A few years ago, Kwame Brown let go of all the pressure that went along with being the top pick in the NBA draft and never living up to expectations.

It has worked out quite well for the burliest member of the 76ers.

"You don't survive 12 years thinking about that," said Brown, who in 2001 became the first high-school player ever selected with the first pick in the draft. "I realized that I had outlived guys that were high picks. There were 50th picks that came in that were just solid. So I just modeled myself after the guys with longevity, and that's what I wanted to do. To be in this business, you've got to know your role and what you want to do.

"Forget a pick. Forget expectations. You've just got to go out and do a job."

For Brown, 30 and playing for his seventh team, that job can entail any number of things. The Sixers aren't asking Brown to live up to the once-lofty expectations that came when Washington drafted him in 2001.

These days his job is to defend the post, grab rebounds, and make sure that when opposing big men throw their weight around, Brown is there to push back. That was on display Tuesday in a nail-biting, 100-98 win over the Dallas Mavericks.

Brown, who has been hampered by a calf injury that has slowed his conditioning, posted season highs in points (six) and rebounds (eight). Most important, Brown played a pivotal role in the second half in keeping Dallas center Chris Kaman under control.

After scoring 13 points in the first half, Kaman was held to seven points and three rebounds in the second.

That's what Sixers coach Doug Collins wants from Brown on a nightly basis.

The Sixers have won five of their last six home games, but Collins said the team could have lost to Utah, Phoenix, or Dallas if not for Brown's muscle. The team needs his physicality, which is not reflected in any box score.

"He was a big part of that," Collins said. "As time has gone on, I think he knows how important he is to us. We have tried to be incredibly patient to let him know how important he is to us. We've just got to keep him healthy because he can help us."