76ers

Jim Lynam has tales on when Moses Malone stunned him, Julius Erving’s class, relationship with Maurice Cheeks

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AP Images/David Zalubowski

Jim Lynam has tales on when Moses Malone stunned him, Julius Erving’s class, relationship with Maurice Cheeks

If you’d like in-depth, entertaining insight into some of the great players and moments in Philadelphia basketball history, Jim Lynam is the right person to talk to.

Now an analyst with NBC Sports Philadelphia, Lynam played and coached at St. Joe’s, served as a head coach, assistant coach and general manager throughout the years with the Sixers, and has developed close relationships with a slew of Hall of Famers. He joined Paul Hudrick and Danny Pommells on the latest Sixers Talk podcast and had plenty of stories to tell about Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, Maurice Cheeks and Julius Erving.

Lynam's first experience with the late Malone was in 1985, when he joined the Sixers as an assistant coach after a stint with the Clippers. 

Moses, in my mind, was going through the motions,” Lynam said on the podcast. "And I personally was concerned, maybe after three or four days. … Is Moses all right? Is he hurt? Does he always start like this? They were almost, to a man, dismissive of my thoughts, from [head coach] Matty [Guokas] right up to Harold Katz, the owner. So, this went on for the entire preseason. Moses was beyond desperate. And I’m now really concerned. This guy was key to our team if we’re going to be legit. 

“Well, we open the season in New York against rookie Patrick Ewing, and all the fanfare. Moses gave Patrick Ewing 38 [points] and 24 [rebounds]. It was the first sweat that he broke. And he put Patrick Ewing in the basket probably about six times. So it was a real eye-opener for me.

The official box score says Malone had 35 points and 13 rebounds, but it must have felt like 38 and 24 to a coach getting his first exposure to Malone's Hall of Fame talent. 

“The public persona of Moses was really quite different than who the real guy was,” Lynam said. “He was really one of the best. He was genuine, no nonsense, come to do his work every day. A person of few words, yes, but when he spoke, all heads turned.”

Lynam has a vivid memory from that same year of an incident that showed him Erving’s character. He recalled a mob of fans swarming around Erving after a preseason game, eager for his autograph.

“As we’re walking down this corridor with people all over the place, a fan barges out with a pad and a pen, and obviously somewhat inebriated,” he said. “The first cop takes exception. … Doc’s trying to take care of the fan. ‘Sure, sure I’ll sign.’ And there’s this cop literally with a stick. To see Doc defuse that — he takes cares of the fan. ‘Fine, my man, ‘ he says, ‘but we’ve gotta go.’

"The fan’s ecstatic because he got the autograph. [Erving] turns to the cop, and I could see in the cop’s eyes, he’s irate. Puts his arm out to the cop and he kind of gives him a side embrace, and he says, ‘Thanks, my man, I appreciated that.’ And I went, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It was like watching somebody walk on water. He defused what could’ve been a split skull and a near-riot in a matter of seconds, that’s how good he was.” 

Erving was the first of his kind, according to Lynam.

“Playing above the rim, playing in the stratosphere — he brought the game up there,” he said. “He was the first one, because he did it with a combination of spectacular and graceful.”

From 2001-2005, Lynam coached under Cheeks, who hired him to be an assistant on his staff with the Trail Blazers. One quality Lynam admired in Cheeks as a player was “the game was never too big for him.”

“That’s a huge compliment that I would pay a player because, for a lot of good players, the game can get too big,” he said. “Charles Barkley used to tell me, ‘Coach, you’ve gotta be careful who you set that last shot up for.’ Obviously he said it one night when I didn’t set it up for him. But Charles is right. Not everyone relishes having to take, or looks forward to taking, the shot that’s going to decide the game one way or the other. In that light, Cheeks was as good as there was."

You can listen to the full podcast below, which also includes a story from August of 1989 that involves Lynam frantically searching through the city of Philadelphia, looking to tell Cheeks he’d been traded.

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The 5 worst Sixers free-agent signings

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The 5 worst Sixers free-agent signings

NBA GMs sometimes feel the temptation to pay average or good players as if they are great.

That description applies to a few of the players listed below in our ranking of the five worst Sixers free-agent signings. For the purposes of this list, we’re reserving judgement on well-paid current Sixers. 

