PORTLAND - While the start of an NBA basketball season is one that is filled with emotions for players, coaches and fans, sometimes reality rears its head and gives a whole new perspective as to what is important in life.
Sixers coach Doug Collins gave the team off on Christmas Eve so his players could enjoy the holiday as they were scheduled to fly to Portland on Christmas Day and practice there later that night. It was on the team's off day that guard Lou Williams found himself in a little bit of a mess.
While stopped in his car in Manayunk on Christmas Eve, Williams was approached by a man with a gun. The situation was deflated when the gunman recognized Williams and commended him for his work in the community. Williams said he treated the man to a meal at a local fast-food restaurant by giving him some money.
"A guy tried to rob me but decided not to because of whatever I do in the community," said Williams before the game last night. "He's a Lou Williams fan so he didn't rob me."
Williams said he was driving in his car when the man approached, knocked on the driver's window and had a gun drawn.
"There's crime everywhere," said Williams. "I was debating whether to pull off or help the guy. The gun was already out. He did all the talking and we came up with a solution before I could really say much. I treated him to McDonald's."
"It's a nice way to defuse something," said Collins, who pleaded ignorant to the event. "It could have been tragic to Lou. I've never been in that situation, but I can only imagine Lou's heart rate was probably racing at an all-time high. But it was nice that he could sort of cool the situation down a little bit. I'm proud of Lou."
As a player and a coach, Doug Collins has been involved in 18 season-opening games. He insisted last night that the feeling that takes over him isn't one of nerves, per se, but it is a strong feeling nonetheless.
"I think they're the same. Not as much nerve as angst and pensive," he said. "When you get older you use these bigger words. I think the anticipation because it's been a long time since our last game and just to see how the guys are going to respond. We had a good training camp and have done some good things.
"But we still haven't shown that we value the ball yet, and that's my biggest concern. And we have to defensive rebound the ball."
Though he won't be starting, at least for now, in his second season in the NBA, swingman Evan Turner is comfortable with his role as one of Collins' key players coming off the bench. Collins described his second unit of Turner, Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams as his second group of starters. Turner is all in.
"It's cool, it's just cool to have a season after having everything in limbo for so long," said Turner of the 149-day lockout. "I feel like we're prepared and ready to go.
"You have to look at the big picture. I'm just dealing with things and trying to help the team out. I know that it's not about me and that it's all about the team and getting wins and working hard and trying to benefit everyone else."
Collins has said that although Turner won't be on the floor for the start of the game, he envisions him being out there at the end, with the game on the line.
"When I got to the NBA, I learned to get used to things," said Turner. "You don't expect anything, you just go ahead and be blessed with what you've got. I'm just learning to adjust."
After doing some pushups and some of his own stretching in the locker room before the game, 36-year-old backup big man Tony Battie declared himself fit and ready, if and when coach Doug Collins calls his name.
"I'm good, ready to go, feeling good," said Battie. "If [Collins] calls my number, I'm ready. I'm not sure how he's going to use me, but it will probably be situational. A lot of times he will probably just go with a feel or a matchup or if there's a foul situation. He's got a nice selection of bigs to choose from."