The 76ers' players admit that they often try to get into the head of center Samuel Dalembert, giving him constant encouragement because of his vast potential.
At times, he can play like an all-star, and on other occasions, he tends to disappear.
Last night was one of those times when he showed up in every sense of the word. Dalembert came one block short of a triple-double during the Sixers' 98-94 win against the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves.
It was the fourth consecutive win for the Sixers, who are 9-13 overall and 6-7 at the Wachovia Center.
Tying a career high with nine blocked shots, Dalembert also registered 18 points and 11 rebounds in easily his best performance of the season.
"They have always been on me because they think I have the potential to be a great player," Dalembert said of his teammates.
And they won't stop prodding him, trying to get him to reach the next level consistently.
"I'm not going to kiss Sam's butt, and I let him know when he is good and not good," said forward Reggie Evans, who had six points and six rebounds despite playing with a sore right shoulder. "I feel he can be an all-star in the East if he plays like he did tonight."
Count Willie Green as another Sixer who keeps pushing Dalembert.
"I think we all stay on Sam because we all understand his potential and ability," said Green, who scored 18 points. "He can wipe away a lot of mistakes on the perimeter."
The Sixers and Dalembert took advantage of the slow-footed Wolves, outscoring them by 16-2 on fastbreak points.
Dalembert saved his best and final block for last.
The Sixers were clinging to a 96-94 lead when Andre Iguodala was called for an offensive foul with 18.2 seconds left.
The Timberwolves (3-17) went for the tie by going to their best player, 6-foot-10 Al Jefferson.
Jefferson drove to the basket and took a seven-foot hook shot that Dalembert rejected.
Iguodala, who scored a game-high 25 points, got the rebound and was fouled. He hit two free throws for the final bit of scoring with 5.9 seconds left.
"I knew he was going to shoot the hook, and I went straight for it," Dalembert said of the final block.
Jefferson, who scored a team-high 22 points, said he was fouled on the play, but not by Dalembert.
"[Andre] Miller went under me when I went up for the shot," Jefferson said.
Jefferson said he was surprised there was no call, but not by Dalembert's performance.
"He didn't do anything new tonight," Jefferson said. "He's always been one of the top shot-blockers in the league."
Last year, Dalembert ranked 11th in the NBA in blocked shots with 1.94 per game. After last night, he is averaging 2.5 rejections.
The 6-foot-11 Dalembert came to camp recovering from a stress fracture in his left foot and with the mind-set that he needed to be heavier. He entered training camp at 267 pounds.
He said he has lost 22 pounds since then because he felt sluggish. Now he feels much more agile.
The 26-year-old Dalembert has often performed as if he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. He has often tried to do too much; at other times, he has been accused of not producing enough.
So on a night he was one block short of a triple-double, Dalembert was feeling pretty good about himself.
"This helps my confidence a lot," Dalembert said. "You have to keep pushing yourself, and the next goal is to repeat this performance on Friday" at home against the Sacramento Kings.
While the Sixers would not admit it, there seemed to be a little letdown as they played the NBA's worst team.
Only an all-star-caliber performance from Dalembert kept them from being the Wolves' second road victim this year.
See a slide show from the game at http://go.philly.