With 76ers down, Lucas on the way out


In December, it looked as though Philadelphia 76ers coach/general manager John Lucas had pulled off the steal of the season. The Sixers had acquired multitalented forward Derrick Coleman for little-talent center Shawn Bradley, a trade that seemed sure to boost the pitiful Sixers.

The deal someday might turn out to be the steal that everyone thought it was for the Sixers, but Lucas may not be around to reap the benefits.

With the Sixers carrying a seven-game losing streak and the worst record in the league (7-32) into tomorrow night's game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Lucas reportedly is on the way out, provided owner Harold Katz can find a coach willing to put his won-lost record at stake guiding the many personalities that make up the Sixers.

Katz, who met with former Boston Celtics coach Chris Ford this week, has described the Sixers as being "undisciplined" and "wild." He said that's not the type of team he wants to take into next season, when the Sixers begin play at the new CoreStates Center.

The team is in chaos. A franchise-record 22 players have suited up this season as Lucas has desperately tried to find the right combination. Against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night, recently signed LaSalle Thompson had to play center against Shaquille O'Neal because starter Sharone Wright was injured.

Obviously, the risks Lucas took before the season have backfired. Vernon Maxwell is still a hothead, and recently left a game at halftime after being told by Lucas to go to the locker room. The once-talented Richard Dumas is out of shape, and nearly out of the league.

And Coleman has played just three games, nursing what has to be the all-time worst sprained ankle. It hasn't helped that Coleman weighs nearly 280 pounds, almost 20 above his playing weight. Coleman was rehabbing at home in Detroit and returned to Philadelphia only after Lucas threatened to fine him for every day he missed.

Lucas has created a monster, and in the process has gotten devoured. There's a lesson to be learned from coaches who will accept talented players at any risk. Let's just hope talented rookie Jerry Stackhouse can cast aside the negative influences and fashion a nice career.

Still a Net loss

The Sixers' troubles in no way mean the Nets can escape

criticism on the Coleman deal. Bradley is still a bust, and New Jersey last week dealt Kenny Anderson, an equally inexplicable trade.

Yes, Anderson is overrated and a horrible shooter. And the Nets wanted to get something in return before he became a free agent. But in Kendall Gill and Khalid Reeves, the Nets got a shooting guard who has been unhappy wherever he has played in his six-year NBA career, a second-year point guard who was a bust in Miami and Charlotte, and guaranteed contracts worth more than $25 million over the next five years.

The risk for the Hornets is minimal. They get to audition Anderson the rest of the season and they don't have to sign the unrestricted free agent. What makes the deal so shocking is that, after having problems negotiating with agent David Falk over Alonzo Mourning's contract, the Hornets face the same situation if they want to re-sign Anderson.

"I can't believe that trade," Mourning said. "Don't they know David still has to come back to town after everything they've been through?"

Coincidentally, Falk also represents Hornets point guard Muggsy Bogues, who will be a backup when he returns from the injured list after off-season knee surgery. It's no secret that Charlotte has been seeking a taller point guard for several years.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed by this," said the 5-foot-3 Bogues, a former star at Dunbar. "I'm not going to ask to be traded or anything. I want to become a partner with Kenny. I'm a realist and I had a long run at this starting thing."

Around the league

Other than the Chicago Bulls, the hottest team in the league is the Atlanta Hawks, who will carry a nine-game winning streak into tomorrow night's game against the Magic. . . . The Celtics (15-25) are playing so poorly that fans at the FleetCenter gave Los Angeles Lakers reserve Fred Roberts, a former Celtic, a standing ovation when he checked into the game Wednesday in Boston's 124-107 loss. "This wouldn't have happened in the old Garden," Lakers coach Del Harris said. "This might be the first time the Celtic fans cheered for a Laker." . . . With 13 rebounds Tuesday, Bulls forward Dennis Rodman was officially recognized the league's leading rebounder (14.4 per game).

Quote of the week

Los Angeles Clippers center Brian Williams, on whether he will remain with the team with which he has prospered, or exercise an out clause in his contract:

"Planet Earth is my home. That's all the home I need. I just wander the Earth. I am king. I don't need a starting point. I don't need a destination."

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