76ers

Scott Williams reflects on different side of Michael Jordan

Scott Williams reflects on different side of Michael Jordan

“The Last Dance” documentary is over and now we all await the day that NBA basketball can be played again.

In the meantime, reminiscing is all we’ve got. With that in mind, there’s one former player that’s uniquely qualified to speak about Michael Jordan and the Bulls’ first three-peat as well as Allen Iverson and the dark days of the Sixers.

Scott Williams, a guest on the Sixers Talk podcast Monday, spent 15 seasons in the NBA — four with Chicago and parts of five in Philadelphia. He was a rookie during Jordan’s first title run, and he was on the floor when Iverson crossed over the living legend.

In fact, if it wasn’t for Jordan, Williams might not have had an NBA career. Jordan invited Williams, who went undrafted after four seasons at North Carolina, to a scrimmage with NBA pros like Charles Oakley and Rod Higgins. 

It was at that scrimmage that Williams earned himself a longer NBA look.

We find ourselves down one late in the game, I’ve got the ball in my hands — I believe it was off an offensive rebound because they really didn’t throw the young college kid the ball very much — and fire one of these textbook, two-hand chest passes that Dean Smith taught me right over to M.J., who’s on the baseline about 19-20 feet out and he goes up, tongue out of his mouth, patented Jordan form on the jumper, right up over the defender and cans the bucket for the win. So he’s the one that makes a call to Jerry Krause leaving that game saying, ‘Hey, I think Scott Williams might be able to help us out.’ …

“I always say I am the luckiest undrafted player in the history of the NBA, if there is such a thing.

Williams was there for the Bulls’ first three-peat and was the only rookie on that 1990-91 team. Because of that, players like Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant rode him hard.

While Williams was on the wrong end of Jordan’s competitive wrath a time or two, he doesn't share the same views as some of his former teammates. Jordan had yet to earn a championship when Williams first arrived in Chicago, and his drive was at an unparalleled level.

Williams didn’t see it as Jordan being a bully. He saw it as a guy that wanted to win at any cost.

One thing I will say is, Jud Buechler had kind of a big thing where he said, ‘Guys were afraid of Michael Jordan.’ Well, I don’t think I was afraid of Michael Jordan. I loved being his teammate. He was hard on me — not the way he was hard on Scott Burrell, but he was hard on me being a Carolina guy. …”

“That was one side of him. He’d get on you. I remember having a holey sweater one day and he said, ‘I could play 18 holes on your sweater. Nine holes on the front, nine holes on the back.’ Just embarrass you in front of the team and stuff like that. But that was M.J. The same cat would call me up my first year in the league and say, ‘Hey Scottie, Juanita’s cooking dinner. Come on over. … We’re gonna break some bread, have a few beers. Watch the basketball game on TV and shoot pool.’ So that was the other side of it. … There was a double-edged sword to that, and everyone’s got their own little stories.

There was one portion of the documentary about card games taking place on the team plane. While Jordan and a few others were playing high-stakes hands in the back, a few of the other guys were playing for a few bucks in the front. 

Every once in a while, Jordan would sneak up front. It was said that Jordan was so competitive, he wanted to take everyone’s money, no matter how small the amount.

As an undrafted player that wasn’t making much, Williams was with the guys in the front. While he conceded that Jordan did enjoy the notion of taking other guy’s money, it was about more than that.

He didn’t have to come up here and start playing with us. Yeah, he maybe wanted to take a few bucks off you so he could have some bragging rights on the bus ride to the hotel and what not, but I think he did it more from the standpoint of, ‘I want to be a part of what you guys have going on here, too.’

For more from Williams, listen to the latest edition of the Sixers Talk podcast below.

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2020 NBA draft profile: Payton Pritchard's elite ball handling, unlimited range should entice Sixers

2020 NBA draft profile: Payton Pritchard's elite ball handling, unlimited range should entice Sixers

Payton Pritchard

Position: PG
Height: 6-2
Weight: 190
School: Oregon

The NCAA Tournament being cancelled will likely affect several draft prospects. Oregon’s Payton Pritchard seems to be one of them. The senior guard led the Ducks to a 24-7 record and the team won the Pac-12 regular season title with a 13-5 mark. Pritchard leading a strong tourney run could’ve helped his draft stock.

As it stands, Pritchard’s resume is still pretty darn impressive. He was a consensus All-American in 2019-20 and won Pac-12 Player of the Year. He averaged 20.5. points, 5.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game in his final collegiate season.

Strengths

Pritchard has a reputation as a tireless worker and dogged competitor. As mentioned, he was the true leader of an Oregon team that had a chance to do serious damage in the NCAA Tournament. He excelled in a much larger scoring role his senior season.

He seems to have the ball on a string with advanced handling skills. His father told a reporter that his son practices dribbling “until his hands bleed.” While he’s not the most explosive guard, his ability to change speeds and understanding of when to do so is a huge asset.

