THE TALENT appears to be there, somewhere, hidden inside the NBA body. But to get it to come to the surface has been forward Arnett Moultrie's problem in his two NBA seasons. He says now is the time, however, as the recently imposed five-game suspension given him for violating the NBA's anti-drug policy was what he needed to get himself on track.
"It was a little dark spot for me, I guess, throughout the year I was just a little down on myself on the court, mainly, with no off-the-court issues," Moultrie said. "I'm upset with myself basketballwise. The mental part of the game is my biggest concern. Just to try and stay strong mentally.
"The five-game suspension was my wakeup call. So now everything is behind me, water under the bridge, I'm ready to move forward."
Saddled for the first half of the season after undergoing ankle surgery in the preseason, Moultrie had trouble getting to playing weight. While the coaching staff waited for him to get there, Moultrie thought he was ready to go. When playing time didn't come, he visibly sulked and was soon sent to the Dealware 87ers, of the NBA Development League. Then came the drug suspension in late March, and now his return to the team last night.
"If Arnett takes things extremely serious, if Arnett understands what it really, really takes to cultivate his obvious skills, then, yes, he can [make it in the league]," coach Brett Brown said. "I think that his skill package is surely good enough. He's a young man that's trying to sort some things out. We will continue to help him. We're with him. He's a part of our team.
"Ultimately, if it's meant to be, it's up to him. He needs to control his own destiny with all aspects of how he lives his life and practices, and so on. I think that it is in him to do that. It's going to take a lot of work."
In a season that hasn't produced many victories, Brown finds them where he can. He shyly mentioned before last night's game against the Boston Celtics that if the Sixers won, they would have taken the season series by 3-1, marking the only team they had a winning record against this season.
Sure enough, his team went out and beat the visitors in green, 113-108, putting together one of their better offensive performances for the first three quarters and holding on for the series-clinching win. The Sixers shot 60 percent in the first half in building a 17-point lead and were able to withstand a Boston comeback in which the Celtics tied the game in the fourth quarter. The Sixers improved to 18-63, while Boston dropped to 25-56.
"It's a good way, a good tribute to reward guys that took a lot of hits this year, that were under the microscope," Brown said of his team winning its final home game. "We found ways to stay together. To win here at home and to beat Boston is always a good thing. You wanted to close it out with even more strength, but we couldn't, because we missed free throws and [Rajon] Rondo is Rondo. But I'm pleased that we found a way to win in front of our fans in the final home game."
Michael Carter-Williams continued his strong play of late by collecting 21 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. Tony Wroten came off the bench to pump in 20 points, while Thaddeus Young went for 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Henry Sims scored 13 and Brandon Davies had 11, while Elliot Williams chipped in with 10.
Rookie Kelly Olynyk scored 28 points to pace the Celtics, while Jeff Green had 27 and Avery Bradley scored 23. Rondo posted eight points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds.
The Sixers will finish the season tomorrow in Miami. They have a 1-1 record against the Heat this season. Maybe Brown will get another season series victory before the season mercifully ends.
Despite his second 10-day contract expiring Sunday, diminutive guard Casper Ware was back yesterday after agreeing to a contract for the rest of the season.
"I just want to finish up strong and try to work out something for the long term," the 5-10 guard said. "I had a meeting with [general manager] Sam [Hinkie] this morning. All [day], I was, like, 'Dang, when am I going to get the call?' It ended up good, so I'm happy about that."