices are sliced, diced, and julienned! Harris could have been featured in Us Weekly magazine: NBA owners, just like US!
"I've been a 76ers fans since college," Harris said. "Philadelphia is like a second home to me."
Yes, a second home. Harris intends to run the Sixers ("my night job") from New York — though he can surely afford the Acela.
He said he wouldn't hesitate to pay a luxury tax, if it's included in the new collective bargaining agreement
Before the lockout, the Sixers would have had about $55 million in payroll committed to next season, led by Brand's $17 million and Iguodala's $13.5 million. The Sixers spent the summer in trade talks involving Iguodala — plans that have been put on hold because of the lockout.
Harris, Blitzer and his group are buying the team with the NBA in the midst of a lockout. The first two weeks of the regular season have already been canceled.
"We're trying to move along as if everything is as it normally is," Thorn said. "You have to get ready scouting wise."
Once they return, it's possible A-list actor and rapper Smith could be in the stands and, ahem, Getting Iggy With It. Smith, who was not available for comment, is a Philadelphia native who attended Overbrook High School.
Turner posted on Twitter, "think it's dope that the fresh prince is one of our new owners. Maybe willow can perform at halftime."
Harris said a mutual connection was made once Smith expressed interested.
How about Smith's 76ers vs. Jay-Z's New Jersey Nets in the first Rapper's Delight game?
The start of the season seems well down the road.
On Tuesday, it was all about the optimism and bright-eyed enthusiasm of a new era in Sixers history.
"We will be active, long-term owners," Harris said. -- (AP)
BOSTON — Evan Turner can take a coach on a roller-coaster ride with the best of them.
Doug Collins can loathe and love his brash playmaker from minute to minute. And after Collins got so irritated with his play to start the third quarter, there was reason to wonder if Turner might spend crunch time watching from the Doughouse.
Instead, he stayed out there, saved the day and sent the 76ers home with a split.
Turner used some ridiculous acrobatics to make a pair of late baskets, then hit a pair of crucial free throws that led the Sixers to an 82-81 win over the Celtics at TD Garden Monday night, knotting the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals at a game apiece.
“For our guys to scrap through a game like this ... all the guys who played, everyone gave us a great effort,” Doug Collins said. “Now our guys are believing they can do it.”
First, Collins had to believe Turner would get his act together.
After getting the quick hooks early in the first and third quarters and hitting just two of his first nine shots, Turner finally found a way to get it down. First he bulled his way to an ugly layup, then made a twisting reverse with 40.4 seconds left to put the Sixers up, 76-75.
“Evan was totally out of sync all game ... he was playing so fast,” Collins said. “The thing I was happy about (was) that he bounced back. He had that look in his eye ... I told him, ‘Evan, you just have to calm down.’ And he did.”
It wasn’t that long ago that an opening few minutes like that by Turner in the second half would have meant a permanent seat on the bench. These days, the coach and player are gaining confidence in each other.
“I think the most important thing is that whether I mess up or not, I can’t be scared of myself,” Turner said. “You have to take risks, play through it and learn through it. Taking me out and sitting me down is never going to help me in the end.”
After Turner’s second bucket, the Sixers got a huge stop with some terrific defense to force a tough shot by Ray Allen. When they got the rebound, there was a six-second differential between the shot clock and the play clock. Boston was letting the clock wind down, but then Rajon Rondo — who took a wise foul late in Game 1 — decided to foul Jrue Holiday with 14.4 seconds left. The Celtics weren’t in the penalty yet, so that wiped out the difference on the shot clock.
From there Turner took the inbounds pass and cooly hit a pair of free throws. Then an almost unthinkable whistle was blown on Kevin Garnett for a moving pick during an inbound play, giving the ball back to the Sixers.
Collins had been browbeating the officials about Garnett’s picks, but the timing for this call was eye-popping.
“That was worth everything,” Turner said of the whistle on Garnett. “I was surprised he called it, to tell you the truth. I was like, ‘What happened? What’s going on?’ And they called a foul. I was like, ‘Wow. Somebody’s gonna be mad.’”
Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks made free throws in the final 10 seconds, which were crucial when Boston made two 3-pointers, including a too-late shot by Garnett at the buzzer.
After Boston jumped to a 9-0 lead to open the game, the Sixers battled back behind Holiday’s 13 first-half points and it was 38-36 Celtics at half.
The third quarter started like something spawned from a sixth-grade CYO game — the Sixers went 0-for-5 from the floor with six turnovers in the opening 51/2 minutes. After getting a quick yank when the Sixers came out weakly to open the game, Turner got that fast hook when he made a couple of sloppy giveaways to start the second half.
