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Jack McCallum
October 29, 2001
Scoring? Check. Defense? Check. Coaching? Check. All that's left is for injuries to heal and the jellin' to start
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October 29, 2001

3 Philadelphia 76ers

Scoring? Check. Defense? Check. Coaching? Check. All that's left is for injuries to heal and the jellin' to start

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projected lineup

2000-01 record: 56-26 (first in Atlantic)

Coach: Larry Brown (fifth season with 76ers)



2000-01 KEY STATS


Matt Harpring#


11.1 ppg

4.3 rpg

1.8 apg

0.75 spg

45.4 FG%


George Lynch


8.4 ppg

7.2 rpg

1.7 apg

1.21 spg

44.5 FG%


Dikembe Mutombo


10.0 ppg

13.5 rpg

1.0 apg

2.71 bpg

48.4 FG%


Allen Iverson


31.1 ppg

4.6 apg

3.8 rpg

2.51 spg

42.0 FG%


Eric Snow


9.8 ppg

7.4 apg

3.3 rpg

1.54 spg

41.8 FG%



2000-01 KEY STATS


Aaron McKie


11.6 ppg

4.1 rpg

5.0 apg

1.39 spg

47.3 FG%


Speedy Claxton (R)


22.8 ppg

6.0 apg

5.4 rpg

3.29 spg

47.0 FG%


Robert Traylor#


5.7 ppg

4.3 rpg

1.09 bpg

0.70 spg

49.7 FG%


Matt Geiger


6.1 ppg

4.0 rpg

0.23 bpg

39.3 FG%

68.5 FT%


Raja Bell


1.0 ppg

0.2 rpg

0.0 apg

28.6 FG%

33.33 FG%

#New acquisition

(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)

*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 117)

In entertainment news from the City of Brotherly Love, Allen Iverson—a.k.a. Jewelz, a.k.a. the Answer, a.k.a. the Reigning MVP—has decided to scrap the rap CD that a year ago made him the NBA player least likely to keynote a NOW convention. "All the negativity surrounding it swayed me," says Iverson, who drew massive criticism when the lyrics to one song, 40 Bars, were released in October 2000. Iverson's decision not to put out Misunderstood must have been music to the ears of 76ers teammates and executives eager to maintain the goodwill that grew throughout 2000-01, when the gritty team battled its way to the Finals.

Or maybe it wasn't. The 76ers love—nay, need—to play the we-don't-get-no-respect card. That is particularly true of Jewelz (Iverson's rap name), that gem of an undersized shooting guard who seems to be most comfortable when he's knee-deep in hot water. Actually, he's elbow-deep right now. At the end of each of the last two seasons Iverson has ignored the advice of team physician Jack McPhilemy to have surgery on his right elbow, the one primarily in use when he jacked up a league-high 25.5 shots per game in 2000-01. Iverson finally succumbed to the pain and had the bone chips cleaned out, but not until the last week in September. He was expected to miss at least the first week of the season. "I think Allen planned it that way to miss camp," says coach Larry Brown with a smile. Well, it seemed like a smile.

Iverson's injury is not the only reason that, as guard Aaron McKie says, "it's gonna take some time for the jellin'." The league's top sixth man last season, McKie did not have surgery on his right shoulder until the same day Iverson went under the knife, and he's not likely to return until two weeks into the season. On Oct. 16 dependable point guard and defensive stopper Eric Snow broke his left thumb and will miss up to three months. Forward George Lynch sat out much of the preseason because of soreness in his surgically repaired left foot, while injuries also slowed frontcourt banger Matt Geiger and swingman Matt Harpring, who was acquired from the Cavaliers for Tyrone Hill in a three-way trade. Last year, it is important to recall, the Sixers jump-started their Eastern Conference title run by winning their first 10 games. So by all means: Bring on the jell!

Searching for bright spots, Brown notes that the injuries will enable center Dikembe Mutombo to become a bigger part of the offense. Mutombo's reliable play against Shaquille O'Neal in the Finals notwithstanding, the coach's comment is not unlike standing at the site of a multicar pileup and concluding that the tow-truck drivers will get some great experience. There are also questions about Brown's staying power. Last season he missed two games because of exhaustion and came close—"real close," he says—to walking away at the end of the season. Will the twin burdens of defending the conference title and maintaining a solid professional relationship with his star player weigh heavily on one of the most intense (and one of the best) coaches in hoops history?

Perhaps; perhaps not. Former team president Pat Croce, who left the Sixers after failing to get control of Spectacor, the parent company that owns the franchise, got far too much credit for patching up last season's Iverson-Brown contretemps. "The only argument I ever had with Pat was over Allen," says Brown. "I thought he was interfering, and he was. Allen and I worked it out ourselves." Iverson agrees with that assessment.

What else do the Sixers have going for them? Harpring brings outside shooting and solid defense, and 5'11" Speedy Claxton (who is considered a rookie after missing last season with a torn left ACL) brings backcourt depth and plenty of the thing he's named for. Robert (Tractor) Traylor should be a nice frontcourt supplement to Geiger, whose popularity in Philadelphia fluctuates according to how often his jump shot is falling, and to Lynch, who is always popular even though his jump shot rarely falls. Iverson is too good on offense, Mutombo is too good on defense, and Brown is too good on the bench (provided he stays there) for this team to take a complete header.

It took most of last season for fans to believe that Philadelphia was, like the original tide of Iverson's CD, Non-Fiction. Considering their litany of woes and the revitalized Eastern Conference, the Sixers' task is even tougher this season.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]