- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2001

PHILADELPHIA George Karl must have been unbearable as a kid.
Just imagine the Milwaukee Bucks coach not having his way in a game of tag, for instance. Karl no doubt would have complained when things didn't go his way, just what he's doing now as his Bucks squandered games to the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference finals.
After each one of his team's losses in the series, in which they trail the 76ers 3-2, Karl has criticized everything and everyone but himself.
He cries that referees favor the 76ers, which he says accounts for the 57 more free throws the Sixers have attempted through five games. He claims that his team, too, has injuries and that the 76ers are no more banged up than the Bucks. And now, after a poorly coached second half resulted in his team blowing a 16-point lead in Game 5, Karl stormed off the interview dais prematurely, just two queries in, leaving reporters with empty notepads.
Empty is appropriate here because it is an apt description for his moaning.
Had Karl been paying attention, he would have known the 76ers got to the free throw line 617 more times than their opponents during the regular season. Meanwhile, his jump-shooting, contact-eschewing finesse team went to the free throw line 312 times less than its opponents. However, this shouldn't be a big problem for the Bucks. After all, in their 92-78 rout of the 76ers in Game 2, the Bucks made just two free throws.
If teams mold themselves in the personality of their coach, then it is clear Karl's bark is far worse than his bite. The Bucks, completely healthy from top to bottom, have been manhandled inside by Philadelphia, particularly by center Dikembe Mutombo. The 76ers have outscored the Bucks in the paint 180-124 in the series. And with guys like Ervin Johnson and Scott Williams supposedly being responsible for the Bucks' dirty work, don't expect much change in that department either.
While Karl rants and raves about seemingly everything, Sixers coach Larry Brown, who, like Karl, played basketball at North Carolina, goes about his business quietly, never allowing himself to get sucked into Karl's pointless debates.
After the 76ers beat a pulseless Bucks team in Milwaukee to even the series at 2-2, Karl started to question the severity of Allen Iverson's hip joint injury.
"Where is he hurt? What's hurt on him? There's a lot of spin and perception in our world today. Conspiracy theories are out there," Karl said after Iverson shot 10-for-32 and finished with 28 points in the Sixers' 89-83 win at Milwaukee in Game 4.
Following Philadelphia's come-from-behind win in Game 5 a game in which point guard Eric Snow hit the game-winning jump shot while playing on a fractured right ankle with a screw in it that will require offseason surgery Karl was at it again.
"Some of our guys are going to have surgery at the end of the year, but they're not hurt, either, right?" Karl quipped.
Just for posterity's sake, none of the Bucks is officially listed as injured. However, some of them have played as if they are mentally impaired. For instance, the Bucks could have won Wednesday's game with room to spare had Robinson not been called for a flagrant foul for pushing Sixers forward Tyrone Hill in the back as he awaited the beginning of a play. The Bucks gave the 76ers more points when forward Tim Thomas was called for a flagrant foul on Hill.
Karl's undisciplined team has been whistled for eight technical fouls in the series compared to just one for the Sixers. They also hold a 3-0 edge in flagrant fouls.
Karl's biggest and most foolish mistake thus far, though, has been questioning the health of the 76ers.
They lost starting forward George Lynch to a broken left foot in the semifinals against the Toronto Raptors. Iverson is shooting just 27 percent in the series and is hampered by a back injury that has made him half the player he was against Toronto, when he twice topped 50 points. Iverson has compensated, though; overshadowed by his bad shooting is the fact that he has as many assists in the series as Sam Cassell (31) and has outrebounded Ray Allen (21-19). Snow will be a game-time decision again today, and Mutombo has been playing with a broken right pinky finger.
If any team had a right to complain, it would be the 76ers.
But Brown's approach has been far different and more effective than Karl's constant whining. Before Game 5, Brown showed the Sixers footage of Kirk Gibson hobbling out to smack a home run for the Los Angeles Dodgers off Oakland Athletics closer Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Brown also showed them Willis Reed hobbling back onto the court against the Los Angeles Lakers to lead the New York Knicks to the 1970 NBA championship.
Mutombo spoke for all of his teammates when asked whether the chronic complaining by the Bucks and Karl was starting to get stale.
"I don't know why they keep complaining. Complaining doesn't really bring you solutions," Mutombo said. "You might as well just go and try to accomplish something and get something done. They have been complaining about something since the beginning of the series, win or lose. Maybe we shouldn't show up to the game and let them get a 'W' maybe then they wouldn't complain so much."


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