Tuesday night was a good night for 76ers rookie T.J. McConnell – for two reasons. One, he got his first win as an NBA player, and two, he got to have a moment with Kobe Bryant, who played his final game in Philadelphia.
The 76ers beat the Lakers, 103-91, to snap a 28-game losing streak dating back to last season. Philly is now 1-18, while the Lakers fell to 2-15.
“Yeah, it feels great to finally get that first win, but we’ve had a ton of games on that road trip we were on and before the road trip that we could have won,” McConnell said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “It was disappointing, but it brought us closer together and made us hungrier and showed that we can play with a lot of teams in the NBA. I’m just glad to get that one tonight.”
McConnell, an undrafted rookie out of Arizona, said the NBA is “night-and-day different” from playing in college, but you wouldn’t know it from his stat sheet. McConnell had seven points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals in just 21 minutes.
“I’m just trying to do whatever my coach needs me to,” McConnell said. “I’m just trying to go form there. I’m not trying to do too much. I’m just letting the game come to me. My teammates do a great job of helping me out. We’re going to try to get this one in New York.”
As for Bryant, who scored 20 points in the loss, McConnell and the rest of his 76ers teammates had an opportunity to speak to the 37-year-old legend after the game. It was a special moment for McConnell, 23, who grew up watching Bryant win five NBA titles.
Said McConnell, “I (told him), ‘You’re one of the greatest to ever play the game. You’re what the NBA is all about and I just want to thank you for everything that you’ve done. You’re an inspiration to a lot of people, and all the fans you see here tonight are solely here because of you. You deserve that and more.’”
McConnell, who leads rookies in assists (6.2 per game), will try to get another win Wednesday against the Knicks (8-10) in New York.
“It feels good. It’s an honor,” McConnell said of his assist production, “but I don’t really care about stats. I’m just trying to make my niche here and play for this city and try to play good basketball for them because they deserve it.”