#11 Philadelphia 76ers The talent is there, but the gnawing question is whether the young Sixers have the hunger

February 08, 1999

Larry Brown is more than a coach. He's a teacher. The Sixers
coach lives to teach basketball. It's just that he hates taking
attendance.

"Seven guys missed breakfast this morning," Brown informed his
squad of 16 players before a recent practice on the campus of
Temple University. "I didn't ask you to eat everything. I just
asked you to show up."

Show up. Grow up. Even with only 50 games, this season may be a
long one for Brown if his core players continue to act their
ages. Third-year point guard Allen Iverson, who just signed a
six-year, $70.9 million contract extension, is 23. Second-year
forward Tim Thomas is 21. Rookie guard Larry Hughes is 20. All
will start. Boyz II Men means more in Philly these days than a
musical group.

All questions regarding the Sixers' maturity begin with Iverson.
"Allen's got a chance to be a great player," says Brown of the
six-footer who has led Philly in both scoring and assists in
each of his first two seasons. "But he's not going to do it
alone. He said some things to the media last summer about being
a leader. Fine. But he's got to put it out there on the court."

This is Iverson's team. He runs the point. He scores the points.
No one in the league is more fluent with a basketball in his
hands. There are moments, though, moments that occur too
frequently, when Iverson's actions seem to say, It's my team and
I can do anything I want.

Some examples, all from a recent Sixers practice: Nudging
teammates, some of whom are battling for a spot on the team, as
they shoot jumpers in a drill; launching a ball so that it
collides with backup point guard Eric Snow's free throw in
mid-flight; pouting and failing to hustle back on defense when a
rookie free agent strips him clean in the open court. Is Iverson
just keeping everyone loose--or do his antics get under people's
skin?

"Allen's young and very talented," says assistant coach Maurice
Cheeks, Philly's last great point guard. "But we all have a lot
of growing up to do."

According to Brown, Hughes, whose 13-year-old brother, Justin,
underwent a heart transplant two years ago, has less distance to
travel. "He's got it figured out," says Brown of the 6'5"
off-guard from Saint Louis University. His precocious play and
mature demeanor call to mind--oh, where has the time gone?--a
young Kobe Bryant. "As a rookie he's got a better feel for the
game than anyone out here. Timmy [Thomas] knows how to play, but
he hasn't figured it out yet. Larry has."

With Derrick Coleman having departed for Charlotte, the Sixers
have imported 7'1" Matt Geiger to play center. He'll give Philly
an offensive presence in the paint. Power forward Theo Ratliff,
one of the league's best shot blockers, will do the dirty work
at the other end.

If Brown can just get 'em all to the breakfast table, these
Sixers could reach .500.

--J.W.

COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER Man-child It's time for Iverson to grow up, says Brown, and grow into a leadership role.

PROJECTED LINEUP

Starters PVR* 1997-98 Key Stats

SF Tim Thomas 72 11.0 ppg 3.7 rpg 1.2 apg 44.7 FG%
PF Theo Ratliff 75 9.9 ppg 6.7 rpg 3.15 bpg 51.3 FG%
C Matt Geiger[+] 87 11.3 ppg 6.7 rpg 1.12 bpg 50.5 FG%
SG Larry Hughes(R)[+] 100 20.9 ppg 5.1 rpg 2.16 spg 41.5 FG%
PG Allen Iverson 19 22.0 ppg 6.2 apg 2.20 spg 46.1 FG%

Top Reserves Bench Ranking (out of 29 teams): 26

G Eric Snow 191 3.3 ppg 2.8 apg 0.94 spg 42.9 FG%
C-F Scott Williams 223 4.1 ppg 3.6 rpg 43.7 FG% 81.0 FT%
G Aaron McKie 239 4.1 ppg 2.9 rpg 2.2 apg 1.25 spg

1997-98 Record: 31-51 (seventh in Atlantic)
Coach: Larry Brown (second season with 76ers)

[+]New acquisition (R) Rookie (1997-98 statistics at Saint Louis)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 68)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)