3 Philadelphia 76ers Scoring? Check. Defense? Check. Coaching? Check. All that's left is for injuries to heal and the jellin' to start

October 29, 2001

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 title of Iverson's CD, Non-Fiction.
Considering their litany of woes and the revitalized Eastern
Conference, the Sixers' task is even tougher this season.

--Jack McCallum

COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN POWER GRAB Mutombo's rebounding and D are a given, but while Philly's scorers are out, he'll have to put up points.

enemy lines
an opposing team's scout sizes up the 76ers

"A lot of my colleagues feel that everything went right for the
76ers last year and that they're going to regress, but I'm not
buying that. The Number 1 ingredient you want in a team is
heart, and they lead the league in that. They run all over
forcing turnovers, they cover the defensive boards with Dikembe
Mutombo, and they don't give up. Plus they have more depth this
year....The new eight-second half-court rule helps the Sixers,
because their guys get out and pressure full-court. If they
don't force a turnover, they have the speed, quickness and heart
to recover....One of the things with Larry Brown is that he
gets fed up with his players and wants to trade them. The Tyrone
Hill trade was made simply because Larry wanted to move him. His
team went to the Finals, and he still made as many trades as
anybody....I don't see anybody replacing the rebounding they got
from Hill. I'm figuring they move George Lynch to power forward
and play Matt Geiger as a backup at the four and the five. But
you can't count on Geiger because he's always hurt....I doubt
they get much out of Tractor Traylor, but Larry has always felt
that he can find a way to make use of guys who failed at other
places....Offensively they're excellent in transition, but if
they have to settle into a half-court game, that's when their
weaknesses show, because they don't shoot well enough....They're
counting on Matt Harpring to give them shooting, but I've never
felt he was a good shooter. He does play with energy, and he
works hard on defense."

projected lineup
2000-01 record: 56-26 (first in Atlantic)
Coach: Larry Brown (fifth season with 76ers)

STARTERS
PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

SF Matt Harpring[1] 11.1 ppg 4.3 rpg 1.8 apg 0.75 spg 45.4 FG%
132
PF George Lynch 8.4 ppg 7.2 rpg 1.7 apg 1.21 spg 44.5 FG%
152
C Dikembe Mutombo 10.0 ppg 13.5 rpg 1.0 apg 2.71 bpg 48.4 FG%
32
SG Allen Iverson 31.1 ppg 4.6 apg 3.8 rpg 2.51 spg 42.0 FG%
13
PG Eric Snow 9.8 ppg 7.4 apg 3.3 rpg 1.54 spg 41.8 FG%
178

BENCH
PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

G Aaron McKie 11.6 ppg 4.1 rpg 5.0 apg 1.39 spg 47.3 FG%
128
G Speedy Claxton(R)22.8 ppg 6.0 apg 5.4 rpg 3.29 spg 47.0 FG%
133
F Robert Traylor[1]5.7 ppg 4.3 rpg 1.09 bpg 0.70 spg 49.7 FG%
198
C-F Matt Geiger 6.1 ppg 4.0 rpg 0.23 bpg 39.3 FG% 68.5 FT%
234
G Raja Bell 1.0 ppg 0.2 rpg 0.0 apg 28.6 FG% 33.3 3FG%
269

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 117)

"Their weaknesses show in a half-court game; they don't
shoot well enough."

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)