76ers

The legacy of Charles Barkley is present in Sixers' quest for title

The legacy of Charles Barkley is present in Sixers' quest for title

CAMDEN, N.J. —  With Charles Barkley having a statue unveiled on Legends Walk at the team’s practice facility Friday, there were plenty of living legends in attendance.

Former teammates like 2019 Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Jones and the ever-present World B. Free were there. Barkley’s first NBA coach and Hall of Fame player Billy Cunningham was on hand to say a few words. 

The craziest may have been a story about Barkley almost not even being a Sixer.

When we were getting ready to draft, it was probably the best draft I can ever remember," Cunningham said. "It was Michael Jordan, [Hakeem] Olajuwon, Sam Perkins, etc. And [then-Sixers owner] Harold [Katz] loved Charles Barkley. But the story before that was we had the No. 1 pick from the Clippers and a week or 10 days before that — Bill Fitch was the coach of Houston and the reason you have the lottery today is because of this — they dumped every game, which allowed them to get Olajuwon. So Charles, you might not have been sitting here if they didn't dump those games. We might have had Olajuwon or Michael Jordan here.

The next person to speak was current Sixers head coach Brett Brown, who has plenty of experience with … well ...

I can't believe that Coach Fitch dumped games to get high draft picks. Can you believe that, somebody, to get high draft picks, dumping games? I don't know what you're talking about.

After the laughter quieted down, Brown spoke frankly about Barkley’s legacy. Brown mentioned Barkley’s impact on his current team as it came out the other side of The Process.

While the idea of the Sixers getting to draft Jordan or Olajuwon would’ve been incredible, who knows if their careers would’ve wound up the same. Barkley landed in Philly and there may not have been a better place for him or a better player for the city of Philadelphia.

Barkley was fearless, both on and off the court. He never backed down from a challenge on the floor and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind off it. 

Fierce competitor — the attitude he played with, the hustle, it screamed out Philly. It is Philly,” Sixers general manager Elton Brand said. “And your DNA is still currently in this team today. When I'm thinking of team building, I'm thinking of heart. Players that don't back down, that are fierce. A player that's going to be selfless and try to win. So when I pursue a championship this season, you're still here — your DNA is still in this organization and in this current team.

Paul Hudrick

Brand, like Barkley, was considered undersized for the power forward position at 6-foot-8. All Brand did was get drafted No. 1 overall, win Rookie of the Year, become a two-time All-Star and have a 17-year career. At 6-foot-6, Barkley became a Hall of Famer and was one of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game.

All of that started for Barkley in Philly as he played alongside Julius Erving and Moses Malone. Barkley credits Malone with helping mentor him and forcing the man affectionately known as the Round Mound of Rebound to lose weight. 

Barkley’s hope is that the Sixers are doing that now with holding Joel Embiid accountable for his health. He also hopes that people in the organization are doing that for Ben Simmons, who Barkley said is "going to be one of the best to ever do it" if he improves his shot the way he saw Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan did.

Barkley still loves his former team and believes they’re a legitimate championship contender with their two young All-Stars leading the way.

The Sixers have everything. I put a lot of faith in Ben and Joel. Listen, let's be realistic, and you guys know this — the Sixers were probably a bounce of the basketball from being the champs last year. … Now, they're on everybody's radar. Joel was crying after the game, which let me know, hey, we all cry after games like that. But now I gotta get better. I love the addition of Al Horford. I love the addition of Josh Richardson. The Sixers got everything in place. Everything in place.

Part of the foundation Brand and Brown have built is based on the rich history of the franchise. Sure, other teams may have more titles but what the Sixers have is nothing to gloss over. This is the franchise of Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Cunningham, Dr. J, Moses, Maurice Cheeks, Jones, Barkley and Allen Iverson.

None of that is lost on Brown.

The statues that you see, I use often with our players to have a look at what you pass as you enter our practice facility. To be able to come into our practice facility and look up and see the banners that this organization has had the privilege of calling a 76er is truly breathtaking for me. Some of the people in the room — Doc's not here, Wilt has passed, A.I. — you can keep going. You go to many programs and you're just not having that history right in front of you. We appreciate, maybe more than you know, your legacy and what your brought to this organization.

Barkley talked about how all of the coaches and players that helped him from the projects in Leeds, Alabama, all the way to Houston, deserve credit.

Your life isn't just about you. Every player, coach from Leeds High School, Auburn, eight years with the 76ers, four years with Phoenix, four years in Houston — every coach and player I've ever played with gets a little piece of this sculpture.

And with Barkley’s legacy still present with the Sixers, a piece of a championship would be his as well.

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2020 NBA draft profile: Tre Jones is a stellar defender who could fit well on the Sixers

2020 NBA draft profile: Tre Jones is a stellar defender who could fit well on the Sixers

Tre Jones

Position: Point guard
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 185 pounds 
School: Duke

Looking at the 2020 NBA draft prospects, there might not be a player that has been more closely scrutinized than Tre Jones. Such is life when you’re the point guard at Duke.

A look at Jones’ two years in Durham is a study in contrasts. In his first season, he played Ringo in a Fab Four freshman class that included Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish. (Apologies to Joey Baker for not being included in that group.) Oftentimes, Jones would defer to his more prominent teammates to the point of disappearing offensively in games.

Jones was the lone member of that unit to return to school for a sophomore season. The Minnesota native emerged as the team’s leader and most complete player en route to earning ACC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors. Only Shane Battier and Malcolm Brogdon have accomplished that double this century.