The guy who came to the rescue was Lavoy Allen. The rookie had another huge game off the bench, getting 10 points and eight rebounds while playing fierce defense against Garnett. Allen’s biggest basket was his luckiest — a fadeaway bank shot from 20 feet on an inbounds pass with .9 second on the shot clock.
“It was pretty clutch,” Turner said of Allen’s prayer. “We needed that.”
After putting Garnett through 38 laborious minutes in Game 1, the Celtics tried to save a little in his tank in the first half. Garnett played 15 minutes and only attempted three shots, his two makes coming in the opening three minutes as Boston ran out to its early lead.
But Allen was ready for his late push, and he and Turner made the Celtics show their age as the Sixers wrested home-court advantage away after feeling like they let Game 1 slip away.
“Sometimes in losses you learn the most and realize how close you are,” Turner said. “Last season we went 3-13 and lost to the Heat in a close game and ‘Dre said, ‘We’re almost there, we’re close to turning a corner.’ And we did.
“Hopefully the fans will be our sixth man and help us protect home court.”
Kyrie Irving spent the night set for his NBA debut hanging with the Cameron Crazies instead of playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
His rookie season is on hold because of the lockout.
So what else is there for an out-of-work No. 1 overall draft pick to do but take a seat with Duke's face-painted and fanatical student section and watch the Blue Devils romp in an exhibition game?
"It was awesome," Irving said after swapping one CC for another CC. "My first time actually being with the Crazies."
Yes, Irving expected to keep a close eye on the Blue Devils after bolting the program following his freshman season. He didn't expect it to come so soon, only four months after NBA Commissioner David Stern called his name as the top pick of the draft.
The Cameron Crazies called him out in louder and more wildly enthusiastic tones.
Irving joined the club of NBA players who are going old school and dusting off the letterman jacket, pulling on those old warmup shorts with a state name or lovable mascot logo and going back to school as the real Big Men On Campus to work out, hang out or play pickup games at their alma maters.
It's easier these days to spot NBA players at State U than at a labor meeting listening to the state of their union's latest proposal.
Ray Allen, Kemba Walker, Rudy Gay, and Hasheem Thabeet work out at UConn. Kyle Lowry, Dante Cunningham and Randy Foye scrimmage at Villanova. Marvin Williams, Tyler Hansbrough and Raymond Felton toughen up this season's Tar Heels at North Carolina.
Paul Pierce, Mario Chalmers and other former Kansas Jayhawks played in the first "Legends of the Phog" alumni game at Allen Fieldhouse.
After Hansbrough dominated the Tar Heels in a recent scrimmage, coach Roy Williams stopped and asked what elite coaches from Jim Calhoun and John Calipari to Jay Wright and Bill Self must be thinking when their former stars hit the court: "Do you have any more eligibility left?"
No, but they have plenty of time to spare.
With progress still stalled in the negotiations to end the lockout, Stern canceled the rest of the November games last week and said there will not be a full NBA season "under any circumstances." The first two weeks of the season already had been lost to the lockout, which began after the old collective bargaining agreement expired June 30.
"It's been tough, but as a players' union, we're united," said Lowry, a Houston Rockets guard. "We wish we were playing. We want to work and we know the fans miss the game. We miss playing for the fans. We miss doing our job. We want to be back on the floor. We want to get out there and be working."
The lockout means more than lost games and hefty paychecks.
Access to NBA practice facilities have been cut off. No state-of-the-art weight rooms. No cushy players lounge. No instruction from the coaching staff.
Forced to look at other methods to stay in shape for a season that could start in December or not all, some NBA players have been returning to their familiar stomping grounds. For the players who take the Thornton Melon route, the comforts of their old home court beat sitting home and waiting for news.
Wright, who led the Wildcats to the Final Four in 2009, said his team has benefited from having the pros around.
"It's the greatest learning experience I've ever been a part of in coaching," he said. "They're our players, so everything we taught them, they do. It's what we're trying to teach our young guys. They're seeing it. Kyle will stop a drill or Randy will stop a drill and say, 'Hey, this is what Coach wants you to do,' before I can even stop them."
Cunningham, a two-year NBA veteran, joked it's been odd hearing Wright's voice barking instructions again.
"I've got to tune in to him and make sure I'm paying attention," he said, laughing.
Wildcats guard Maalik Wayns loved testing himself in one-on-one battles against Villanova's old guard — and older guards.
Trying to keep busy, NBA referees Joey Crawford and Duke Callahan called a scrimmage last week. Former NBA coach Larry Brown is a regular at Villanova practice. Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins and other front office personnel have stopped by to watch. Sixers stars Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand and Evan Turner worked out over the summer at Villanova's sparkling practice facility.
