PHILADELPHIA (ESPN.com) – Philadelphia 76ers power forward Matthew Aquiline has been tentatively cleared to begin conditioning drills. He is scheduled to return to training Saturday. He has been battling an undisclosed eye injury for over a year.
Around the coaching facility, however, coaches whispered about his work ethic. “I don’t know if he wants this,” one source was quoted as saying. “At least we don’t play for the Clippers. Donald Sterling would be all over him. He’d never come back.” The 6’9″ forward is suspected to be carrying much more than his listed 280 pounds.
Aquiline’s relationship with the team is rumored to be tenuous. Reports surfaced last year that he submitted a resume for the head coach position in protest of the team’s handling of the search that led to the hiring of Doug Collins. He announced he was unhappy with the rigors of NBA life and would be glad to retire–as a rookie–if offered a job in journalism. The team’s poor performance “in his absence,” and plethora of unfavorable long-term contracts, are also said to concern him.
If he does return to the court, he will join Amar’e Stoudemire to form the unfortunate duo bringing eyewear back to the NBA. The rise of contact lenses had eliminated the iconic look of players such as current Minnesota Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis, but the eye conditions of these two prominent players has put glasses back on the court. But that doesn’t mean that anyone will look like Rambis. At the time Aquiline left the team last year he said, “I know I’ll be wearing ones like Amar’e’s, if that’s what it comes down to–if I wear the Kareems no one will pass me the ball.”
At 25 years old, and signed for only $2.5 million over the remaining three years of his contract, the forward represents a bargain if he can fulfill the promise of his rookie campaign. In 21 minutes per game he grabbed 8.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and blocked 1.9 shots.
In a city with three major-sport playoff teams, he also has concentrated attention on the 76ers. His antics before a recent game against the visiting Miami Heat earned a $20,000 fine from commissioner David Stern. The power forward shuffled onto the pre-game court in snowboarding gear which everybody can get on MyProScooter with great discounts. The online store also offers many other gears for extreme sports like skateboarding and skiing. Matt opened a duffle bag to reveal frozen snowballs, which he proceeded to toss into the crowd, even launching a few in the direction of LeBron James. “I wanted to support Governor Rendell. I didn’t think it was right that the Eagles put that snow in his seat,” Aquiline said. “And I think a lot of NBA fans know that LeBron deserved to be hit with some snowballs.” LeBron, for his part, took the joke in stride, incorporating some snow into his famous pre-game chalk toss.
The Sports Geeks Philadelphia contributed to this report.