What does Larry Brown want?
Obviously not what he had when he first took over the 76ers as head coach and vice president of basketball operations.Or what he had when the Sixers went to training camp at North Carolina. Or even what he had Opening Day. In February, Brown appears to be inching closer and closer to his eventual vision.
That would make sense. Since draft day last June, he and vice president of basketball administration Billy King have made five, count 'em, five trades.
It all started with the draft-day blockbuster in which the Sixers acquired Jim Jackson, Eric Montross and rookies Tim Thomas and Anthony Parker for Don MacLean, Lucious Harris, Michael Cage and rookie Keith Van Horn.
Who knew the revolving door was only just beginning to revolve?
"I've had about five different teams this season," Brown said. "When I got the job, I had a team I didn't like, and by the time we got to camp I had another team.
"Then we made our trade with Detroit and I had another team. Then we traded for Eric Snow, then we traded for Joe Smith and Brian Shaw, then we sent Terry Cummings to New York. This has been wild."
In sequence, the Sixers acquired Theo Ratliff and Aaron McKie from the Pistons for Jerry Stackhouse and Montross, gave a second-round pick to Seattle for Snow, then obtained Smith and Shaw from Golden State for Clarence Weatherspoon and Jackson.
"You can't change like that on the fly and expect to have continuity," Brown conceded.
Continuity? All the movement has left the Sixers with just five players remaining from the team that finished 22-60 under Johnny Davis last season. Of those, three - Allen Iverson, Mark Davis and Doug Overton - arrived last season, and Overton is on the injured list awaiting ankle surgery. Derrick Coleman came in 1995-96. The veteran in point of service is Scott Williams, a Sixer since '94-95. This team is so new that the leader in games played in succession is Iverson, at a modest 31.
"I've seen a lot of change since I've been here, some good, not all good," Williams said. "What I see now is management and the coaches trying to build around Allen, trying to get guys who fit his style. They tried to do that in the summer and it didn't work, but they didn't wait for next summer. They changed again."
Brown is beginning to see things that give him hope for the future. That includes the arrivals of Snow and Shaw, who will allow Iverson to play more off the ball, freeing him to dart behind screens and create one-on-one breakdown situations rather than having to drive through a forest of defenders.
It includes Smith, the third-year forward who was the No. 1 pick in the 1995 draft, even though Brown still isn't exactly sure where Smith fits. And it includes Coleman, who is prospering with the new roster.
"We're more of a team than we've been," Iverson said. "Joe adds a lot of versatility, but the big thing has been Theo. If you had to pick a most valuable player, it would be Theo for what he does in the middle.
"It (would be helpful) to have guys together from Day 1, all working and practicing. When guys come in the middle, they're not familiar with things, it's rough. But we'll be all right."
Happiness is a relative thing. Smith, for example, was genuinely excited to join a team that had won just 16 games.
"I'm liking this team a lot better," Brown said. "I wish we could have had this group from the first day. We're in a situation now where not too many guys need the ball, and we're more athletic by far.
"Really, this is becoming more and more Coleman's team. One thing I've learned about him is, he needed more guys around him who understand how to play. And he and Allen play off each other very well."
This isn't totally the team Brown wants yet, but the various trades have given him a developing product and a roster that still includes seven players - Smith, Shaw, Overton, Snow, Mark Davis, Ratliff and Kebu Stewart - who can become free agents July 1. Plus, the Sixers could create additional cap space with a $5.6 million buyout of Coleman, rather than paying him his full contract of $13 million next season.
"I wasn't here with the group that started the season, I just know it would be easy to give up, to go out and lay down, let teams pound us," McKie said. "We haven't gotten a lot of results yet, but at least we go out every night and give ourselves a chance."
Which is what Larry Brown wants. At least for starters.
Sixers coach Larry Brown has found success at each of his many stops in the NBA. Brown has turned the Nuggets, Nets, Spurs, Clippers and Pacers into playoff teams. Can he do the same in Philadelphia?
... Regular season Postseason
Year Team W-L Pct. W-L Pct.
76-77 Denver 50-32 .610 2-4 .333
77-78 Denver 48-34 .585 6-7 .462
78-79 Denver 28-25 .528 n/a ---
81-82 New Jersey 44-38 .537 0-2 .000
82-83 New Jersey 47-29 .618 n/a ---
88-89 San Antonio 21-61 .256 0-0 ---
89-90 San Antonio 56-26 .683 6-4 .600
90-91 San Antonio 55-27 .671 1-3 .250
91-92 SA-LAC 44-29 .603 2-3 .400
92-93 L.A. Clippers 41-41 .500 2-3 .400
93-94 Indiana 47-35 .573 10-6 .625
94-95 Indiana 52-30 .634 10-7 .588
95-96 Indiana 52-30 .634 2-3 .400
96-97 Indiana 39-43 .476 0-0 ---
97-98 Philadelphia 18-36 .333 --- ---
TOTALS 871-62 .583 61-6 .488