Maurice Cheeks eager to stand up for his players

Dan Gelston of the Associated Press on 2007-08 season:

It’s a late November game against Portland and the Sixers are getting crushed. The unruly home crowd has turned on their team and one dolt behind the bench pops off in true Philly fashion to one of the Sixers.

Cheeks whipped around and warned the fan, don’t mess with my players.

"I said, ‘I’ll take it all, but don’t yell at my players,"’ Cheeks said.

Now it’s halftime, and Cheeks is just as stern with his own team. He went into the locker room with Philly down 18 and told the Sixers he’d stick up for them, but they had to go out there and play their rears off.

"I’m not going to be standing out there taking, taking, taking and you don’t play," Cheeks said.

Down 25 in the second quarter and 22 in the third, the Sixers stunned the Trail Blazers with a 92-88 victory. Nothing has really been the same in Philadelphia since that wildest and unlikeliest of comebacks.

I don’t think the Pistons have had a coach the players trust in years, but Cheeks could change that. Players must respect his willingness to stand up for them, and certainly gives him latitude to be stern with them.

That conversation with the fan wasn’t an isolated case, either. Associated Press in 2003:

Cheeks has been a local favorite for his habit of chatting during games with fans that sit near the Portland bench

Fans in Auburn Hills should enjoy that, too.

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