5. Scott Williams 
Then-Sixers GM and head coach John Lucas liked that Williams knew “how to win.” The big man had immediately won three championships after entering the NBA, but the fact that he was on Michael Jordan’s Bulls probably had something to do with that early success. 

Signed to a seven-year contract, Williams only managed to play 212 games with the Sixers, none of which were in the postseason. He posted 5.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game before being traded to the Bucks and eventually facing the Sixers in the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals. In that series, he was suspended for Game 7 because of a hard hit to Allen Iverson’s throat in Game 6. 

4. Brian Skinner 
Skinner’s first stint as a Sixers was solid. Though he wasn’t used much during the 2003 playoffs, he chipped in 17.9 minutes per game during the regular season. After spending a year with the Bucks, Skinner then decided to return to the Sixers, who offered a five-year, $25 million contract.

Besides starting regularly for the first time in his career the season prior, it’s unclear what Skinner had done to merit such a lucrative deal. With Marc Jackson, Kenny Thomas and Corliss Williamson all preferred in the frontcourt by head coach Jim O’Brien, Skinner had a minimal impact, averaging 2.0 points and 2.6 rebounds in 24 games. The Sixers ultimately used his contract in February to help facilitate their ill-fated trade for Chris Webber. 

3. Kenny Thomas 
Seven years and approximately $50 million was far too large a commitment for Thomas, who the Sixers acquired in a 2002 trade with the Rockets and then signed as a restricted free agent.

Thomas wasn’t a bad player — he even averaged a double-double in the 2003-04 season — and he would’ve been viewed in a much kinder light if GM Billy King had given him a shorter and/or less expensive contract. He joined Skinner and Williamson in that deal for Webber, wrapping up his NBA career in Sacramento. 

2. Elton Brand 
Brand was far from a bust as a player with the Sixers after signing his “Philly max” contract. He wasn’t a 20 points, 10 rebounds per game guy anymore, but he was decent when healthy enough to play and praised frequently for his leadership and professionalism. 

Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending torn labrum in his first year with the team. While he was a regular presence in the three years after that, he was diminished physically compared to his prime in Los Angeles. The Sixers released him with one season left on his five-year, $82 million deal under the league’s amnesty clause. 

1. Matt Geiger 
First, it’s important to note that Geiger’s refusal to waive his trade kicker prevented Iverson from being traded to the Pistons ahead of the 2000-01 season. It’s very unlikely the Sixers would’ve won the Eastern Conference without him.

"I looked at Detroit and didn't think Allen and I would've been better off there,” he told reporters in 2001. "So the decision was easy."

Geiger’s contract, however, was excessive — six years and approximately $48 million. He had some bright moments in Philadelphia, including a career-best 13.5 points per game in the 1998-99 season and a 5-for-7 shooting performance in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals (although he fouled out in under 14 minutes), but none of that was enough to make the contract worth it. He retired after four games in the 2001-02 season because of persistent, painful knee problems. 

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2020 NBA return format: NBPA approves return to play format

2020 NBA return format: NBPA approves return to play format

A day after the NBA’s Board of Governor’s approved a 22-team return to play format, the NBPA did so Friday evening, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

All 28 player reps approved the plan, which would see 22 teams head to Walt Disney World in Florida to finish out the 2019-20 season beginning July 31. The league will play eight regular-season games with the possibility of a play-in tournament for the eighth seed. The playoffs will follow the traditional format.

One of the new pieces of information presented Friday is that there will also be two or three preseason games before the season resumes.

On TNT Thursday night, commissioner Adam Silver said the league is in the “first inning” in its quest to return to play. The NBA suspended the season on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. 

According to Charania, players will undergo testing every day and there will be a minimum seven-day quarantine for any player that tests positive. If a player does contract the virus, play would continue.

“Of course we’ve always been looking for whether or not there is an appropriate and safe way that we can resume basketball,” Silver said, “and knowing that we’re going to be living with this virus for a while. … We’ve been exploring with the players whether there can be a new normal here.”

Another sticking point was a tentative date of Nov. 10 to start training camps for the 2020-21 season. Oct. 12 would be the last possible date for Game 7 of this year’s NBA Finals under this return-to-play plan. The NBPA told the players it’s “unlikely” the 2020-21 season would start on Dec. 1 and that it’s still being negotiated, per Charania.

With no fans in the stands, the two sides have also discussed pumping fan noise in courtesy of NBA2K.

The league and NBPA are still continuing to work out the health and safety details in the weeks leading up to a return.

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