Philadelphia 76ers general manager Billy King hopes new head coach Chris Ford can get the team to always give its best effort.
Ford, who makes his debut on Wednesday against the Washington Wizards, had been a 76ers assistant before being promoted Tuesday on an interim basis to replace the fired Randy Ayers.
“Randy is a great friend, but a change was needed,” King said. “Our goal is to put a team out there that plays hard every night. … A lot of things haven’t gone well for us. It’s not fair to point the finger at one person.”
The 76ers went 21-31 under Ayers and are 1 1/2 games behind the Boston Celtics for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. Ayers took over after the resignation of Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown over the summer.
All but one of the 15 Eastern Conference teams have changed coaches since the end of last season—and now the 76ers have done it twice in that span.
Ford, originally hired by Philadelphia this summer, went 311-358 in nine seasons as an NBA head coach with the Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers. His best season was his first, when Boston went 56-26 and reached the second round of the playoffs.
In recent weeks, All-Star guard Allen Iverson ripped his teammates for lacking heart and said changes had to be made to a 76ers team which has lost eight of its last 10 games. They were beaten by 30 points at home by Boston on Saturday and scored only 14 points in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 99-87 loss to New Jersey.
“The only thing that can cure this tough time is winning,” said Iverson, who scored 27 points Sunday but went 1-for-6 in the fourth quarter. “It’s getting worse because we are losing.”
While Philadelphia has been in disarray, the Wizards are starting to get healthy and play up to their potential.
The Wizards snapped a 12-game road losing streak on Saturday, beating Cleveland 106-88. Washington now seeks its first three-game winning streak of the season.
Arenas played his third game since sitting out the previous 26 with a strained abdomen and Stackhouse played his fourth after missing 45 games following knee surgery.
“Now we’re whole again, and it really feels good,” said Stackhouse, who led the Wizards with 21.5 points per game last season. “We’re piecing everyone back together.”
Arenas is scoring 20 points per game since coming off the injured list and Stackhouse is averaging 18.5 since his return to help the Wizards average 104.8 points over the last four games. Washington is scoring 90.9 per game this season.
“This is the team we’ve been waiting to see all year,” said Wizards coach Eddie Jordan.
Washington got some bad news on Tuesday, however, learning that leading scorer Larry Hughes would miss four to six weeks due to a broken wrist.
STANDINGS (through Feb. 9): Wizards - 6th place, 13 GB, Atlantic Division. 76ers - 4th place (tied), 9 1/2 GB, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Wizards - Hughes, 18.7 ppg; Brown, 7.1 rpg; Arenas, 4.9 apg. 76ers - Iverson, 27.5 ppg; Thomas, 9.5 rpg; Snow, 7.1 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 10; Wizards, 94-87. At Washington, Hughes scored a season-high 43 points on 17-for-29 shooting to lead the Wizards.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Wizards - 5-19 on the road; 76ers - 12-14 at home.