He's Retired Bad Thoughts Hornacek Says He's Excited About Playing For The Sixers

Posted: July 15, 1992

Retirement at 29? After six seasons in the NBA?

Jeff Hornacek says it was a point of discussion after learning last month that he and Phoenix Suns teammates Andrew Lang and Tim Perry were traded to the 76ers for Charles Barkley, "but I'm not sure we ever considered it."

"My son, Ryan, who's 4, asked what trading was," Hornacek said yesterday during a press conference at St. Joseph's University.

"We told him it meant going to another city, moving to another house. He started crying, saying he didn't want to be traded. Now he runs around the house, excited, saying he's going to the 76ers. He's never been in the snow."

And daddy had never been traded, which explained Jeff Hornacek's initial reaction.

"You play hard, you try to help a team win, you make a commitment and then they trade you," he said. "And when I found out, it was from some people in Chicago, not even people from the Suns. You start to wonder whether it's worth it to put your heart and soul into it.

"But that's as far as it went."

After a while, Hornacek, recovering from a relatively minor arthroscopic

procedure on his left knee, regained the energy and attitude that helped him lead the Suns in five categories: 20.1 points, 1.95 steals, 38.0 minutes, 88.6 percent foul shooting and 43.9 percent three-point shooting. Those numbers are the reasons why he has a contract calling for five more seasons and paying him more than $1.6 million this season.

"We're happy to be here," he said, nodding to his wife, Stacy. ''Initially, the trade kind of took us by surprise. Now that the initial shock is over . . . We've been here for two days, looking around the area, and the people have been great. We've gotten letters and flowers from people welcoming us to the city. We're excited about being here."

Hornacek, who has spoken with Sixers owner Harold Katz about donating $10,000 to provide tickets for underprivileged children during the season, a program similar to the one implemented with the Suns, got his first taste of Sixers fans' passion during a weeklong cruise that began shortly after the trade.

"There were about 2,000 people on the cruise and 400 of them must've been

from Philadelphia," Hornacek said. "They talked to me all week about the city, about where to live . . .

"(My initial reaction) had nothing to do with Philadelphia, the city, the organization, anything. Actually, when I was growing up, you watched the Lakers, the Sixers and the Celtics. Those (were) three of the teams you looked to idolize. To come to the Sixers and get the chance to play for them is great.

"It wouldn't have mattered where we were traded. We had been in Phoenix for almost seven years, we had established a home there . . . It was just more of a shock (to be traded)."

Especially because most of the rumors that had surfaced tended to mention Suns backcourt mate Kevin Johnson as one of the players most likely to be moved.

"I always felt (the Suns) needed to do something," Hornacek said. "I thought it would either be me, Kevin or Dan (Majerle), because we needed an inside game . . . You always know in the back of your mind that it could happen, but you really don't think it'll be you."

Not even when he discussed the situation with Johnson at the opening of the Suns' new arena.

"Kevin said, 'We're not going anywhere,' " Hornacek said, laughing.

"He was wrong."

The 6-4 Hornacek, holding a career scoring average of 13.7 points, seems built for the passing game that new Sixers coach Doug Moe intends to implement. He has point guard skills as a distributor and ballhandler, and shooting guard skills that have allowed him to reach 51.2 percent or better in each of the last three seasons.

"He's just a good player, does everything solid," Moe said. "He's not what you'd call spectacular, but he does everything. He shoots, he takes the ball to the hoop, he plays defense, he hustles, he rebounds. I mean, aren't those all the things you look for?"

The purists in this city were looking for a superstar to replace Barkley. The theory seemed to be: If you're trading a superstar, shouldn't you be getting one in return?

"And I say to them, 'What superstar?' " Moe replied. "I didn't see one (in Barkley) in the game tapes I looked at. People have perceptions, and I can't help that. You can make a trade and get a superstar name in return, but if you do that, you can also make a bad trade.

"I don't know whether we could have gotten Johnson, but I do know that if we could have, we couldn't have gotten Lang and Perry, too, and we needed the combination. Plus, (Hornacek) is a better player than people understand.

"I coached him for one game and I knew that. He played a game for me in Denver against the U.S. Olympic team in '88, and he wasn't doing anything yet for Phoenix. After that game, I called the Suns, tried to make a trade for him, but they wouldn't do it.

"People are funny sometimes. They want a guy with a reputation, and then they get the guy with the reputation and find out he can't play. We made this trade, we added depth, attitude and talent. If all we had wanted to do was add somebody with a reputation, we could've done it, but we'd have lost."

What Hornacek sees is a chance to win.

"I kind of compare our team now to the Suns of four years ago," he said. ''We had a bunch of young guys who were willing to play hard and play together and we went from 26 to 55 wins in one year . . . I think we've got a great chance to really do something.

"I know there's probably some pressure on the three of us to come over here and . . . help this team win. That's what basketball's all about, challenges. All three of us are up to those challenges. You kind of relish those opportunities, to go out and play and prove what you have.

"There's no reason why we can't compete for the title."

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