THE 76ERS have played 28 games, winning eight of them. With 54 left on the schedule, here's a look at a few things that have transpired around first-year coach Brett Brown.
* The promising play of Michael Carter-Williams: Though he has missed 11 games because of injuries to his foot and knee, there is no bigger story surrounding this organization. In Jrue Holiday, they gave up a point guard who made it to the All-Star Game in his fourth season and handed the reins to MCW. All he has done in his 17 games is average close to 18 points and eight assists, and he leads the NBA with three steals a game. He as exceeded all expectations and has many in the organization drooling over the future of the 6-6 guard. One league executive said: "He is going to be really, really good. They got a far better player in this league than anyone imagined. If he can stay healthy and get his body stronger, he could be something really special."
* The exciting play of Tony Wroten: There may be no player who epitomizes what this season is about for the Sixers more than Wroten. Is he a player this organization looks to help it improve to where it wants to be? Maybe. But more important, Wroten is improving his stock as an NBA player. He is a bolt of electricity this team sorely needs a lot of times, and, under Brown, he is understanding more and more what it takes to be an NBA player. Those are all good things and he will help the future of this team, whether it is here or whether his stock rises enough to where he becomes a valuable trading piece.
* The somewhat erratic play of Evan Turner: The 6-5 swingman started the season on fire, giving fans the hope that Turner, now in his fourth season, had become the player they expected when he was taken with the second overall pick. In the first six games of the season, he averaged 22.2 points and shot 55.2 percent from the floor. He was taking the ball hard to the basket and, more important, finishing those shots at the rim, as opposed to looking to double- and triple-pump his way into a blocked shot. When he goes hard, he gets the respect of the officials who will reward him with calls when there is contact. When he tries to avoid the contact, refs avoid making the calls. Since the first six games, Turner's numbers have dipped slightly, as since then, he has shot only 41 percent from the floor. Still, he's another whose stock has risen in the league, and is one of only a handful of players with averages of 19.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and four assists. A sore knee may have contributed to his 2-for-15 shooting performance on Saturday in Milwaukee, but the team doesn't get back on the floor until Thursday, so the rest should do him good.
* The coach's mental state: In Brown's 12 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, the team never won fewer than 50 games. Think about that for a minute. Now he is running a team that probably will lose more than 50 games, is filled with players who probably wouldn't have even made it on many of those Spurs teams, and is among the youngest in the league. There have been maddening losses, head-scratching decisions by his players and a defensive effort that has been well below par for much of the season. Still, Brown is with his team. He has his players on his side. They know the challenge ahead and their coach is right there with them, come hell or high water. Perhaps when he is alone in his hotel room near the team's practice facility, Brown screams into a pillow or bangs his head against the wall. But around his team, he is exactly what general manager Sam Hinkie envisioned when he hired him at the end of the summer. And he is exactly what the youngsters on this team needs.
After a short practice on Sunday, the players headed out to wherever they wanted to spend the holidays. They will reconvene in Phoenix on Thursday for an early-evening practice . . . Saturday will be the second game of a six-game road stretch, the team's longest of the season. The trip that starts with Saturday's game in Phoenix includes visits to Los Angeles (Lakers), Denver, Sacramento and Portland.