DETROIT – Wilson Chandler has yet to play in a 76ers game. But the reserve forward delivered the team's biggest assist on Tuesday.
Chandler hosted a 4-year-old boy with a terminal disease and his family. Levi and the Payne family were the Sixers' guests at the morning shootaround at Seaholm High School in Birmingham, Mich. Chandler provided Levi, his two sisters, mother, and stepfather tickets for Tuesday's night game against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena.
The Paynes are from Benton Harbor, Mich., Chandler's hometown, which is three hours away from Detroit. They live in Chandler's old neighborhood.
After suffering a strained left hamstring on Sept. 28, Chandler heard about Levi while talking to a close friend.
Chandler was upset over the injury. That all changed after his friend brought up Levi's situation.
Looking to provide Levi with a special moment, Chandler asked his friend to text Levi's mother to see if he could have her number. After she said yes, he called her to set up the family's long trip to the Detroit area.
"So I'm like, 'Damn, I'm out here complaining about my hamstring,'" said Chandler, who was acquired in the offseason from the Denver Nuggets. "You are complaining about your crib over whatever. He has less than a year to live."
Chandler said that Levi just being happy and strong while going through life, unaware of what's happening and loving life put everything in perspective.
"He's eventually going to lose his life and we are over here complaining about [stuff]," Chandler said. "Of course, I'm frustrated that I'm not with the team helping them win.
"But, at the same time, other than that, I'm healthy, I'm making money, I'm living. I'm playing basketball for a living."
Saric unfazed by annual early slump
It's early in the NBA season, so that means Dario Saric is in the midst of his trademark shooting funk.
The Sixers power forward was shooting just 34.4 percent from the field and 27.8 percent on three-pointers entering Tuesday night's game.
"I think the next couple of games I should be fine," said Saric, who was averaging 10.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists through three games ahead of Tuesday night's matchup against Detroit. "I think I should find a rhythm from last season, from the end of last season."
Saric scored six points on 3-for-8 shooting in the season-opening loss to the Boston Celtics on Oct. 16. The Croatian followed that up with consecutive 13-point outings on 4-for-12 shooting performances in victories over the Chicago Bulls (Thursday) and Orlando Magic (Saturday). He has hit only five of 17 three-pointers in the three games.
But this is nothing new for Saric.
He shot 32.3 percent from the field through last season's first eight games before turning things around. Saric made only 35.5 percent of his shots through the first six games of the 2016-17 campaign, but by season's end, he established himself as the Sixers' go-to guy while Joel Embiid was sidelined with a knee injury. Saric wound up being that season's runner-up for rookie of the year.
Saric finished the 2016-17 season shooting 41.1 percent and ended up shooting 45.3 percent last season.
He attributes his slow starts to spending his entire offseason back in Europe. He has summer-time obligations with the Croatian national team.
Meanwhile, a lot of his Sixers teammates spent some of their summer at the Sixers' practice facility for workouts and pickup games.
"I don't have some touch with the team [while] they play here and scrimmage," Saric said. "I'm playing there."
So, he spends the preseason and early season getting back into a rhythm with teammates and into a shooting rhythm.
"I think it's not something to worry about," Saric said. "I think I will be good the next couple of games."