Excerpt: Perfectly Awful

The NBA Draft is tomorrow and the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers have officially completed a blockbuster trade. Luckily for the Sixers, it’s 2017 and not 1972. Below is an excerpt from Charley Rosen’s Perfectly Awful: The Philadelphia 76ers’ Horrendous and Hilarious 1972-1973 Season (Nebraska, 2014). 

[7] How Low Can You Go? 

How would the Sixers react to their worst game of the season? Give up and just go through the motions? Or would they respond to their next challenge—the mighty Boston Celtics—with courage? With pride?

Friday, December 1, 1972
Where: Home
Score: Celtics 105, Sixers 99
Philadelphia’s record: 2-23
Numbers: Carter (29 on 13-26
shooting), Ellis (26), Block
(12), Loughery (11).

Fred Carter made only 1 of 10 shots in the first half, and Rubin’s halftime advice was “to keep shooting.” After the intermission Carter was 12-16 and single-handedly kept the 76ers in the game.

The turnaround play transpired late in the game with the visitors ahead 101–99. Rubin had sketched a play during the lead-up time-out that called for Boyd to inbound the ball to Loughery, who would then pass to Carter coming off a weak-side pick. But Satch Sanders played deny defense that made Loughery unavailable. With no safety-valve option, Boyd held on to the ball and was whistled for a five-second infraction. Dave Cowens then went over Leaks for an easy score, and the Sixers suffered perhaps their most painful loss of the season.

“I had done my homework,” says Tom Heinsohn, the Celtics’ coach, “and I didn’t stint on our game preparation. My biggest job was to keep my guys from getting too complacent. I mean, the Sixers were the type of team that engenders that kind of reaction. I warned them, I tried to stoke them, but my attempts were futile. We were lucky to win the damn game.”

Saturday, December 2, 1972
Where: Boston
Score: Celtics 131, Sixers 120
Philadelphia’s record: 2-24
Numbers: Ellis (27), Trapp and Block (20), Loughery and
Carter (13). Greer shot 1-3 with 3 assists in 12 minutes.

The Celtics pounded the boards for a 60–37 rebounding advantage. The game was not nearly as close as the final score indicated. After not having played in the last three games, Greer admitted to being stunned when Rubin called his number. Here’s what Greer said about his relationship with his coach: “We speak but we don’t talk, if you know what I mean. He has a lot of problems and I don’t want to add to them.”

Traded earlier in the season by the Sixers, Dave Wohl was cut by the 6-18 Portland Trail Blazers. Coach Jack McCloskey said that Wohl was “turnover prone and a casual ballhandler.” Wohl blamed his poor performances on his not being allowed to play more than two minutes at a time. “I don’t think DeJardin would be too excited about having me back in Philly,” said Wohl. “But they do have a roster spot open, and at least I have to be one of the few players who want to play in Philly. This has to be a first.” Wohl would eventually be signed by Buffalo and play in the NBA for another five seasons.

Charley Rosen is a writer whose work appears regularly on hoopshype.com (USA Today Sports) and Fanragsports.com. He previously worked as an NBA analyst for FOXSports.com and is the author of twenty-one sports books, including Crazy Basketball: A Life In and Out of Bounds (Nebraska, 2011). He has coauthored two books with NBA coach Phil Jackson. He is also the author of the forthcoming book The Chosen Game: A Jewish Basketball History (November 2017). Pre-order your copy today!