Sixers assistant athletic trainer Pascual Guerrero discusses superstitious players, flying toenails

Image courtesy of Pascual Guerrero

Sixers assistant athletic trainer Pascual Guerrero discusses superstitious players, flying toenails

As National Athletic Training Month comes to a close, we got to know Sixers assistant athletic trainer and physical therapist Pascual Guerrero, who’s been with the organization since November 2016.

Guerrero received his BS/MS in athletic training and sports science from Long Island University, graduating in 2009, but started his career in the NFL as an intern for the Detroit Lions, where he spent two summers. As Guerrero saw the way that his field was evolving, he continued his education at Stony Brook University, receiving his doctorate in physical therapy.

Guerrero also went on to intern for the New York Knicks before landing a job in Major League Soccer, where he worked for two seasons.

From taping ankles to drawing ice baths to tracking practice participation and injuries, there’s no days off when you’re a part of an NBA training staff, and there’s no place he’d rather be.  

Here is our Q&A:

When someone asks you what your job entails, what do you tell them?

“So, we're not just ankle tapers … whether it’s pregame, postgame, pre and post-practice, we are working on the players’ bodies, taking them through activation exercises to get their body ready to play basketball, stretching them out as part of their cool down. It’s hydration (getting bottles of water ready), making ice bags, making ice foot baths.

“Home teams also take care of the referees, so that's another one of my duties, is checking in on the refs and making sure they are all sorted with pre and postgame needs.

“But it’s also helping out with bags and luggage on road trips. For example, waiting for our luggage truck to arrive in every city, and getting everything ready in our designated treatment room)

“There are administrative duties, too. For example, the NBA has an electronic medical record system, which we use to track things from practice participation to game participation and logging injuries. 

“We keep stock of inventory, whether it’s tape, medications, braces, rehab equipment, you name it. There is no limit to what we get for the players. I mean, anything, even earwax removal Q-tips …”

(As Guerrero and I continued our conversation, there were several other duties that started to come up, like arm sleeves. Did you know that the arm sleeves players wear during a game all have to be color-coordinated? No player can wear a different colored arm sleeve than another player. Guerrero says Tobias Harris has been the primary go-to for choosing the arm sleeve colors for particular games this season.) 

“I’ll generally have a feel for what [arm sleeve] they prefer given the jersey color. But sometimes they flip it on me, right before the pregame meeting, and it's a scramble to get them all together!”

(Image courtesy of Pascual Guerrero) 

Because you mentioned the ankle taping — how many rolls of tape do you go through?

“We go through anywhere from 24 to 28 rolls of tape in any given pregame, either at home or on the road, and that’s just of one kind of tape, not counting all of the other adjunct tapes that we use.”

And what about during the actual game? Sometimes I’ve seen you (but usually head athletic trainer Kevin Johnson) running a clipboard out to head coach Brett Brown? 

“You will see a lot of the head athletic trainers carry a little notepad with them, and they're taking notes, or you see them talk to the assistant coaches. What they are doing is keeping track of timeouts and fouls during the game. It’s kind of like another quick checks and balances system, so that when a coach asks about when the next timeout is, or how many fouls do we have, etc., we can get the information out quickly to him.

“During the game, I'm usually in the tunnel, managing the bench for whatever they need — maybe it’s a hot pack or ice pack — or if the visiting team needs something, whether it’s a doctor or assistance with getting imaging done at the arena, I’m there, ready to help.”

Favorite part about your job?

“The day-to-day interaction with the guys. We see them day in and day out, we spend so much time with them, and even with our fellow colleagues in the athlete care department. It's one big family. And the thing is, we go through things together. Obviously everyone experiences the ups and downs of the season differently, but at the end of the day, we always have to remember that we're here for those 16-17 guys on the roster.

"As long as they are taken care of, in any which way that that might be, from a nice little quick banter in the morning in the athletic training room, or when you’re rehabbing someone back from an injury, getting them over that hump. It's that connection and that interaction with the players that, for me, makes it all worth it.

