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If the Sixers prove to be the best team ever, they will have earned it. "The aggressiveness we have is consistent every night," says substitute Forward Bobby Jones. "I've never seen a team that had it like this team does. Every night our opponents know what they're going to face for 48 minutes, and we don't let up."
"I think they're a great team, but I think they've been great," said Doug Moe, coach of the Nuggets, after their 116-95 trouncing by Philly last week. "I don't believe that because they haven't won a championship they're failures. I happen to think the regular season is more meaningful than the playoffs. Hell, anybody can get up for the playoffs, but the regular season is a grind. If they win 70, yeah, they're a great team."
Philadelphia probably would have been a better team this season even without the addition of Malone, if for no other reason than the emergence of third-year pro Andrew Toney, formerly just a spectacular shooter, as a complete player. Toney was a substitute most of his first two seasons in Philadelphia; he became a regular in the playoffs last spring when Hollins was injured and he's still starting. Through Sunday he was scoring 19.6 points a game, third on the team behind Malone (24.2) and Erving (22.6), while playing sound defense. He also has learned to hit the open man even when he has a shot he thinks he can make, which is virtually all the time. "He sees things out on the court that other players just don't see," says Erving, who has become something of a mentor to Toney. "Andrew has such strong wrists that he can throw the pass off the dribble, sideways, behind his head, any way. He came into the league with the shot, but Billy stayed on him and saw to it that Andrew was not a one-dimensional player."
Erving awaits the stretch run with keen interest. "I think we've proved we're a good team, potentially a great one," Erving says. "We're probably hungrier than the Lakers or the Celtics, and that helps. The last time I experienced a championship was in 1976 [with the ABA Nets], and seven seasons is a long drought. Moses hasn't won one ever. Bobby hasn't. Maurice. Andrew. We haven't had the ultimate success, and we've got guys this year who really want it.
"The pain that was suffered, the feeling of having backs turned on us, that's still with this team. But the positive side is carried with us, too. We have the scars, but we also have the glue. I don't feel incomplete or inadequate in any way because I haven't won an NBA championship. I don't lie awake nights and think about it. I know I've given my best to the public, and the rest is really out of my hands. I can accept that."
This year the Doc may not have to accept anything but a championship trophy. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.
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