Dan Feldman

76ers hire new assistant coach: Former 76ers head Jim O’Brien


How do the 76ers recreate the magic of their last winning 82-game season?

Hiring the coach who oversaw it.

Philadelphia is bringing back Jim O’Brien, who guided the 76ers to a 43-39 record in 2004-05, his lone season with them.

76ers release:

The Philadelphia 76ers announced today that the team has named Jim O’Brien and Kevin Young as Assistant Coaches, John Bryant and Alvin Williams as Player Development Coaches, John Townsend as Shooting Coach, Chris Babcock as Assistant Director of Player Development and Dr. Lance Pearson as Director of Applied Analytics.

In a related move, Eugene Burroughs, who spent the last two seasons as the Sixers’ shooting coach, has been promoted to Head Coach of the Delaware 87ers, the NBA Development League affiliate of the Sixers.

“We are excited to maintain a continuity of culture within the staff by promoting five very talented coaches from within our organization,” said Sixers Head Coach Brett Brown. “This commitment to growth and development is the foundation upon which we were also able to recruit three coaches with decades of expertise who will help move our program forward and fit seamlessly into our system.”

It’s a little weird for O’Brien to return to the 76ers in a lesser role, but at least his Philadelphia tenure doesn’t define him. O’Brien surrounded his stint with the 76ers by coaching the Celtics and Pacers. He’s also a Philadelphia native, which makes this a more comfortable fit.

O’Brien will replace Mike D’Antoni, who left for the Rockets, as Brown’s assistant with NBA assistant.

Oklahoma City mayor declares today Russell Westbrook Day

OKLAHOMA CITY - OCTOBER 29:  Mayor Mick Cornett addresses the crowd before the Milwaukee Bucks play the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Ford Center on October 29, 2008 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.   (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Oklahoma Hall of Fame inducted Kevin Durant last year, an honor many believed was designed to induce to re-sign with the Thunder.

If that was the intention, it failed. Durant bolted for the Warriors.

Let’s see how another civic honor works, this time for Russell Westbrook.

Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett:

Obviously, Cornett is honoring Westbrook for extending his contract with the Thunder.

But Westbrook will likely be a free agent in fewer than two years. Will the appreciation Oklahoma City has shown for him today make a difference then?

Kevin Durant says he’s happy for Russell Westbrook – and any player who does what he wants

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 16:  Kevin Durant #35 (R) of the Oklahoma City Thunder celebrates with Russell Westbrook #0 during the final moments of game one of the NBA Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on May 16, 2016 in Oakland, California. The Thunder defeated the Warriors 108-102. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Kevin Durant said he wasn’t ready to directly congratulate Russell Westbrook for signing a renegotiation-and-extension with the Thunder.

But Durant expressed broader well wishes.

Durant, via Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports:

“I’m happy to see any player in this league do whatever they want to do,” Durant said. “As long as he wasn’t pressured to do anything and felt like he did everything he wanted to do. And that’s how I feel about every player in this league. It’s good for him, man. It’s good for his family. It’s good for the people in Oklahoma City that love to watch him play and love to have him on their team.

“I got nothing but positive energy and vibes for everybody. I don’t have no beef with anybody or wish no ill will on anybody. So if he did what he wanted to do, that’s better. That’s great for him.”

This, barely veiled, is the argument for accepting Durant’s move to the Warriors.

Westbrook wanted to stay with Oklahoma City? Great.

Durant wanted to leave Oklahoma City? Great.

Players should have reasonable autonomy over their careers. It doesn’t matter how they exercise their collectively bargained rights. It matters just that can do so.

Durant is clearly still on the defensive, and he’s trying to fit Westbrook’s decision into his narrative.

Westbrook might spin it differently.

Really, both can be correct – but the first public battle between these former teammates is apparently over framing.

Russell Westbrook: ‘Loyalty is something I stand by’

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook is greeted by fans as he arrives for a news conference to announce that he has signed a contract extension with the Thunder, in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Why did Russell Westbrook sign a contract extension with the Thunder?

Because he’s fiercely loyal to Oklahoma City? Or because he got a raise of more than $8 million?

The answer matters little today. The Thunder locked up their superstar point guard, and they’ll try to win with him.

But, in two years, when Westbrook will likely opt out to become an unrestricted free agent, the answer matters greatly. Oklahoma City can offer greater raises and one more year than outside teams – based on the current system, which could change by then – but the per-season salary difference won’t be as drastic as it was now.


There is nowhere else I’d rather be than Oklahoma City.

You guys have basically kind of raised me. I’ve been here since I was 18, 19 years old. You guys did nothing but great things for me. Through the good and the bad, you guys supported me overall and through it all, and I appreciate it. Definitely, when I had an opportunity to be able to be loyal to you guys, that was the No. 1 option. And loyalty is something I stand by.

Asked more specifically whether he viewed this as a long-term commitment despite locking in through just 2018, Westbrook was vaguer:

My job is to be able to find somewhere that I want to be and want to play with a group of guys, and I figured this was the place where I wanted to be. Obviously, with the contracts and all the new CBA stuff, there’s different ways you can do that. But me, being able to have the opportunity to be able to extend and be here, that’s what I wanted to do, and I stand behind that.

This is why criticizing Kevin Durant for touting his loyalty is unfair. Durant was loyal to the Thunder until he left. He played hard, devoted himself to winning and developed his game. For Durant, loyalty didn’t mean never-ending commitment. It meant fully committing himself while on the team.

There’s a reason Westbrook didn’t answer the latter question by proclaiming he’d stay in Oklahoma City beyond his extension. He can’t know that.

Like Durant before him, Westbrook will assuredly throw himself into the challenges facing his team the next two years. But beyond that, nothing is set in stone.

Back to the original questions: Why did Russell Westbrook sign a contract extension with the Thunder? Because he’s fiercely loyal to Oklahoma City? Or because he got a raise of more than $8 million?

The answers probably lie between. The Thunder must determine which side carries more weight. That will go a long way in determining their best course from here.

Report: Russell Westbrook deleted Kevin Durant’s goodbye text

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, right, gestures after scoring as forward Kevin Durant stands by during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Thunder won 117-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

There’s clearly some bitterness between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Durant left for the Warriors, and Westbrook doubled down with the Thunder. There could be issues handling the split.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

In Westbrook’s world, Durant had been deleted like his old teammate’s text message saying goodbye on the way to Golden State.

Did Durant reach out in any other, more personal, ways? Did Westbrook respond before deleting the text?

This isn’t necessarily as harsh as it seems.

But it sure seems pretty darn harsh.