“And the physical nature of it, being able to get my hands on somebody and take them through a process where they are in pain and helping them realize that they’re either able to move in a very safe way, or that you're there to comfort them and help them get through that period to assure them that everything will return back to what it was. Being able to help them through that.”

Do you have off days?

“Nope. We break days into two categories — game days and non-game days — and there’s always work to be done.”

What do you think one of the biggest misconceptions about your job is?

“I’m taking this back to my athletic training program director … we are not “trainers” — the term is certified athletic trainer. We are athletic trainers. We're not personal trainers, even though we do have knowledge in strength training and conditioning players, and we do apply that in conjunction and in collaboration with our performance staff.”

Are guys particular with how they get taped or what they do before games?

“They are. Some guys don't like a lot of tape, some guys wear braces. Certain guys like to get taped at a certain time on the clock and they are very religious about their routine, even to the point where they prefer a certain table in the athletic training room at the Wells Fargo Center, and it's understood that if they show up in the room at a certain time and their table is taken by a rookie ... let’s just say it better be cleared in a heartbeat!

“One former Sixer preferred the left side table, but he had to shift to the opposite side of the room for a particular game. Well, he had such a horrible game that he literally came in the next time and was like, ‘That is my table.’ Done deal. So, no matter what, that table was always ready for him.

“And even with this team, certain guys are very particular about which tables they use. Some guys prefer to get taped and then get treatment and vice versa. Everyone's different, and when you get a batch of new guys, whether it be via trade or signings at the start of the year, it's like learning a whole new routine.”

Do you have a favorite memory with the Sixers?

“One of the neatest ones for my family was on Sixers family day, and the first year that my parents attended, Joel [Embiid] said hello to my parents and took a picture with them. I’ll never forget, because there's this picture of my mom, and I think I took it right before she actually started to smile, but Jo has his hand on her and she has a hand on his and you literally just see her, at 4-foot-9, smiling at him.”

(Image courtesy of Pascual Guerrero)

Biggest piece of advice for someone looking to do what you do?

“My biggest piece of advice is get your feet wet, getting yourself out there and just applying and getting to know people. Networking. I was fortunate enough that I was able to get an internship in the NFL early on, as an undergraduate, and just made the most of it.

“During my first internship year at the Knicks, I checked in with the visiting team — it just so happened to be the Sixers. I introduced myself to the head athletic trainer, Kevin Johnson, who, in case you didn’t know, is still here! It just so happened that my previous boss at the Detroit Lions was a good friend of KJ’s. I am thankful for those early connections, which helped pave the way to now work alongside KJ, one of the most accomplished athletic trainers in the league today.

“And volunteering. I made it a habit to take advantage of any opportunity that came my way.

“That’s the wonderful thing about this profession, is that it allows you to work across many different settings. It's not just basketball. It's not just professional sports. I’ve treated anyone from your high school kid, helping them get back to the pitch or baseball field, to your elderly grandmother who had a hip replacement or a knee replacement and just wanted to be able to walk up and down her stairs without a problem. Different motivations, but it's still the same.”

Do you have a funny story you can leave us with?

“Well, KJ cuts the players’ toenails. He started it as a safety procedure, because apparently some of the guys cut themselves pretty bad. (It's well known that people go to KJ for anything foot-related). Jo was on the taping table. KJ’s cutting his big toenail and these things are flying left and right. I'm literally talking and KJ cuts a toenail and that thing flew and hit me right here (points finger to the left side of his mouth) and Jo was laughing, dying, cracking up.”

That must’ve been a giant toenail …

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Ever wonder why Allen Iverson is called 'The Answer'?

Ever wonder why Allen Iverson is called 'The Answer'?

Some might have called him “Bubba Chuck.” Others simply “A.I.”

But the nickname that stands out above all others when talking about Allen Iverson is “The Answer.”

Ever wonder how Iverson got the nickname? The origins are still a bit unclear.

We all know Iverson for his signature cornrows and tattoos, but when Iverson arrived in Philadelphia, he had one tattoo: A bulldog with “The Answer” written above it. Iverson’s original sneaker with Reebok was called “The Question.” Each subsequent sneaker was called “The Answer.”

