Sixers' 1-2 Punch Each Other Guards Kiss, Make Up, Go Down Fighting To New York

Posted: March 20, 1997

There was smoke, there were alarms sounding all over the CoreStates Center, but the 76ers crossed their hearts and swore there was no fire.

Whatever went on between Jerry Stackhouse and Allen Iverson during yesterday morning's shootaround seemed to indicate nothing more than there were still some signs of life in the lingering final days of one more lottery-locked season.

The buzz, though, was all over the building long before the Sixers dropped last night's 111-100 decision to the New York Knicks.

Yo, Stackhouse and Iverson had a fight. Yo, somebody threw a sucker punch. Yo, they really went at it.

Yo, at least they still care.

What apparently started out as a conversation between teammates escalated into some pushing and shoving that left both principals somewhat sheepish but not exactly apologetic.

``We're a team, we have spats, like any family,'' Stackhouse said after the Sixers' record deteriorated to 17-49. ``We're not always going to see eye-to-eye, but we're big enough people to be able to deal with it and move on.

``There are going to be times when we say things, when we offend each other, but we're all in this for the same common goal, which is to get better. Sometimes there are going to be confrontations, but it's over and done. No more, no less.''

Still, in the midst of a season in which the games have taken on a dull sameness, the whispers around the building created a minor media-feeding frenzy. Something new, something different. Why not?

Never mind that the Sixers' Derrick Coleman had just produced 25 points and 13 rebounds for his seventh straight double-double. Never mind that Iverson scored 22, handed out eight assists and committed just three turnovers in 45 minutes.

Never mind that the electric rookie helped lure Knicks guards John Starks, Chris Childs and Charlie Ward into 14 personal fouls.

Yo, what went on in the morning?

``Passive people, this doesn't bother,'' Stackhouse said. ``In this case, you had two competitive people, and losing does a lot to you. In a way, maybe this was an example of the frustration that can build.''

Or maybe it was history repeating itself.

A year ago today was when Comcast/Spectacor announced its huge deal to purchase 66 percent of the Sixers, Flyers and the two South Philadelphia arenas. A year ago today was when Stackhouse, then a rookie, was suspended after punching out Utah guard Jeff Hornacek in Salt Lake City.

``It went from joking around to a more heated conversation,'' Stackhouse said, reconstructing the morning aberration.

``It was the kind of thing that shouldn't ever happen, but sometimes does. And I'm not saying it won't happen again. But we've kissed and made up.

``I mean, really what we had was two guys, one who was scared to fight and one who didn't want to.''

They certainly weren't scared of the Knicks, who improved to 49-18 despite playing without injured Buck Williams (sprained right middle finger) and ill Allan Houston (stomach virus).

The Knicks think they've dealt with adversity trying to cope with Chicago and Miami, but they still had Patrick Ewing (30 points, 13 rebounds), Larry Johnson (21 points), Starks (21), Charles Oakley (13 points, 12 rebounds) and Chris Childs (13 points).

They still had enough firepower to shoot 53.9 percent from the floor and make just enough plays to stave off a feisty, overmatched opponent.

The sad truth from the perspective of Sixers followers is, however minor the morning incident was being portrayed, it still seemed far more interesting than one more loss en route to a sixth straight appearance in the lottery.

``It was nothing, it was a basketball thing, a team thing,'' Iverson said.

``It was something that should stay in practice, not be a media thing. If every little thing, every conflict every day was in the paper . . . Me and Stack will probably go out tonight.''

In truth, nothing that happened on the court in any way indicated a problem between the backcourt mates. Neither shot well, but what's new about that? Iverson was 9-for-24 from the floor, Stackhouse 3-for-14.

``I would never let what's going on on the court affect my relationship with Jerry,'' Iverson said.

``I'm going to see his face for a long time, he's going to see mine. I'll argue with Jerry like a brother. We're going to get stronger for years to come.''

That was Johnny Davis's take, too.

``This was nothing, wasn't even enough to say it was a problem, far from it,'' the Sixers coach said.

``I've been in a zillion gyms, seen a zillion of these things, and this was nothing. All I saw in the morning was a brotherly disagreement. That's all it was.''

Davis only wishes it were as easy to resolve the problems the team has faced on the court. Stackhouse and Iverson combined to shoot 2-for-11 in the fourth period, when the Sixers trailed by as many as 12 points and came as close as four. But the Knicks, despite missing five of 14 free throws in the final 2:53, scored nine of the evening's last 11 points.

``We had some open looks and we were unable to convert and that was the story,'' Davis said.

``Jerry just has to get within himself more. He's a little out of rhythm. He had a stretch a couple of weeks ago when he was playing as well as any `two' guard in the league.''

And Iverson?

``We tried to get back in it, but they wouldn't let us,'' Iverson said.``We're trying to hold on to as many positives as possible, try to carry them over into the next game. But the losses are starting to hurt real bad.

``They hurt before, but now, maybe because we're getting close to the end, because teams are getting excited about being in the playoffs and we know we're not going to be there . . . ''

He let the thought drift, unfinished.

``All we can do is try and get some more wins,'' Stackhouse said.

``At this point, you try to find anything you can to motivate yourself for the next night, to get up and do it again.''

The smoke had cleared, the alarms had quieted. There had been, they insisted, no fire.

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