Apparently, It's More Like the City of Brotherly Leave

I had this idea of what it must have been like to pull a tour of duty in Vietnam, and when I saw the movie "Platoon," that's precisely how I had envisioned it.

In much the same way, now I have this notion of what it's like to serve hard time with no hope for parole, and while I've never been in prison, I imagine it has to be a lot like living in Philadelphia.

So, of course, I wasn't surprised when I heard the story about security cameras catching John Croce, the brother of 76er President Pat Croce, stealing money out of Allen Iverson's pants earlier this year in the team's locker room.

I figured he was looking for the funds to escape from that hell hole.

ALTHOUGH SECURITY will be on alert, I wouldn't be surprised if someone on the 76er roster doesn't try to seek asylum in L.A. and refuse to return to Philadelphia after the Lakers romp tonight and Friday.

The problem for officials, however, is it could happen, and no one would notice--because beyond Iverson and Dikembe Mutombo, there's no one recognizable on their team.

It's like Tuesday's press gathering at Staples Center. Iverson took the stage to meet with the media, and when he was finished, someone else sat down.

Now I would have thought the first question would be: "Who are you?"

I guess everyone in the room just took it for granted that this was Mr. Nobody, and so the first question was, "Could you tell us what it's like to play with Allen Iverson?"

Later, when the media was asked to leave practice, I stayed behind and sneaked a peek at what the 76ers have planned for the Lakers.

The way I saw it, some guy I didn't recognize will pass the ball to another guy I didn't recognize, and he will give it to Iverson, who will shoot. He will miss, of course, Mutombo will get the rebound, give it back to Iverson, who will shoot and miss again, Mutombo getting the rebound and giving it to Iverson to shoot once more.

"Allen has to take 30 to 35 shots at the very least for us to have a chance," 76er Coach Larry Brown said. "The great thing about this team is that nobody gets upset about that."

If you saw the bodyguards that accompanied Iverson to the news conference, I think it's pretty apparent why no one gets upset.

Bodyguards? I guess you can never tell when a sportswriter might want to rough up the little guy.

RIGHT NOW these are the best of times in Philadelphia because the 76ers haven't played the Lakers yet, and their fans think they have a chance.

The Philadelphia Daily News called astrologer Jacqueline Stallone--Sylvester's mom--to get a prediction of who will win, but as you might expect, someone with that kind of star power is not going to waste time on a newspaper from Philadelphia.

Had they called me, I could have called my buddy Sly and I'm sure he would have had his mom call them, but instead the Philadelphia shopper settled for Dolores, a psychic who works for Jackie.

Dolores said she sees the 76ers winning the title. I'm guessing for the right price, if you asked her, she would also see the Angels passing the Seattle Mariners to win the American League West this year.

But what about the wretched souls in Philadelphia, who are now enjoying a respite from their dreary existence because of this impossible dream?

In other words, what happens when the 76ers don't win a game and these people wake up and realize all they have to look forward to is the Mummers Parade?

AS IF there is any further need to deflate the 76ers and their fans, I'm here to tell them that Phil Jackson is so serious about beating them, he blew his whistle Tuesday at practice. I believe it's the first time he has coached all year.

Shaquille O'Neal was working on his three-point shot, which tells me the Lakers want to really run up the score.

Unfortunately, the Lakers were practicing on the Sparks' floor because the women were scheduled to open the season at Staples later in the day, and their three-point line is shorter than the NBA's, so right now--as if he needs any more confidence--Shaq thinks he's the best three-point shooter in the NBA.

WHEN IT'S all said and done--that's four games and a week from today when the NBA Finals will be over--I guess you'll still have to give the 76ers credit for showing up--knowing they're only a warmup act for U2's concert at halftime.

I don't know if I would want to take the court and embarrass myself in front of Pamela Anderson, Salma Hayek and Jack Nicholson.

"Everybody has us counted out," Iverson said. "We're supposed to just come to this series, get swept and go home for the summer, I guess."

That pretty well sums it up, of course, which means the 76ers have done their homework. I'm sure that's why Croce--the one who doesn't steal--was dressed all in black: a man on his way to a funeral.

"We're just the Rocky team from Philadelphia," Croce said in what has to be the NBA's first-ever pre-Finals concession speech--everyone knowing that Rocky gets beaten to a pulp in his first title quest.

I wish I could be there in Philadelphia when the Lakers clinch next Wednesday, but someone has to stay behind here to cover the riot.

TODAY'S LAST WORD comes in an e-mail from Ron:

"Do you happen to be one of those jokers driving around with a Laker flag? I thought I spotted you driving your wreck--don't they pay you over there at The Times?"

Bill Dwyre is in charge of that--what do you think?

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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