But how does Jones’ game translate to the NBA? Let’s examine his strengths and weaknesses:

Strengths 

Excellent defender: Jones earned that Defensive Player of the Tear award on merit. The best example of his prowess on defense came in his last college game, a 13-point win over rival North Carolina. In that contest, Jones placed the clamps on likely lottery pick Cole Anthony. The UNC star scored just 9 points on 4 of 14 shooting while adding only three assists in 39 minutes. 

You can count the number of on-ball defenders who were better than Jones in the NCAA last season on one hand. That said, the 6-foot-3 guard will have to continue to develop strength if he’s going to disrupt NBA-caliber point guards on a consistent basis.

Embraces the moment: As mentioned above, the affable Jones willingly played facilitator in his freshman season. But in his second season, Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils counted on Jones to take the team’s big shots. Obviously, one could point to the game-tying buzzer beater in Duke’s other game with North Carolina last season as evidence of that. But there were countless times in 2020 when Jones read the moment and made a play when his team needed it.

Jones will not be a primary offensive option in the NBA, but his defense has the opportunity to keep him on the floor at the end of games. He won’t be afraid to take and make big shots in those instances.

Weaknesses 

Shooting: Tre is actually the second Jones to make his way through Duke in recent years. His brother Tyus, you may recall, starred for the 2015 national champions alongside Jahlil Okafor. Tyus displayed a great deal of offensive weapons in his lone season at Duke. The younger Jones is slightly more limited on the offensive side of the ball, specifically when comparing the two as shooters.

Tre shot over 42 percent from the field as a sophomore, a tick up from his freshman campaign. But where he really improved was as a three-point shooter, going from 26.2 point to 36.1 percent. Jones will need to continue to improve that part of his game, because NBA coaches are going to help off him initially and force him to hit open shots.

To his credit, Jones is a good free throw shooter (over 75 percent from the foul line in both seasons at Duke), and he gets better in that department late in games.

Ball handling:  A willing passer and good decision maker, Jones is the type of player you want to play alongside. But he’s not a point guard that can get anywhere he wants off the dribble. He’ll need screens in order to consistently get into the paint as an NBA player. 

His handle is also a little loose for a player of his size. That didn’t cost him much in college, but it will be a different story next season.

Fit 

Chances are that Jones will likely fall to the bottom part of the draft’s first round, and that might be a blessing in disguise for the 20-year old. He’ll never be the type of player that can change a franchise. But Jones has the potential to be a fit for a good team like the Sixers, initially as an eighth or ninth man. One could see Jones providing capable defense while taking some minutes as a lead ball handler when Ben Simmons needs a rest. He’d also provide the potential for giving the Sixers a ridiculous shutdown lineup of Jones, Simmons, Matisse Thybulle, Joel Embiid and any other player you’d like.

In a best-case scenario, the Duke star becomes Kyle Lowry, a tenacious defender that runs his team and does enough offensively to be a factor. But if he doesn’t become a better offensive player, he might be relegated to NBA journeyman. I’d bet Jones ends up as a solid contributor to playoff teams for the better part of the next decade.

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Sixers Home School: The 1966-67 Sixers were one of the best NBA teams ever

Sixers Home School: The 1966-67 Sixers were one of the best NBA teams ever

From 1959-1969, the Boston Celtics won 10 of 11 NBA titles. The one year Boston didn't win was 1967, when the Sixers ran roughshod over the entire league, including the Celtics. That 1966-67 Sixers team went 68-13 in the regular season, which remains one of the top five regular-season records in NBA history.

You probably know some of the names from that team. Wilt Chamberlain, obviously. Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham, Chet Walker — all Hall of Famers.  What's great about this video, which is essentially a video yearbook of that 1966-67 team, is that you really get to understand the skill sets of those players and what made the team so dominant. It's also a time capsule. The shots of fans in suits and dresses inside the old Convention Hall really drive home that you're in a completely different era. (The Spectrum would open the following season.)

At the 1:55 mark, head coach Alex Hannum breaks down what each player brought to the team while you see video of those players. By the time he's done, you understand that Greer was a great mid-range jump shooter and that Luke Jackson and Chamberlain gave that team a "Twin Towers" look in the paint. It's a fascinating breakdown of what each player brought to the table and how the pieces fit together.

The real fun begins at 6:04, with a look at the Eastern Division Finals series against the Celtics. You get to see Chamberlain tangle with Bill Russell, and his combination of size, athleticism and skill just jumps off the screen. He averaged 21 points, 32 rebounds and 10 assists for the series. The absurdity of those numbers begins to make sense when you watch him do it. It’s impossible to watch the video and not believe that Chamberlain would have been a star in any era.

You also have to put into perspective what you’re watching as the Sixers overwhelmed the Celtics 4-1 in that series, including a 140-116 beatdown in Game 5 in Philadelphia. The Celtics were the eight-time defending champions. Russell had thwarted Chamberlain’s championship aspirations at every turn. But in 1967, the Celtics were a mere speed bump on the Sixers' road to a title.

At 16:47, you see Sixers fans holding a banner that says “Boston Is Dead” and you can feel the magnitude of that moment. At 18:21, you hear Chamberlain, Walker, Cunningham and others describe their feelings on finally vanquishing the Celtics as you watch the pure joy of the champagne celebration in the locker room.

The Sixers still had to finish the job, and the Finals series against the San Francisco Warriors begins at the 20:25 mark. You see the Sixers clinch the championship on the road in San Francisco before returning home to cheering fans at the airport.

The video begins and ends with a song from that era celebrating the 1966-67 Sixers. Here’s the chorus:

There's Hal and Larry, Matt and Bill and Wali Jones to pass it.

Luke and Billy, Chet and Dave and Wilt to guard the basket.

Those are names Sixers fans should know from what remains one of the greatest teams in NBA history.

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