"I don't want to take anything away from myself, but I know I was a recipient of [help from] a lot of guys I played with like Doc [Julius Erving], Moses [Malone], Andrew [Toney]."
A finalist needs 18 of 24 votes from an honors committee for election. The new class will be announced on April 4, and enshrinement is Aug. 12 at the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Typical of Cheeks, he was surprised when the news came last month that he was a finalist.
"I never thought about it and it never crossed my mind; it just happened," Cheeks said.
Cheeks, 54, played for the Sixers for 11 years and was their head coach for three-plus seasons.
Statistics don't tell the entire story for Cheeks, who averaged 11.6 points and 6.7 assists in his career. Cheeks was better in the postseason, averaging 14.4 points and 6.9 assists in 133 career playoff games.
He played on the Sixers' 1983 championship squad and was selected four times to the all-NBA defensive first team. Cheeks is also fifth all-time in the NBA in steals with 2,310.
"If I get in there it would be great, but if not, to be a finalist is a great honor," Cheeks said.
Cheeks said he was still adjusting to coming to Philadelphia as an opponent.
"It's always going to be a little strange because Philadelphia is where I made my basketball life," said Cheeks, who still lives in the area.
He has had a positive impact on a Thunder team that took the Los Angeles Lakers to six games in last year's opening playoff round.
"He is very intelligent, really knows the game very well," said Thunder all-star point guard Russell Westbrook. "He's been a big help for myself - and I am pretty sure for the other guys on the team - and he does a great job of communicating."
Cheeks said he was enjoying his time with the Thunder. He wouldn't rule out another head coaching stint. Cheeks has a 284-286 career record as a coach with Portland and the Sixers.
He doesn't appear obsessed with earning another head coaching job, though.
"I am having a great time right now," Cheeks said. "If [getting a chance as a head coach again] happens, it happens."
And if not?
"I am with an up-and-coming organization," Cheeks said. "To be with some of the players I am around on a daily basis, I am in a good place right now."
Come April, he could be headed for another place, where a select few enter.
Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.