Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Toney’

Caldwell Jones, 64, stood tall, quiet

In an oil painting, he’d have been part of the background scenery. As part of a comedy team, he’d have been the straight man who set up the other guy for the jokes and applause.

Caldwell Jones looks on during a 76ers game played in 1977.

Caldwell Jones looks on during a 76ers game played in 1977.

Caldwell Jones spent most of his 17 seasons in the ABA and NBA out of the spotlight reserved for the superstars, but always in the middle of the dirty work that needed to be done.

The 64-year-old center, one of four Jones brothers — along with Wil, Major and Charles — to play in the NBA, has died of a heart attack.

He was tall (6-foot-11) and spindly and often looked like he’d been constructed out of pipe cleaners twisted together. He’d occasionally take the court wearing a rubber cushion to protect a sore elbow, two big knee pads and one high-top and one low-cut shoe to deal with foot injuries and then just go about his business against the bigger, bulkier big men in the game.

It took him 1,227 games in both leagues to cross the 10,000-point plateau, never averaging double figures. But scoring and getting headlines weren’t as important to Jones as doing what was necessary.

I first met him when he was probably the least-known member of the flamboyant 76ers team with Julius Erving, Doug Collins, Darryl Dawkins and World B. Free, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant in the late 1970s and early 1980s and Jones was content to be a defensive tentpole that quietly held things up in the middle.

“Everybody likes to look at the glory part of the game, the scoring points,” he once said. “But there is a lot more to the game. I look at myself like an offensive lineman. Someone has to open the holes for the 1,000-yard rushers.”

He loved to watch old Westerns (Lash LaRue, Cisco Kid) and cartoons (Woody Woodpecker, the Flintstones) and had a laugh that was as genuine and down-to-earth as the hardscrabble roots in McGehee, Ark., that produced the Jones clan.

He ate chili dogs for breakfast, chugged beers in the locker room after a hard night’s work and when Oregonian reporter Dwight Jaynes once asked him to name his favorite seafood, replied: “Salt water taffy.”

Jones was always self-deprecating about his own talents.

“You know how you stop Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?” he once told me. “You push him and you push him and you push and you push him. And then you hope he just steps out of bounds.”

In the prime of his career, Jones was a mentor to the likes of young Sixers guards Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney, teaching them what it took to be a professional. In his final NBA season, he was still showing those ropes to a rookie named David Robinson in San Antonio.

After six seasons in Philadelphia, battling alongside Dr. J for Eastern Conference supremacy, but never winning a championship, Jones was traded to Houston for Moses Malone in 1982 and the Sixers won it all the next season while the Rockets finished 14-68.

I had moved to Houston myself about six months before the trade and Rockets equipment manager David Nordstrom asked me what he could do to make Jones feel welcome. I told him that a bucket filled with ice and a six-pack in front of his locker after every game would go a long way.

On the night Jones played his first game in Houston, I walked through the door just as C.J. was twisting the top off a bottle. He pointed it at me.

“They don’t guarantee what uniform you’re always gonna wear in this league” he said. “But they pay me very well to come to work and do a job.”

McHale To Parsons And A Big Bounce

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HOUSTON – This is why Chandler Parsons plays basketball. It’s really why they all play the game.

To have fun.

And there are few things more fun on the court than playing without pressure, without a care, without fear of missing a shot or making a play and with a sense that it’s just your time.

“We’re fully confident that we’re gonna win tomorrow and that we’re gonna take the series,” Parsons said matter-of-factly on Thursday as he stood outside the locker room at the Toyota Center, his eyes dancing, almost bright enough to light the entire hallway.

It wasn’t a boast. It wasn’t intended to demean anyone in an Oklahoma City uniform.

It’s just the feeling that occurs when it seems that everything has suddenly turned your way. Maybe based on the last two games, it has.

History books and the oddsmakers will still tell you that Kevin Durant and the Thunder are the logical favorites to advance.

But sometimes logic doesn’t have any place in these crazy games.

It was a different team, a different time, a different Kevin McHale.


The Celtics had made one slice into what seemed like the 76ers’ insurmountable lead in the 1981 Eastern Conference finals and were going into Game 6 with a chance to tie the series.

“They better win this one, because they know damn well they’re not going to win Game 7,” said the brash 23-year-old rookie power forward.

Boston won Game 6 by two points and then finished off Philly in Game 7 by one.

So now it is 32 years later, coincidentally the uniform number that he wore on his jersey through a Hall of Fame career, and the coach McHale is approaching another Game 6 crossroad with his Rockets against the Thunder Friday night.

But in a different role.

“I was playing and had a lot more confidence back then,” McHale said. “Hey, if it was 1981 and I was still playing this series, I would say the same thing.”

Because you can’t win if you don’t believe and after the Rockets stuck a sock in the mouth of Loud City in Game 5, there is no shortage of faith.

It’s the dynamic of how a series can sometimes work. You can feel the shift, the surge of energy on one side, the planting of doubt on the other.

There were the No. 1 seed Thunder so helpless, so unable to do anything to slow down the No. 8 seed Rockets on Wednesday night that coach Scott Brooks reached into his first aid kit to find a tourniquet and the best he could do was to hack Rockets center Omer Asik and try to stop the flow.

But as happens sometimes on these occasions, the flow was like a wave that might be growing into a tsunami. Asik, a 56 percent free throw shooter, stepped up to the line to stick 8-for-11 free throws in the final six minutes and now here is OKC perhaps feeling the air getting a little thinner and the collars a bit tighter.

