With three-year deal, Coleman can retire in Philly

Updated: August 6, 2003, 7:25 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

PHILADELPHIA -- Not too long ago, the 76ers couldn't wait to get rid of Derrick Coleman. Now, he's getting a chance to finish his career in Philadelphia.

Coleman re-signed with the 76ers on Tuesday, getting a three-year contract worth up to $13.5 million. The 36-year-old Coleman played well last season after moving from power forward to center, finishing with an average of 9.4 points and 7.0 rebounds in 64 games, including 35 starts.

In 13 NBA seasons, Coleman has averaged 17.0 points and 9.5 rebounds.

Derrick Coleman
Coleman

"I haven't been on a team where I've been around a bunch of good guys," Coleman said. "My teammates and I all get along and that's hard to find in sports. I enjoy the guys. I enjoy being in Philadelphia. I didn't want to go anywhere else."

Selected by New Jersey with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft, Coleman never fully lived up to his potential and was viewed as an underachieving malcontent for most of his career.

He was traded to Philadelphia in 1995 as part of the deal that sent Shawn Bradley to the Nets, and spent three controversial, injury-plagued seasons with the 76ers. After the 1997-98 season, Philadelphia bought out the final year of Coleman's contract for $5.57 million, rather than pay him $13 million for his fourth year.

But even though he was vilified by 76ers fans and former team president Pat Croce, Coleman became a favorite of former coach Larry Brown while they were together for one season.

Coleman signed a five-year, $40 million deal with Charlotte in 1998, but feuded with coach Paul Silas and was traded back to Philadelphia before the 2001-02 season.

Croce, who vowed he'd never let Coleman wear a 76ers uniform again, resigned two months before Brown reacquired Coleman in October 2001.

In his second stint with the 76ers, Coleman has become a team leader and a consistent performer. He averaged 15.1 points and 8.8 rebounds two years ago, and was perhaps Philadelphia's most consistent player in the playoffs last season, averaging 13.6 points and 8.0 rebounds.

"Derrick was a big part of our success last year. Having him back to go with everything else we've done this summer puts us in good shape," 76ers president Billy King said.

Since losing to Detroit in six games in the second round of the playoffs, the 76ers have made several changes. Brown resigned after six seasons and took over as coach of the Pistons. Randy Ayers was promoted from assistant to replace Brown.

Forward Keith Van Horn was traded earlier this month in a four-team trade that brought Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson and Marc Jackson to Philadelphia.

Coleman, Robinson, Jackson and Kenny Thomas are the top players in the 76ers' frontcourt. Former league MVP Allen Iverson, Eric Snow, Aaron McKie and John Salmons form a solid backcourt.

"We've got guys that command double-teams now and that'll open things up for other guys," Ayers said. "Derrick knows how to play and that's what I love about him. He allows you to do other things on the floor."

Coleman moved to center last season after Todd MacCulloch was sidelined by a genetic disorder. He hopes the acquisition of Jackson will allow him to spend more time at his natural forward spot.