When Vancouver fired coach Brian Hill on Dec. 16, reports surfaced that Abdur-Rahim, point guard Mike Bibby and others had tuned Hill out, sealing his doom. That's unfair, says Abdur-Rahim. "How can anyone say we folded on him?" he asks. "Nobody badmouthed him in the papers. We were still a team. We worked hard. I never said this situation was Brian's fault."
Abdur-Rahim loves playing for Hollins, who favors up-tempo basketball, and will lobby to have the coach's interim tag removed, even though Hollins doesn't run as many offensive plays for him as Hill did. Hollins is trying to make Abdur-Rahim into a more complete player who can elevate this franchise, which is thirsty for even a sip of success. "I've never said, 'Why me?' " Abdur-Rahim says of ending up with a team that has continually struggled. "You make sacrifices in life. They make you stronger."
The Feuding Sixers
Croce to the Rescue
If you are debating who is more valuable to the 76ers, guard Allen Iverson or coach Larry Brown, opt for answer C—team president Pat Croce. It was Croce who mediated the most recent dispute between the mercurial point guard and his excitable coach, which spilled into the papers last month and had Iverson publicly suggesting that he be traded. Sixers sources say that Croce warned both Iverson and Brown to keep their differences private and to stop taking each other's actions so personally. "I'm hoping this last episode was the catalyst for them to work this out on their own from here on in," says Croce. "In the end, it was a misunderstanding. Larry needed to demonstrate more respect in Allen's mind, and Allen needed to demonstrate more respect in Larry's mind."
Looking for a translation? When Iverson gets yanked from a game and slings an expletive in the direction of his coach, Brown interprets that as disrespectful. (Who wouldn't?) Brown then benches Iverson for 20 minutes without explaining why, and Iverson feels disrespected.
The problem, according to Croce, is that Iverson and Brown are strikingly similar. "They are both incredibly sensitive," Croce says. "They're both stubborn. They both have a very healthy ego. And they both jump to conclusions."
While peace has been temporarily restored, no one believes this will be the end of the Iverson-Brown sparring match. So what happens when Iverson finally means it when he tells Croce, "It's me or him?"
"Hopefully I never have to answer that question," Croce says. "I don't mind being the mediator every once in a while, but I won't tolerate ultimatums. Like I told them this last time, Allen, you're not getting traded. Larry, you're not getting fired. So be quiet and make this work.' "
His Seizure Raises Concerns
Suns forward Tom Gugliotta was back on the court last week. He had missed seven games due to a postgame seizure on Dec. 17 that caused him to temporarily stop breathing and to lose consciousness for several hours, and led to his being connected to a respirator in a Portland hospital. Suns team doctor Richard Emerson said that Gugliotta may have suffered an adverse reaction to a supplement called furanone di-hydro, which Gugliotta says was given to him by an old high school friend to help him sleep.