- The Washington Times - Friday, November 17, 2000

This is not right, the 76ers at 8-0.

They are team turmoil. They are Larry Brown and Allen Iverson, the Pat Boone and Dr. Dre of the NBA. You can't take those two together anywhere.

They couldn't agree on the time of day, notably the practice time. Brown couldn't relate to the rapper inside the basketball player, and Iverson couldn't relate to the professor inside the coach.

They are from different worlds, nearly two generations apart, and in the offseason, after Pat Croce, Billy King and Brown measured the talent against the headache, it was decided it would be best if the team dispatched Iverson to the other side of the world

That included the Clippers, among others, which is the NBA equivalent of a sinkhole. King nearly closed a deal with the Pistons, only to have it come apart because of the math.

Iverson did not appreciate the uncertainty, the implied lack of respect, not after what he had done in four seasons with the 76ers, not after he had played through pain and injuries and turned a nondescript team into an engaging one.

This is how they show their thanks?

Didn't they understand? Couldn't they see the big picture? He is the Answer. He is tiny in body but big in heart. He goes in there among the tall timber and takes the blows. He takes the big shots. Sometimes he takes all the shots. That, too, was a source of contention.

They just couldn't connect, Brown and Iverson. The little stuff added up on Iverson: the tardiness, the missed practices, the indifference to weightlifting and the failure to recognize the impact these failings had on team dynamics.

Iverson did not go anywhere, of course, and it was assumed going into the season that he or Brown would have a meltdown and their relationship would become shakier than it already was. It did not help when the lyrics to Iverson's hip-hop attempt reached the masses in training camp.

It was said to be art, as art is generously defined, and Iverson apologized to those who might be offended. Brown just wanted the mess to go away, as the single-minded inevitably do, and soon enough it did.

Iverson asked to be named one of the captains of the team. That was a good one. The player who couldn't stay out of trouble wanted to have a role in showing his teammates the right way.

That was in the bad, old days, and now, as the only unbeaten team in the NBA, the 76ers have as much claim on the NBA Finals in June as the other suspects in the Eastern Conference.

Brown and Iverson are not merely getting along. They are singing each other's praises, their rift not as deep as originally thought.

Iverson is showing up to practice on time, taking fewer shots and entrusting his teammates with more responsibilities. The 76ers are playing a nasty brand of defense, as ugly as it gets, and it hardly matters that Iverson is off to a so-so shooting start.

He never has been a pure shooter anyway. He is a scorer, creative with the ball, and his assists are up, and his heart is as big as ever. He played on a sprained left ankle in the team's last game and put up 22 points and five assists on the Cavaliers.

The 76ers are discovering that sometimes the best trade is the one a team does not make. They are hardly formidable, but they have a certain continuity, understanding, and they play hard, and those qualities, along with Iverson's prodigious talent, may be enough to send the 76ers over the top in the East this season.

Brown says there never would have been trade talks if he knew Iverson could be punctual, willing to practice each day and responsive to his teammates.

Winning is a wonderful tonic, and Brown and Iverson are as susceptible to its healing powers as the next odd couple. It is early in the season, as Brown likes to remind his players, but the attempt to make this thing work is worthy, intriguing.

Iverson is 25 years old, destined to grow up, as they all do, sooner or later.

Maybe this is the start, and what a nice start it is for a coach, a player and team that was thought to be behind the Magic, Bucks and Heat a month ago.

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