Cage remains a believer in Sixers' development Ex-Cav sees resemblance to start in Cleveland


PHILADELPHIA -- Michael Cage examines the 0-2 start of the 76ers and smiles knowingly. Other than the sheer youth of his teammates, it is nothing he hasn't seen before.

A comparison to last season, when Cage was with Cleveland and the Cavaliers lost their first seven games by an average of more than 12 points? Not even close.

"In Cleveland, we just had vacancies at positions," Cage said after completing preparations for lasts night's game against the Detroit Pistons at the CoreStates Center.

"I mean, we still thought [injured and since-retired center] Brad Daugherty was coming back, that he would be there any day. Tyrone Hill had been in an auto accident, we had traded Hot Rod Williams and when they talked about starting [rookie] John Amaechi at center, he said he didn't think he was ready to do that. So they started me."

By comparison, all the 34-year-old Cage sees here is a full-blown youth movement, not the least of which includes starting guards Jerry Stackhouse, who turned 22 yesterday, and Allen Iverson, 21.

"It was evident in Saturday's game [115-86 loss in Chicago] that we need a lot of work, that we're not in Chicago's league right now," Cage said.

"I'd say, pound for pound, we might break even with the Bulls in terms of talent, but not in maturity, not in experience, not in the ability to skillfully take a team apart and keep it apart.

"Sure, I'd love for us to be 2-0 or 1-1 at this point, but we're not. We're still trying to get there, trying to create the confidence in each other. The Bulls have done what they're doing together for more than 100 games.

"But we're going to get a win this week. Why not?"

Cage was expected to be back in the starting lineup after coach Johnny Davis attempted to match up with the Bulls' athleticism by using Mark Davis at small forward, Clarence Weatherspoon at power forward and Derrick Coleman at center.

"The first play, Mark Davis got the ball underneath for a dunk, but instead he slips and falls," Johnny Davis said.

"The whole night went like that. Against Chicago, when you nTC make a mistake, it's like making it twice."

Cage likes to use last season's Cavaliers as a reference point. After their 0-7 start, they finished with 47 victories, qualified for the playoffs, held opponents under 100 points a franchise-record 68 times, allowed just 88.5 per game and limited nine opponents to their season low.

No one is suggesting the Sixers can rise to that level that swiftly, but Cage said it was critical for the young players to recognize that they have a very limited margin for error.

"You make too many errors against a Chicago, you're going to be down 12," he said.

Pub Date: 11/06/96

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