THERE'S A LINE in the holiday movie "It's a Wonderful Life" that goes: "Youth is wasted on the wrong people."

The 76ers are about as youthful as teams come in the NBA, with seven of the players on their roster age 25 or younger.

But the youngsters who have played against the Sixers have had a ton of success, particularly rookies.

Let's take a closer look:

In the Sixers' home opener, Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings made his first NBA start. Before the game, coach Scott Skiles said: "We love how fast and explosive Brandon is. He might not be there yet, but he can be very good offensively in this league."

Skiles couldn't have been more right, and Jennings started to prove his worth that night. Though the Bucks lost, 99-86, Jennings just missed a triple-double, posting 17 points, nine assists and nine rebounds. The 10th overall pick has since gone on to make himself the leading candidate for rookie of the year honors, with averages of 21.2 points and 5.7 assists. He also went for 55 points against Golden State last month after being held scoreless in the first quarter.

When the Sixers visited Detroit on Nov. 8, rookie forward Jonas Jerebko put in a workmanlike outing during the Pistons' 88-81 win, totaling 10 points and five rebounds. In Wednesday's win at the Wachovia Center, Jerebko scored all 17 of his points in the second half and also pulled down 10 rebounds as the Pistons handed the Sixers their 11th straight loss, 90-86.

Five days after the Sixers visited Detroit, Utah came for a visit without All-Star guard Deron Williams, who left the team to attend to his daughter, who had fallen ill. Coach Jerry Sloan was forced to start two rookies in his backcourt, Wesley Matthews and Eric Maynor. It was the first start for both.

Asked what he expected of them, Sloan said, "I don't know. You throw them out there and you see what they can do. It's really up to them."

Matthews, the son of former Sixer Wes Matthews, and Maynor, the 20th overall pick from Virginia Commonwealth, proceeded to combine for 29 points in a 112-90 Utah win. Matthews, who went undrafted out of Marquette, hit three treys and scored 16 points. Maynor had 13 points and 11 assists while only turning the ball over twice.

When the Sixers visited San Antonio almost 2 weeks ago, the team and fans honored David Robinson for his election into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Robinson, one of the nicest people you will ever want to meet, took the microphone at center court and heaped praise on rookie DeJuan Blair out of Pittsburgh, saying that he was his new favorite player. Before Robinson's ceremony, Blair, a 6-7, 265-pound forwar, went for 11 points and 10 rebounds in only 16 minutes, 48 seconds of play in the Spurs' 97-89 win.

On Monday, in Allen Iverson's return to the Sixers, North Carolina product Ty Lawson, who was picked 18th overall in this year's draft and is now with the Denver Nuggets, sliced and diced his way to 12 points, six rebounds and four assists in his 23-plus minutes.

Many times, Lawson drove past the rusty Iverson as if A.I. were stuck in mud. Nothing against Iverson, Lawson does that to many.

"He is fast as lightning," Sixers rookie Jrue Holiday said.

Speaking of Holiday, whom the Sixers grabbed with the 17th pick out of UCLA, I think he will soon match some of the numbers that have been put up by his fellow rookies, though it might not be as soon as Sixers fans would like.

Holiday was solid, if not spectacular, during his three starts for Lou Williams after Williams suffered a broken jaw. The rookie then suffered a strain of his right rotator cuff while trying to block a dunk by Willie Green during a practice in Charlotte.

Holiday's game can best be described as, again, solid - he is strong, is a good shooter and has a good handle. He is not afraid to make mistakes, and equally not afraid to ask why he made them. He has a wonderful demeanor and seems to absorb all the lessons that the NBA has to offer.

The intriguing thing is how Iverson's acquisition might affect Holiday. If he chooses, Holiday could pick Iverson's brain about life in the NBA and how to adjust to it. But that will come in time.

"I haven't really talked much to him yet, because when he's here, I've been getting treatment," Holiday said. "I watched him so much when I was growing up. My best memory of him was when he hit that shot in Game 1 [of the 2001 NBA Finals] from the baseline and then stepped over Tyronn Lue."

The memory wasn't a good one, however, as Holiday, a Southern California native, was rooting for the Lakers. "I wasn't too mad about it, though. The Lakers did end up winning in five."

Keep an eye on No. 11, fans. Even at 19, he seems to have all the intangibles to become a fan favorite.

Just forecasting

It seems that forward Marreese Speights could be back in the lineup in a couple of weeks after recovering from the partial tear of his left medial collateral ligament. Jrue Holiday is day-to-day (aren't we all) and should be returning soon. Lou Williams has a long haul ahead of him, and probably won't be back until about mid-January.

But let's just take a look at what the roster will be when all are healthy. With the addition of Iverson, the starting lineup could be Williams, Iverson, Andre Iguodala, Thad Young and Sam Dalembert. That would leave Speights as the first big off the bench, followed by Jason Smith. A rotation of guards and swingmen could include Willie Green, Jason Kapono, Rodney Carney and Holiday. Royal Ivey will always give good minutes when used, especially on defense.

With the way coach Eddie Jordan has been substituting so far, who knows? But that's one scenario. What does it do for you? Jordan has talked often since the acquisition of Iverson of his desire to have Iverson and Williams on the floor together.

All-Star voting

Despite having played only five games this season, Allen Iverson is sixth among guards in the Eastern Conference All-Star voting.

Iverson is actually on the West ballot, because the ballot was set when he was still with Memphis, but he is listed among the results for the East, because he now plays in the East.



Sixers television analyst Ed Pinckney was limping at the practice facility at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine the other day. Turns out the Villanova alum tore the meniscus in his knee and will require surgery. "I was playing in a league up in New York with a bunch of former NBA players and just came down wrong," said the personable Pinckney. Sounding like a frustrated former athlete, Pinckney, 47, said: "I shouldn't have even been out on the court. I knew it was bad as soon as I did it." The 6-11 Pinckney already struggles fitting into the tight spots at away games to do his announcing with play-by-play man Marc Zumoff. It certainly will get tougher after the surgery.


Tonight vs. Houston: We are not in the predicting business, as you can tell by my college-football picking record, which stands well below .500, but the Sixers might break the 11-game slide here. Allen Iverson seemed to improve his game by leaps from Monday to Wednesday. That might be enough tonight.

Monday vs. Golden State: Monta Ellis has been one of the hottest, if not happiest, players in the league this season. He leads the Warriors with 24.4 points a game and takes few rests. If the Sixers don't stop the losing streak against Houston, then this one?

Wednesday vs. Cleveland: The first appearance of the season in Philadelphia by LeBron James and troubled former Saint Joseph's star Delonte West. Shaquille O'Neal is healthy. Isn't that enough right there to put fear into opposing teams?

BY THE NUMBERS: We'll do this in honor of Iverson's return. Soak the numbers in; they really are astounding:

Games: 891

Starts: 879

Career averages: 27 points, 6.2 assists, 2.2 steals, 41.4 minutes.

Career-high game: 60 points, second in Sixers franchise history.

Playoff average: 29.7 points, second-highest behind Michael Jordan's 33.4.

Scored 30 or more: 345 times

Scored 40 or more: 79 times

Scored 50 or more: 11 times

Height: 5-11, at the most