NEWARK, N.J. - Doug Collins got on an elevator once with Jack Nicholson. It was crowded, so Collins and Nicholson had to face all the people already stuffed inside. When the elevator stopped, Nicholson got off, saw a dime on the ground, reached down and picked it up.

"Dougie, my boy," the legendary actor said, "the rich get richer."

The 76ers coach brought that story up last night before his team's 82-77 win over the New Jersey Nets, relating it to the Phillies' acquiring free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee.

The rich get richer.

"How about those four starters? Cole Hamels as a fourth starter, are you kidding me?" Collins said. "Cole Hamels as a fourth starter is going to be a 20-game winner. Awesome."

Though there was a game to be played, the buzz was about Lee surprising the baseball world by deciding to become a Phillie. Again.

Sixers swingman Jason Kapono has been a baseball fan all his life, following his home teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Angels.

"It's huge, it's unreal," Kapono said. "He did an unbelievable job of keeping that out of the media and keeping away the speculation. It's amazing, after all the talks with the Yankees and the Rangers and even the Red Sox maybe, that he did what he did.

"In this day and age, players tend to chase the most money, because you want to capitalize on the short time frame in which you have to play a sport and earn a salary. For him to actually follow his heart and choose the team, even though he's still paid well, but to choose the team that he actually wants to play for because he likes the clubhouse, he likes the team, he likes the city vs. just going with the team that would pay him the most is rare."

Guards Jodie Meeks and Lou Williams weren't too happy with Lee's deal. Both are Braves fans.

"It's a very nice move for the Phillies, I hope it serves them well," Williams said sarcastically, no doubt stinging a bit from the Phillies' good fortunes.

Similarly similar

After last night's loss, the Nets are riding an eight-game losing streak, a year after cementing themselves as one of the NBA's worst teams. Doug Collins entered a similar position when he signed on with the Sixers and got off to a 3-13 start. Collins can relate to what new Nets coach Avery Johnson and his players are going through.

"You just keep trying to play through things and hopefully get some good fortune," Collins said. "I think Avery is probably going through the same thing we are right now with growing pains and trying to figure out exactly what you can do night to night to get consistency, where you can go to get a basket late in games. Avery will get it figured out.

"They have a little break in the schedule now. I think they have us, Washington and the Toronto Raptors. They're probably looking at these three as a chance to get themselves healthy, and we're looking at the next three as a chance to do some good things before we head out on that trip [of eight straight road games]."

Trade buzz

The Nets reportedly agreed to move disgruntled second-year player Terrence Williams to the Houston Rockets and longtime vet Joe Smith to the Lakers, each for a first-round pick. The Nets, according to reports, also are getting Sasha Vujacic from the Lakers in the deal, which is expected to become official today.

The Nets could wind up owning their own first-round picks in the next two drafts, plus three other acquired first-rounders. New Jersey is stockpiling ammunition to make a lucrative offer for Denver's Carmelo Anthony. *