The NBA season was scheduled to open this week — Irving would have made his Cleveland debut Wednesday night at Boston. With the schedule wiped out, he attended Duke's game along with former Blue Devils Lance Thomas and (Portland first-round pick) Nolan Smith.
The Crazies started chanting, "Lance and Nolan, sit with us!". The duo walked down the baseline and behind press row to join them near the baseline. Smith raised his arms and beckoned Irving to join him while students in blue shirts and blue wigs cheered him on.
Irving, who played only 11 games last season for the Blue Devils because of a toe injury, followed Smith and Thomas into the crowd and spent the rest of the game there.
"I couldn't turn that down," Smith said. "I have nothing else to do right now, work out and be a Cameron Crazy. That's what I'm doing."
He hopes the next time fans cheer for him it's for scoring a clutch basket in a big victory — in an NBA game.
NEW ORLEANS — Philadelphia, Memphis and New Orleans have agreed on a multi-player trade.
The 76ers are sending Marreese Speights to Memphis, the Grizzlies will move Xavier Henry to New Orleans and the Grizzlies and Hornets each will send a second-round draft pick to Philadelphia.
The 6-foot-6 Henry, in his second NBA season out of Kansas, has averaged 4.3 points and 1.0 rebound in 38 games with Memphis.
"We are delighted to welcome Xavier to our team and the New Orleans community," Hornets general manager Dell Demps said in a release Wednesday. "We hope Xavier will develop into a good basketball player that will contribute to the success of the New Orleans Hornets this season and into the future."
Henry became the first player in Kansas history to leave for the NBA after his freshman season.
The 6-10 Speights is in his fourth NBA season out of Florida and has averaged 7.2 points and 3.7 rebounds. -- (AP)
Every playoff game has significance. But when the Philadelphia 76ers host the Boston Celtics at the Wells Fargo Center in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series on Friday night (8 p.m. ESPN), May 18, this will be a huge game for the Sixers.
After crushing the Sixers, 107-91, in Game 3, the Celtics have a 2-1 lead in the series. The Sixers will need to bounce back from their worst performance in the postseason. They can’t afford to dig themselves a big hole with another loss. The Celtics didn’t show their age in the last game. They exhibited great poise and playoff experience.
“This was a team (Boston Celtics) you could see coming in that did not want to be down 2-1 playing Game 4,” said Doug Collins, Sixers head coach. “They’ve been in these kinds of games. They know how important this swing game is to get that home court back and they played great.”
Boston has the home court advantage now in the series. After Friday’s game, the series will move to Boston for Game 5 on Monday, May 21. The Celtics played like they knew what time of year it is. Paul Pierce scored 24 points for the Celtics, but his two consecutive dunks in the first half let you know Boston wasn’t going anywhere.
The Celtics are an older team. There’s no question about that. Pierce is 34 years old. Ray Allen is 36. Kevin Garnett is 35. But they’ve all won an NBA championship. The Celtics won the NBA title in 2008. They also played for the league crown in 2010 before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games. Although they don’t move as quickly as they used to on the floor, you can’t overlook the experience factor either.
This is a new territory for the Sixers. They’re still getting a feel for the postseason. It’s still a learning experience for them. The team is so young: Jrue Holiday, 21; Evan Turner, 23; Thaddeus Young, 23; Spencer Hawes, 24 and Lou Williams, 25. Lavoy Allen, Sixers rookie power forward from Temple, is 23. The Sixers most experienced players in the rotation are Andre Iguodala, 28 and Elton Brand, 33.
“I told our guys the NBA playoffs is about the ebb and flow of emotion,” Collins said. “I broadcasted a game in the NBA Finals in the United Center. It was Game 4, the Utah Jazz lost by about 50 to the (Chicago) Bulls. The Bulls were going to close out and win a championship at home in Game 5. Utah beat them and had to go to Game 6.
“That’s what the playoffs are about, the highs and lows. You have to navigate that. This is a new experience for us. Boston has been through that. They’ve been through losing home court and going and winning. This is all new for us. This is good that we’re going through this and we’re learning from this. Hopefully, we’re going to be a lot better in Game 4.”
The Sixers need to revisit what they did in the first two games of the series. It starts at the defensive end. The Sixers have to force some turnovers and get out in the open court where they can use their quickness.
They also have to do a better job of keeping Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo out of the lane. Rondo had a monster game tallying 23 points and 14 assists and just one turnover. His play opened things up for Pierce and Garnett, who had 27 points and 13 rebounds. The Sixers lone bright spots were Young who had 22 points and five rebounds off the bench and Holiday who chipped in with 15 points, nine assists and six rebounds.
This game should be very interesting. When a team is blown out in the playoffs, they usually come out with a lot of energy the next game. The first two games of this series were decided by one point with both teams grabbing a win. If this contest brings that kind of intensity, it should be another close game.