- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 24, 2002

PHILADELPHIA As Philadelphia's 2000-01 season ended with a 4-1 elimination at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, the 76ers resembled the beaten-down Revolutionary War soldiers from which their name is derived.
The grit the 76ers exhibited last year in reaching the Finals for the first time since 1983 when they swept the Lakers 4-0 made the sometimes grating "Rocky" theme at home games seem appropriate.
The Sixers came from behind in all three rounds of the playoffs including seven-game conquests of Toronto and Milwaukee before reaching the Finals. This despite starting forward George Lynch fracturing a foot; starting point guard Eric Snow playing on a broken ankle; and 2001's top reserve, Aaron McKie, playing on a broken foot. League MVP Allen Iverson played through a bruised hip and buttocks.
"I've never been around a group of guys that showed more heart than this group," coach Larry Brown said after being eliminated. "I'm very proud to coach these guys."
That, however, seems so long ago.
Today there are five players from that team on the playoff roster. Lynch and starting power forward Tyrone Hill were traded, replaced with Derrick Coleman and Matt Harpring. And instead of thriving in a weak Eastern Conference, last season's top playoff seed won 13 fewer games, wound up seeded sixth and finds itself in an 0-1 hole against Boston in the first round of the playoffs. Game2 is tomorrow in Boston.
No one on the present roster, which includes seven new faces, likes to compare last season's magical ride with this season's bumpy trip to the postseason.
"You can't make a comparison because it's not the same team," Snow said. "If we had the same team I think it would be fair. It's hard to compare these guys to the guys that were here."
Added Brown: "Whatever happened in the past is in the past. We do have different players. I still felt that our core guys are the character of the team, and that they would have a mindset of how we are supposed to play."
For a team coming off a Finals appearance, the 76ers' summer was tumultuous. Iverson and McKie both delayed surgery until training camp. That and injuries to key players like center Dikembe Mutombo made Brown's job harder.
"Training camp?" Brown said through a smile. "We never had a training camp. Not this season."
Iverson missed the first five games of the season and the Sixers, who won their first 10 last season, went winless. The poor start to the season set an ominous tone.
The Sixers showed no consistency at any point during the season. They won seven straight games after Iverson's return but never again looked that good.
And they never quite recovered from their injury problems. Sunday's 92-82 loss to the Celtics marked only the fourth time this season Brown has had a full complement of players. McKie has missed 34 games, Coleman 23 and Iverson 22.
As a result, the Sixers, many of whom thought they had improved when they replaced Lynch's defense with Coleman's offense, have spent much of the season just trying to learn each other's tendencies.
"We never had a full month together, with everybody playing and that's hurt us," Snow said. "You are kidding yourself if you don't think chemistry and all of that stuff means a lot because it really does."
In their loss to Boston the Sixers were horrible. Iverson, playing his first game in more than a month after breaking his left hand, scored 20 points on 4-for-15 shooting, and the Celtics held the Sixers to 38 percent shooting. And even though most of the Sixers believe they can come back and win this five-game series, their coach doesn't exude that same cockiness that was this team's mantra last season
"I don't know if the confidence is there right now," Brown said. "I have it. If we play the right way I think we are a tough out. We have the right players. I expect them to come out and play a lot better on Thursday. But I don't know "
When the Sixers acquired Harpring in a five-player deal with Cleveland, he was overjoyed to be joining a team that had won 26 more regular-season games than the Cavs.
However, he was not in Philadelphia as the city soaked in the euphoria of a championship run. After being a part of a disjointed season that saw the team tumble to fourth place in the Atlantic Division, he is no closer to that joy.
"I wasn't on the team last year, so I don't have any memories of that team," Harpring said. "I'm sure they have great memories and they have great accomplishments. But this is a new year. No one ever remembers the team that went to the Finals; they remember the winners. Until you actually get the championship, second place doesn't really mean much."

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