Caldwell Jones is one of those rare pro basketball players who doesn't have to have the ball to be happy. The quiet, unassuming Philadelphia center is a lunch-bucket type who punches the clock every day and does whatever is asked.
He proved he could score when he averaged 15.8 points a game in his first three seasons in the American Basketball Association. When he came to Philadelphia, he was asked to put his jumper away and serve as valet to the enormous egos and shot-happy players already in residence.
"We had plenty of shooters back then--Doc (Julius Erving), George McGinnis, Doug Collins, Lloyd Free," Jones said. "They asked me to rebound and play defense and that's what I've tried to do."
The slender 7-footer has performed his tasks exceedingly well. Although often surrounded by turmoil, Jones has been the 76ers' most dependable player. He has missed only nine games in six years, has led the team in rebounding the last four seasons and last year was named to the NBA all-defensive team.
Now, in the Eastern Conference final against Boston, even more is being asked. With Darryl Dawkins slowed by a sore leg and the Celtics holding a huge scoring advantage in the front court, Coach Billy Cunningham wants his defensive specialist to become a scorer, too. That's like asking Willie Nelson to dance.
"We told Caldwell we needed him to get more involved in the offense," Cunningham said after Jones scored a season-high 22 points, 10 in the last quarter, to spark the 76ers to a come-from-behind 121-113 victory at Boston that tied the best-of-seven series after two games. The teams are in Philadelphia for the next two games, today at 2:30 and Sunday at 1.
"The best way to get Caldwell to shoot is to get the ball in his hands early," Cunningham said. "We know Doc, Bobby (Jones), Maurice (Cheeks) and Andrew (Toney) will get involved, but if they start off shooting, Caldwell won't look for the ball that much."
"I guess I'm so skinny that people tend to overlook me out there," Jones said with a grin. "I knew I had to shoot in order to stop Boston from constantly double-teamming Doc and Andrew.
"It's only in certain situations that I look to shoot," said Jones, who averaged eight points a game this season. "Before Darryl got hurt, I was a reluctant shooter. I'd only shoot if I was open and I didn't have to create anything myself. Now I'm forced into a situation where I've got to shoot."
If Jones can continue to shoot well from outside, the Celtics will have to adjust defensively. Robert Parish has been guarding Jones, but Boston's defense is built around its 7-foot center being close enough to the basket to block shots.
"I knew Caldwell was going outside and might shoot from there, but I didn't go out to cover him by design," Parish said. "I really didn't think he could shoot that well. He made a believer out of me."
The 76ers' guard Lionel Hollins had the cast removed from the fractured knuckle on his left (shooting) hand Thursday and was to try working out with a small splint.