For Collins, love of Moultrie's game at first sight

Picks Maurice Harkless and Arnett Moultrie (right) get the company line from Sixers CEO Adam Aron. Moultrie twisted his ankle and will likely miss the summer-league start.
Picks Maurice Harkless and Arnett Moultrie (right) get the company line from Sixers CEO Adam Aron. Moultrie twisted his ankle and will likely miss the summer-league start. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff)
Posted: July 01, 2012

One week ago today, when the 76ers worked out Arnett Moultrie and four other big men who were all chosen in the first round of Thursday's NBA draft, Sixers coach Doug Collins knew he wanted Moultrie just five minutes into the session. It was just a matter of how they were going to get him, he said.

"Arnett, to me, in five minutes separated himself from all . . . of those guys, just watching him work out," Collins said Friday, referring to John Henson (the 14th overall pick Thursday), Tyler Zeller (17), Terrence Jones (18), and Andrew Nicholson (19). All were selected before Miami took Moultrie 27th and then dealt him to the Sixers.

The challenge of adding the 6-foot-11, 249-pound Moultrie, who averaged 16.4 points and 10.5 rebounds, was made even more daunting because, at the time, the Sixers had just one pick in the first round, the 15th overall, and they had no plans on using it on Moultrie.

But by the time the draft was over, the Sixers consummated a trade for Moultrie, sending the Heat the draft rights to Justin Hamilton (45th overall pick) and a protected future first-round pick. That came after they had already secured St. John's forward Maurice Harkless with the 15th overall pick.

On Friday, the Sixers introduced Harkless and Moultrie at a news conference at their practice facility at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, and team officials said they were happy to add two players they considered among the top 10 available.

"We were thrilled," Collins said. "As the draft was unfolding, we had Maurice targeted as our No. 1 guy based on how we thought it was going to shake out. And if he had not been there, we were going to take Arnett."

The Sixers were ecstatic to add Harkless, a 6-8, 208-pound 19-year-old who averaged 15.5 points and 8.6 rebounds and is the Big East rookie of the year. However, after Jones went to Houston with the 18th pick, the Sixers sensed that they might be able to swing a deal with one of the teams yet to pick and began feverishly working the phones, desperate to trade for Moultrie.

"It makes you feel good to know that they wanted me that badly," said Moultrie, adding that he was not disappointed that he didn't go earlier in the draft. "It makes you want to play for them. It's always good to be wanted."

When they got the deal done, the Sixers were relieved.

"He's athletic. He's a good rebounder. He's got a good jump shot," Sixers president and general manager Rod Thorn said. "He should be very good for us, and we're very happy to have him. We needed a big, and we think we got an outstanding big player."

Shortly after the Sixers picked Harkless, who played power forward at St. John's but should be a small forward in the NBA, speculation on trading forward Andre Iguodala kicked into high gear.

But Collins said drafting Harkless and trading Iguodala are not related.

"One doesn't equal two there," Collins said, "and I think that people start reading into that and where does [Harkless fit in]."

Collins pointed out that the Sixers' desire to add a player like Harkless became more urgent when Collins moved 2010 No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner into the starting lineup.

With Turner starting, the Sixers didn't have a lengthy wing player coming off the bench.

"When you look at our team last year, once we moved Evan into the starting lineup we didn't have another wing," Collins said. "We viewed Maurice as that guy who is going to be that bigger wing coming off the bench, and we feel like now we have a guy who can do that."

Notes. After drafting forward Tornike Shengelia with the 54th overall selection Thursday, the Sixers traded his rights to the Brooklyn Nets for an amount of cash to be determined later. . . . Moultrie showed up Friday with a walking boot on his left ankle, saying he twisted the ankle at a recent workout in Sacramento. He said the injury is not serious, but he is unlikely to be ready for the start of summer league workouts in Orlando on July 9.


Contact staff writer John N. Mitchell at jmitchell@philly.com.

 

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