The last thing in the world the Thunder need is an all-or-nothing Game 7 on Sunday and all the Rockets want is a chance to walk about onto that court in OKC.

Francisco Garcia, Patrick Beverley and Parsons took turns grinning and talking about having fun. That’s not likely a word that’s been tossed around in OKC much over the past few days.

“We’re growing up every game,” Parsons said. “Every day we’re going through this process together and it can only get better from here.

“We got something really special going on right now and I think the world is starting to see it, because we didn’t get as much attention as we think we deserved during the regular season. But now the lights are on and we’re playing well and we’re really shocking people.”

The Rockets aren’t jolting anybody more than the Thunder, who figured to have a much tougher road to the NBA Finals without Russell Westbrook, but not a slog just to escape the first round of the playoffs.

Now suddenly the heavily favored Thunder are walking around as if there’s a boulder on the their backs, while the Rockets are skipping around the schoolyard.

They are a reflecting of their head coach, a personality and ethic forged on the Iron Range of Minnesota, where you work hard and never take anything too seriously. That’s why a skinny kid from Hibbing could lay down the gantlet to Dr. J, Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney and the mighty Sixers back in 1981. That’s why a 55-year-old coach can keep pushing and molding and instilling a sense of anything’s possible even in a season when he’s suffered the unspeakable anguish of losing a daughter.

“He’s been awesome,” Parsons said. “He’ll tell you all about his experiences when he was playing. Having a coach that’s been through it, that’s been in the same situation we’re in right now really helps us and gives us that comforting feeling that he knows what he’s talking about.

“I know it’s a serious time and we’re all focused, but he makes you feel comfortable and it’s fun to be around a guy like that instead of being uptight and yelling. He does that, too, but he’s such a nice dude.”

Thirty-two years later, McHale limps around the sidelines like an arthritic crab and is a bit more circumspect with his words.

“I could talk that way,” he said laughing, “when I was young and bouncy.”

That’s a big bounce in Chandler Parsons’ step, which is why the game has never been more fun for the Rockets and why the Thunder should be worried.

Series hub: Thunder vs. Rockets

Sixers Taking No Risks With Holiday

HOUSTON – The Sixers definitely could have used Jrue Holiday in their lineup Wednesday. Especially when Evan Turner limped off the floor in the third quarter of a 125-103 loss, their worst of the season.

But even with their quick start to the season currently in free-fall with five defeats in a row, it was an easy decision to keep the budding young star Holiday under wraps, at least for one more night. Holiday, who averages a team-best 18.4 ppg and 8.9 apg, sat out his fourth game in a row with a sprained left foot.

“He’s 22 years old,” coach Doug Collins said. “We have a huge investment in him. We’ve just signed him to a long-term deal and there’s no way in the world right now we’re going to be short-term foolish. It just makes no sense.”

Not when the first third of the Sixers’ season has been played in limbo waiting on Andrew Bynum‘s ailing knees. The 7-foot center is scheduled to have an MRI and get another update today.

Though there is no indication at this point that Holiday’s problem is serious or has long-term implications, if any team should be wary, it is the Sixers. Through their history, Philadelphia has seen the careers of All-Stars Andrew Toney and Collins, himself, shortened by foot injuries.

“I don’t think this is an injury that you would say is chronic unless you tried to do it too soon,” the coach said. “The one thing I’ve always gone on … people questioned whether I was hurt. My father had just died. They couldn’t find anything on an x-ray, it was all in my head. And I had stress fractures in both of my feet.

“So when a player tells me he’s hurt, he’s hurt. I will never ever question that. To me, when a guy’s ready to go, he’ll go. I know Jrue wants to go more than anybody.”

The situation is made worse by Turner’s injury and that rookie Maalik Wayns, getting his first start of the season, hurt his right foot and played just 14 minutes. Backup guard Royal Ivey got a DNP-CD in Houston and has seen his minutes seriously curtailed since early in the season. The Sixers are also in grueling stretch of the schedule where they’re playing 10 of 11 games away from home.

Collins said after Wednesday night’s thumping by the Rockets that Holiday could return on Friday night against Atlanta.

“It is tricky,” Holiday told Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News. “I feel like we could win a lot of games and I could help my team and, obviously, that’s a lot of pressure to put on me to come back. At the same time, I think I just want to be able to play basketball and walk and run and jump and all that stuff you have to do to be able to compete. I’m going to try and get back as quick as possible.”

High Pick, Hard Luck

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The yellow brick NBA road is littered with names of should-have-been legends that never got the chance to realize their potential due to injury.

It’s a cruel-but-timeless tradition, whereby a supremely talented individual sees his career either curtailed or ended altogether due to an injury that no one planned on.

We’ve already seen Greg Oden‘s season end due to a recurring injury (knee). And then there’s yesterday’s news that Yao Ming (ankle) would join him in the street-clothes brigade for the foreseeable future (he is technically out “indefinitely,” but you don’t need a translator to know his season is over).

This Yao development generated an interesting discussion here at the hideout pertaining to high picks who have had their careers derailed by injuries. In the interest of the here and now, we’ll leave yesteryear alone and excuse elders like Bernard King, Bill Walton, Sam Bowie and Ralph Sampson and HT All-Time fave Andrew Toney, just to name a few.

We’ll even excuse more recent stars like Penny Hardaway, a legend in the making before injuries robbed him of his best years.

We’re going to go with just the top 10 injury-curtailed/derailed careers since the 2000 NBA draft, based on draft position: