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Undefeated 76ers are the early surprise of the NBA season

By Dan Gelston

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Nov. 3 2013 8:25 p.m. MST

Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown speaks to Michael Carter-Williams (1) as they play the Chicago Bulls in the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday Nov. 2, 2013, in Philadelphia. The 76ers won 107-104. (AP Photo/H. Rumph Jr)

H. Rumph Jr, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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PHILADELPHIA — Winless for Wiggins is out. Flawless in Philly is so in.

Look who's leading the NBA standings, with a 3-0 record featuring wins over Miami and Chicago. Rub your eyes all you want, the answer — for now — is the awful-to-awesome Philadelphia 76ers.

Yes, this is the same franchise that prompted Las Vegas to set the over-under for total wins this season at 16.5.

There's an early buzz in Philly over the way The Little Tank Engine That Could has stormed through the elite of the Eastern Conference en route to their best start since 2006-07, when Allen Iverson was running the show, not showing up to announce his retirement.

Just as the sign read Saturday night after their latest win over Chicago, "3-0. That's No Bull."

"We're excited about the victories," forward Thaddeus Young said, "but the work doesn't stop here."

Nope, but the Sixers will enjoy the can-you-believe this victories while they can.

Consider, in a bleak year in Philly sports, the Sixers entered Sunday with one less win than the Flyers (who started Oct. 2) and as many as the Eagles (Sept. 9).

The Sixers can thank three rookies for their start: general manager Sam Hinkie, coach Brett Brown and point guard Michael Carter-Williams.

With his team mired in mediocrity for a decade, Hinkie was the GM who put the rebuilding plan in place, drafting MCW and trading for Nerlens Noel. Brown has preached patience — while pushing an up-tempo style that had the Sixers score 100-plus points in all three wins.

And then there's MCW.

If basketball fans weren't familiar with what the MCW stood for after his 22-point, 12-assist, nine-steal debut on opening night against Miami, they are now. After three games, Carter-Williams has opened eyes around the league, outplaying Washington's John Wall and Chicago's Derrick Rose on consecutive nights. He had 26 points, 10 assists and rallied the Sixers from 18 down in the second half to beat the Bulls on Saturday night.

"I think it's a point guards' league," Brown said, "and I think Michael Carter-Williams is for real."

He's gobbled nicknames faster than double-doubles — MCW, of course, and "The Hyphen."

"Coach gives me a lot of confidence out there," Carter-Williams said. "I'm able to play freely."

In his sophomore season at Syracuse, Carter-Williams broke the school record for steals in a season with 111 and finished with 292 assists, the second-highest total in Syracuse history behind only Sherman Douglas's record of 326 in 1988-89. Carter-Williams also recorded nine double-doubles.

The Sixers thought enough of MCW to pick him 11th in the draft, and trade All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans.

Who needs to lose 60 games for the top pick if Hinkie and crew prove they can find a gem like MCW at 11?

Even Magic Johnson endorsed Carter-Williams as a rookie to watch.

"I just got done watching the guy I think will be the Rookie of The Year, Michael Carter-Williams of the 76ers," Johnson wrote on Twitter.

Johnson's not the only one hooked on the Sixers — the fans that openly rooted for them to lose so they could potentially select Kansas prospect Andrew Wiggins with the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft — creating #winlessforwiggins on Twitter — have switched stripes and embraced the team.

The Sixers failed to heed the message this was supposed to be a rebuilding year — or, in NBA terms, a tanked season.

The comeback fun — they haven't led to open the fourth quarter — started on opening night.

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