Sixers season starts again

By Catherine Dilworth
November 1, 2001

Dust off your car flags and banners from last season. It is Sixers season again.

The Sixers vaulted onto the game’s biggest stage last June, but does anyone remember how hard it was for them to get there? It took four nail-biting games against Indiana, seven games against Toronto and seven more versus Milwaukee. A missed three-pointer at the buzzer was all that separated the 76ers from the Raptors, and the Bucks tested the heart of the blue-collar Sixers until the waning minutes of game seven in the conference championship series.

By the time Philly even qualified for the Finals, the Lakers had 10 days to sit poolside. Once the finals came, Shaquille O’Neil, Kobe Bryant and company dished out even more punishment. Needless to say, rest was the first priority of the summer.

League MVP Allen Iverson and sixth Man of the Year Aaron McKie, the two most important members of the 76ers before (and probably after) they traded for Dikembe Mutombo, took such a beating that their respective off season surgeries will force them to miss time at the beginning of this season.

It was a magical run last year that culminated in the David vs. Goliath finals, and the scrappy Sixers never quit despite their underdog status. Head coach Larry Brown had a lot to do with instilling that attitude, and Iverson’s growth into the total package was sparked by his relationship with his new best friend.

Although they didn’t kiss the Podoloff Trophy, the Sixers received some serious hardware for their hard work during the season. Iverson became the smallest MVP in league history, Brown was named Coach of the Year, McKie earned Sixth Man of the Year and Mutombo was awarded his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award.

But while the 2000-01 season was an emotional high, the upcoming campaign has started out with injury issues that present the squad with one healthy starter for the season opener. Iverson (elbow) and McKie (shoulder) pushed their surgeries back until late in the off season, which has become a hot topic in Philly. Starting point guard Eric Snow fractured his thumb during the preseason and is expected to miss nearly three months. George Lync Brown and GM Billy King, who were desperately seeking a way to get Tyrone Hill out of town, found a deal with Cleveland that resulted in Matt Harpring, Robert Traylor and Cedric Henderson joining the reigning Eastern Conference champs. The trade cost Philadelphia the talents of up-and-coming Jumaine Jones, but the 76ers added some bulk with Traylor and a soft touch with Harpring.

The start of the season won’t be pretty, to which anyone who has watched the preseason will attest. The squad bears little resemblance to the one that was intact just a few months ago, and Brown will have to find a way to get his new faces to find the same chemistry that carried his club throughout last season.

No one expects the 76ers to repeat their conference crown performance this year. However, the East is still up for grabs. Injuries will make the first month of the season slow-going, but an injection of Iverson will cure any ills. Winning the Atlantic isn’t a guarantee, especially with the return of Grant Hill to Orlando’s active roster. Philadelphia is once again the underdog at the start of the season, but once the starters get back to form, the division will be theirs for the taking.

Schedule for November

Nov. 1 Dallas 7:00 pm
Nov. 3 @ Washington 6:30 pm
Nov. 6 Indiana 7:00 pm
Nov. 8 @ Houston 9:00 pm
Nov. 10 @ Dallas 8:30 pm
Nov. 13 @ Miami 7:30 pm
Nov. 14 Charlotte 7:00 pm
Nov. 16 Atlanta 7:00 pm
Nov. 17 @ New Jersey 8:00 pm
Nov. 21 Detroit 7:00 pm
Nov. 23 Cleveland 7:00 pm
Nov. 25 @ Toronto 12:30 pm
Nov. 28 Washington 8:00 pm

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Catherine Dilworth

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