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Stars Aligning For Sixers

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The NBA All-Star game took place on Sunday night from Los Angeles. That meant superstars like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard, to name a few.

Among the 13 players that made up this year’s Eastern Conference roster, none were Sixers.

In fact, there hasn’t been a Sixer player whose name isn’t Allen Iverson to make the All-Star team since Dikembe Mutombo joined A.I. on the Eastern squad in 2002. Before Mutombo, it was Dana Barros in 1995.

Among this current group of Sixers, only Elton Brand has been named to an All-Star team in his career, doing it twice while a member of the Los Angeles Clippers.

No All-Stars, no problem.

The only thing this team cares about is winning — and under the direction of head coach Doug Collins — that’s exactly what they’ve been doing.

Since their 3-and-13 start, the Sixers have turned things around in a big way, winning 24 of their last 40 games.

They went into the break having seized 10 of 14, and have already equaled last year’s win total of 27. That’s good enough for seventh in the Eastern Conference.

But what’s more impressive than the amount of games the 76ers have won, is how they’ve done so.

Without that standout superstar to carry them each game, the Sixers have no choice but to lean on each other.

In a team sport that so often sees games dominated by an individual, Collins has his guys playing as a group — unselfish and unflappable.

With Brand leading the Sixers in scoring at just over 15-points-per-game, their numbers are nothing staggering, but that’s just the point. This team is getting contributions from everyone.

Andre Iguodala has proven he can dominate a game offensively while continuing to set the tone on defense, and Lou Williams has done an excellent job coming off of the bench as the sixth man.

The youngest Sixers have also played a big role.

Jodie Meeks is a legitimate three-point threat, Jrue Holiday is developing into the player the Sixers envisioned when they picked him in the 2009 draft, and judging by his performance this season, there’s no reason to think that rookie Evan Turner won’t do the same.

And the list of young talent goes on.

Thaddeus Young is thriving with Collins as his coach, Spencer Hawes has been solid at center, and when given the opportunity, Marreese Speights has shown an ability to score.

And let’s not overlook Brand’s leadership.

Number 42 is enjoying his best season in Philadelphia. Aside from pacing the team in scoring, he leads all Sixers in rebounding and blocks per game, but perhaps most importantly, he’s leads with his voice. Whether it’s been on the court or in the locker room, Brand has been vocal – and his teammates have responded.

The 76ers have had more than one opportunity to fold the tent on the 2010-11 season. That 3-and-13 hole is not easy to climb out of, a buzzer beater in Detroit or a pair of four-point plays in Orlando resulting in losses can be devastating, and blowing a 16-point fourth-quarter lead at home is enough to send any team into a tailspin.

But not these Sixers.

As Brand points out, that loss to Memphis served as a wake-up call for the Sixers — and it’s hard to argue. Since that time, they’ve won seven of ten, including a blowout victory in Atlanta and a huge win over the San Antonio Spurs, the team with the best record in the NBA.

The key now will be carrying the momentum they’ve built out of the All-Star break and into the second half of the season.

When the 76ers return to action on Wednesday, they’ll begin a stretch of five home games out of their next six (Washington, Detroit, Cleveland, Dallas, Minnesota, Golden State). Of those six opponents, only the Mavericks currently hold a better record than the Sixers. The one road game — a trip to Cleveland to face a Cavs team that recently snapped an NBA record, 26-game losing streak.

Coach Collins, a four-time All-Star himself, often preaches about the character of his players. They’re not overconfident and they’re not naive. They understand the challenge that lies ahead.

So what? This Sixers team does not have a single All-Star. But with each player doing his part and a different hero emerging with each win — they are all stars — and for this constellation of stars — the future looks bright.

Reported by Dan Majka, CBS Philly

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