Time may have come for L. Brown to move on

ON THE NBA

January 06, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

A year ago, the Philadelphia 76ers were the surprise team in the NBA, buoyed by a 10-0 start. Eventual Most Valuable Player Allen Iverson, Coach of the Year Larry Brown and team president Pat Croce were the catalysts behind an early-season push that would land the Sixers in the Finals.

A year later, the Sixers are again the surprise team in the NBA, but for different reasons. They are floundering below .500, with only Miami, Atlanta and Chicago catching their fall to the Eastern Conference basement.

Croce left the Sixers before the season after a failed power grab within the Comcast-Spectacor organization that owns the team, and Brown, who hinted at retirement during the playoffs, might follow him before the season's end.

Brown, who reached the Finals for the first time in his 18-year NBA career last summer, last week denied a television report that he was going to retire, saying: "That was last year. I was going to retire [last] summer. I got over that. I might have to retire the way we're playing, but that was talked about last summer. I was seriously thinking about it, but I came back."

But a team official was a lot less confident of Brown's long-term connection to the team, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer: "I expect him to finish the rest of the [seven-game, 13-day road] trip [which ends today]. I expect him to finish the rest of the month. Is he going to be coaching in February? I can't say that. Larry's Larry."

Indeed, the peripatetic Brown has shown himself adept at moving from team to team, with stints guiding seven ABA and NBA franchises as well as turns coaching UCLA and Kansas, where he won a national title, on his resume.

But, while most of his previous moves have come because of wanderlust, Brown, 61, may now just be ready to go home, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he has been suffering from a variety of ailments.

In Denver two weeks ago, Brown missed the game, staying in the trainer's room with back and neck spasms. And he has spoken frequently of wanting to spend more time with his wife and young child.

Brown also has likely tired of the Sixers' situation, which isn't so pleasant. Philadelphia again is riddled with injuries as Iverson; Aaron McKie, the league's top sixth man last year, and Eric Snow have all missed time. And there's lineup upheaval as well, as newcomers Matt Harpring and Derrick Coleman have struggled to find roles with the club.

Finally, there are signs that the detente Croce brokered between Brown and Iverson last year might be wearing off, as the NBA's leading scorer has reportedly returned to showing up late for practices or skipping them entirely, not to mention his penchant for living up to his nickname of "Bubba Chuck."

Among the 25 players who have taken the most shots in the NBA, only Jason Williams of the Memphis Grizzlies has a worse shooting percentage than Iverson (.387 to .372). And while Michael Jordan leads the league in shots attempted, Iverson is hoisting three more per game than Jordan.

It's enough to make a coach want to go home.

Quick quiz

With Jordan on the cusp of passing Wilt Chamberlain for third place on the all-time scoring list, and Karl Malone poised to pass Buck Williams and Moses Malone to move into fourth place behind teammate John Stockton for games played, it seems a good time to ask for the names of the players who appear on both lists.

Reclamation project

Assuming that Richard Hamilton can regain the form he had before he went on the injured list with a groin injury, look for the Washington Wizards to try to develop second-year guard Courtney Alexander.

Alexander, the key player in the deal that shipped Juwan Howard to Dallas last February, has missed the past two games with a sprained left ankle. When he has played, however, he has been inconsistent this season, averaging five points in limited time after showing signs of becoming a solid player last year, when he averaged 17 points in 27 games in Washington.

However, Alexander, a 6-foot-6 player out of Fresno State, is one of the most physically gifted players on the roster, not to mention the object of attention of a certain former executive-turned-player.

"The next thing is to try to get Courtney in the same way [as Hamilton]," Jordan said. "He could be an integral part to this team, but right now, he hasn't been able to find the mix."

An observation

OK, recognizing that the All-Star Game is an exhibition for the fans, who are entitled to see the players they want to see, the fact that Orlando's Grant Hill is second in voting among Eastern Conference forwards despite having missed most of two seasons with ankle injuries, suggests that the formula for selecting starters should be tweaked.

Answer

The list of iron men and super scorers has five players on it: Karl and Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elvin Hayes and John Havlicek.

Quote of the week

"If you've got DirectTV, you can watch him all season long. It's not time to watch him if you're out on the court guarding him. He does draw so much attention, but you have to be able to box out, and we just didn't do that tonight."- New Jersey point guard Jason Kidd after Jordan torched the Nets for 45 points Monday in Washington's 98-76 win.

Compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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