On the night the Phillies tasted victory for the second time across the street in the National League Championship Series, the announced 14,389 fans in the Wachovia Center (OK, OK, so there might have been a few less than that) got their first taste of what Elton Brand is bringing to the 76ers.
Never mind that the Sixers lost 110-104 to the New York Knicks in preseason game No. 2 tonight. Nver mind that the Knicks shot 50 percent from the floor and built up a 44-36 advantage on the glass. As nice as it would have been for the Sixers to win, the way the first unit played was far more significant.
And even though Brand, the $79.8 million free agent signee, didn't go down on the block very much, it was clear that the first unit revolved around him. Witness the first quarter, when the Sixers outscored the Knicks 38-22, with Brand scoring 18 on 7-for-8 shooting. Five of those 7 field goals came on jump shots from 15 feet or deeper, and his two baskets inside each resulted in a three-point play.
The first unit, with Brand and Thaddeus Young at forward, Samuel Dalembert at center and Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala at guard, shot a combined 25-for-43 from the floor. The eight subs were a combined 15-for-41, including uncharacteristic efforts from Kareem Rush (0-for-6) and Donyell Marshall (0-for-3).
''The first home game, even though it's preseason, I definitely wanted to exert myself, to get a big lead, and that's what we did,'' said Brand, who finished with 24 points. ''The first unit stepped up and really did well . . . It's the preseason, but you see how (the Knicks) treated it, with the starters in til the last 20 seconds. We played it a little more reserv ed, (but) it's a game out there, a simulated game. I was really proud of the first unit; the second unit dug ourselves into a hole. But a Mike D'Antoni team, that's what you have to contend with--ebbs and flows. You've got to keep scoring on a team like that, cause they'll keep coming. I've seen that a lot of times.''
Brand said he was already in sync with Miller (12 points, 12 assists), but not so much with Dalembert as they learn to co-exist around the basket.
''Sometimes it's hard getting on the block,'' he said. ''I've been working on my mid-range game, ball-handling, just trying to be a solid player. Nineteen days to the season, I'm definitely right where I want to be. I want to keep progressing, to be ready for opening night and the rest of the season. I feel I'm right there, (but) I think I can get better . . . Right now, we have such talent, but we're a young team; I'm trying to bring some veteran leadership, to make it easier for them. I expect big things. How big . . .It's going to be about growth out there. There are teams that have been together through the years, throughd the grind; they're getting better and stronger. If we can grow, kind of mature as a unit, we'll be fine. If not, we'll just be OK.''
The second unit wasn't even close to being OK in this one.
''I'm looking for a more established second unit,'' coach Maurice Cheeks said. ''Tonight was certainly not indicative of what I would like to see. To give up 38 points in the second quarter (while scoring just 13) is not what I want to see. They're young, they're trying; that's all I ask (but) their efforts weren't efficient.''
At the same time, Cheeks said "During the course of the season, there will not be five second line guys in there at one time, (but) the purpose of the preseason is to get a lot of looks at people and see how they play in games.''
It was left for Brand to let everyone know what was coming next.
''I'm not looking forward to tomorrow's practice,'' he said. "I know we're going to go through it.''
What's A Promotion Worth?: Anyone with a ticket stub from the Phillies victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers was entitled to free admission either the Sixers game or the Phantoms hockey game in the Wachovia Spectrum. early reports indicated about 125 entries to the hockey game and about 1,000 to the Sixers game.
What's a stat worth?: The Knicks shot 50 percent from the floor. During last season, the Sixers were 1-15 when the opponents shot at least 50 percent.
What's In A Name?: The Denver papers reported that old friend Allen Iverson named his fifth child, a daughter, Dream.
Reality Check: This was Knicks guard Jamal Crawford, on new Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni: He's known for his offense, but he stresses defense. I didn't even know that before he came here.''
Wounded Knee; The Sixers' Jason Smith, rehabbing after surgery to repair a gtorn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, has te moment he went down--during Tim Grgurich's skills camp in Las Vegas--etched in his memory. ''I remember it quite vividly,'' Smith said. ''I was driving left, planting my left leg, folded in toward my right and fell over it. Everybody thought I just twisted my ankle. I knew as soon as I did it. It didn't feel like any other thing I've ever done.''
Other Wounds: Thaddeus Young left in the third quarter with a corneal abrasion in his left eye. Lou Williams needed three stitches to close a chin laceration.