In 2003, Iverson was actually sued over the use of the nickname by Jamil Blackmon, a family friend from Virginia. Blackmon claimed that he gave Iverson the nickname in 1994 and the two had reached an agreement on Blackmon’s pay out for any money the nickname netted Iverson.

Putting together the pieces, the answer may be as simple as Iverson being “The Answer” to the Sixers’ and NBA’s problems.

For more on Iverson’s nickname and why play-by-play announcer Marc Zumoff never called him it, check out the video above.

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2020 NBA mock draft: Trading up for Kira Lewis Jr. in this Sixers-only mock draft

2020 NBA mock draft: Trading up for Kira Lewis Jr. in this Sixers-only mock draft

It looks like we’ll be waiting a while for the NBA draft, which was originally scheduled for June 25. The New York Times' Marc Stein reported that some teams now expect the draft to be held in September. For the time being, we’ll continue to consider possibilities for the Sixers, who would have picks No. 22, 34, 36, 49 and 59.

In this Sixers-only mock draft, the team moves up in the first round to take a point guard and selects a combo guard early in the second. 

16. TRADE — Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama 

We have the Sixers trading No. 22 and 34 to the Timberwolves for No. 16. With Lewis, it feels obligatory to list his sophomore averages: 18.5 points, 5.2 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals. Those per game stats are slightly inflated because he played 37.6 minutes a night, but they’re impressive nonetheless.

The Sixers might think about Lewis as a trade-up option primarily because of his ability as a shot creator. While he sometimes played a loose style at Alabama, turning it over 3.5 times per contest last season, he has a natural talent for sizing up a defender and blowing past him. He is extremely fast, which makes him a threat in the open court and also means he doesn’t need to gain a tremendous edge on his man with a dribble move to beat him — a sliver of space is often enough. 

When he gets into the paint, however, Lewis isn’t the most reliable finisher. At 6-foot-3, 165 pounds, his size makes life more difficult for him around the rim. His weight is likely a larger concern defensively, although Lewis is capable of working over ball screens — something he’d be asked to do often in the Sixers’ scheme — and his speed is an asset when he’s trailing the play or jolting into a passing lane.

Lewis’ shooting numbers are positive, too — 36.6 percent from three-point range and 80.2 percent from the foul line — though he has a low release point he might have to tweak for the NBA. He just turned 19 years old in April and will need to add muscle, but with Lewis’ college production, it’s not as if the Sixers would be banking purely on potential.

36. (via New York) — Jared Butler, G, Baylor 

Butler’s game matches the Sixers’ needs well. He’s an advanced ball handler, full of behind-the-back, between-the-legs and spin moves, and confident in the pick-and-roll. While he’d be undersized for an NBA shooting guard at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Butler is dangerous both on and off the ball. He hit 38.1 percent of his three-point attempts this season on 6.7 attempts per game. 

In the NBA, it’ll be interesting to see if Butler is able to guard multiple positions effectively. He has a sturdy build, is a good lateral mover and had 2.2 steals per 40 minutes for a Baylor team that finished 26-4, all of which is encouraging. 

TRADE — No. 49 for Memphis’ 2021-second round pick and cash considerations 

The Sixers have been very willing to sell second-round picks in recent years, and with the team projected to be in the luxury tax, it would not be remotely shocking if they did it again. In this deal, they’re at least getting back a future pick in addition to the cash. 

59. (via Lakers) — Killian Tillie, C, Gonzaga 

Tillie endured a slew of injuries at Gonzaga, which is one reason he might be available this late in the draft. The 6-foot-10 Frenchman has a lot of skill for his size and shot 44.4 percent from three-point range in college. He has real stretch four/stretch five potential in the NBA, especially with his ability as a passer. 

For the Sixers, his diverse skill set would have to be intriguing here. They don’t have any young backup big men on the roster, and Tillie has the tools to be a productive rotation player — if he stays healthy. That caveat would be worth accepting with the 59th pick. 

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