The heart of November provided lean weeks for 76ers combo guard Lou Williams.

The numbers were barely meaty enough to stretch from game to game: three points here, seven minutes there, a 1-for-5 night.

Nearly a month ago, in a home game against the less-than-stellar Los Angeles Clippers, Williams went 0 for 4 in seven minutes - looking nothing like the confident sixth man who finished games last season for the Sixers.

"I always made shots in practice," Williams said of that stretch. "It was in the games that I wasn't."

But then the team traveled to Detroit, the latest home for Philly's former all-everything guard, Allen Iverson.

"Everyone knows A.I. was a mentor figure to me," Williams explained. "I wanted to use him to see how my progress is going. Show him I've grown up some."

Perhaps it was his need to test himself against one of the game's best; perhaps it was the absence of Elton Brand, the Sixers' leading scorer, who was missing that game because of a strained right hamstring; perhaps it was just time. Or perhaps, like Williams' game, it was a little bit of everything.

Williams scored 16 points that night, most coming in the final minutes of an important Sixers victory. He has played 20-plus minutes, scoring in double figures, in each game since.

Williams' productivity and ability in the open court become paramount especially considering the events of last week, when the Sixers produced more news than Wall Street.

The Cliff Notes version: A week ago, president and general manager Ed Stefanski fired coach Maurice Cheeks and replaced him with assistant general manager Tony DiLeo. Four days later, the man around whom Stefanski designed this team - the aforementioned Brand - crashed to the Wachovia Center court with a dislocated right shoulder and a doctor's note saying he would miss about a month.

It is through the hole created by Brand's absence that Williams must penetrate. And thankfully for the Sixers, and now DiLeo, Williams seems to have played himself out of a slump - although Williams himself hesitates to call it such.

If you watched the first six weeks of the season, it appeared Williams was caught between playing point guard and playing shooting guard - having never clearly defined his role. After that painfully played November stretch, Williams shifted toward embracing his scoring mentality. Everything else opened.

"Making shots lets you do other things instead of focusing on trying to make shots," Williams said.

Reggie Evans sighting.

It was just like old times. And by "old times" we mean last season.

During Wednesday's win over the Bucks, Reggie Evans, the Sixers power forward who has watched almost this entire season from the end of the bench, finally provided the energy surge around which he has built his NBA career. Evans chased the basketball to the corners, knocked into opponents on the block, and encouraged the sparse home crowd to a greater decibel level. Evans' minutes came in place of Brand, who was in the training room beginning midway through the third quarter.

"It felt good," Evans said of his lengthy fourth-quarter appearance. "I wish it wouldn't have happened like that, but it felt like old times. We were helping each other out, running out to the three-point line to get to shots."