He also has good vision and awareness. Despite a high usage rate, Pritchard’s turnover numbers didn’t grow exponentially. He averaged 4.6 assists and two turnovers a game during his time in Eugene.

Outside of a down season in 2018-19, Pritchard has proven to be an elite shooter. He’s fearless with unlimited range. This play against Washington in overtime got a much deserved “ONIONS!” call from Bill Raftery.

That game was sort of a microcosm of Pritchard. Oregon struggled against Washington’s zone for much of the game. Pritchard patiently picked his spots but took over at times when his team needed him to.

Despite being just 6-foot-2, Pritchard is solidly built and did flash potential as an off-ball defender with 1.5 steals a game. He’s also a solid rebounder for his height, which helps him be able to push the pace.

Weaknesses

The height will likely be an issue at the next level. He also doesn’t have long arms or the lateral quickness it would seem to take to defend NBA guards. It’s hard to gauge against the zone, but he may also struggle to battle through screens.

He’s not particularly athletic or explosive. Though his ball handling skills are excellent, he does struggle to turn the corner on quicker defenders. The lack of explosion also led to him struggling to finish against length at the rim.

While he has NBA skills, he does not possess a strong physical NBA profile.

Fit

As a player that can play with and back up Ben Simmons, Pritchard could be a decent fit. Pritchard's ability as a shooter and advanced ball handling would mesh well with Simmons' elite ability as a screener and roller. Simmons’ size and defensive prowess could help cover Pritchard’s deficiencies. 

While he took on a scoring role this season, Pritchard isn’t the type of player to force things. As a point guard that likes to push the ball up the floor, he could fit in well with the Sixers’ pace and space style.

Because of his lack of height and athleticism, he will likely be around for the Sixers in the middle of the second round. He seems worth a flyer there because of his steady improvement and work ethic. He's not the type of player you bet against despite his physical limitations.

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Joel Embiid's 'mentality just completely changed' after All-Star Game success

Joel Embiid's 'mentality just completely changed' after All-Star Game success

The coronavirus pandemic has altered our everyday lives. It’s caused many to self-reflect and find out new things about themselves.

So, what has Joel Embiid found out about himself with all this time on his hands while the NBA season is suspended?

“I’ve discovered that I’m not that good at video games,” Embiid said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Marc Zumoff.

The All-Star center, whose game of choice is still FIFA, went on to explain the evolution of his player in career mode. That’s not to say Embiid hasn’t been taking the situation in our world seriously. Embiid pledged to donate $500,000 to COVID-19 medical relief efforts back in March.

Even as the NBA appears to be closer to a return, Embiid is still emphasizing safety — though he misses playing in front of the Wells Fargo Center crowd.

“First of all, I want everybody to remain safe. I want to be safe,” Embiid said. “This is nothing to play with. You don’t know what can happen. But when the time is right and everything is safe and I can be on the court, I feel like what I’m going to be missing the most is just being out there, winning for the city of Philadelphia, representing the city of Philadelphia, and just going out there and dominating.”

The 26-year-old felt like he was turning a corner before the stoppage. He had two of his more dominant outings of the season after the All-Star break, including putting up a career-high 49 points against the Hawks.

It was an odd first half to the season, but outside of a shoulder injury that cost him five games, Embiid was looking more like his old self after the break.

“I feel like before the season got shut down, I was on that path,” Embiid said. “Especially after that All-Star Game, my mentality just completely changed. First part of the season, it wasn’t up to my standards — not even close. I was on that path to just changing all that and making it happen.”

Of course, what would an article about Joel Embiid be if health and fitness level weren’t mentioned? Embiid’s career has been mired by injuries. When he’s missed time, whether because of injury or load management, he’s admitted that he can get out of shape quickly. He hasn’t played a game since March 11.

GM Elton Brand said earlier this month that he “wouldn’t bet against” Embiid coming back ready to play. His head coach took it even a step further.

“Joel's always a topic. We get it,” Brett Brown said back on May 15. “The importance that he represents as being a complete parallel to can you win a championship or not, is real. I've had many conversations with Jo. I spoke with him 30 minutes ago, and he's got a real desire to be at a playing weight that equals his best since he's been in the league.”

No matter what the format looks like, the Sixers won’t have an easy road ahead if/when the NBA resumes play. It seems like they could meet the Celtics in the first round, a team that knocked the Sixers out of the playoffs in 2018.

Like anyone missing basketball, Embiid watched “The Last Dance” documentary. There are some parallels to be made as Embiid and Ben Simmons have had their share of disappointment in the postseason. Much like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did with the “Bad Boy” Pistons, the Sixers’ All-Star duo may have to overcome their playoff boogeymen in Boston and Toronto.

Embiid believes he can push his teammates the same way Jordan once did.

“I did watch it. It was interesting,” Embiid said. “I saw a lot of similarities and a lot of people have told me that. … I can also be that guy, I just need to keep putting in the work and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

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