PHILADELPHIA -- About an hour before Saturday’s game with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a 76ers coach wrote some fast facts about an opposing player on the whiteboard. Defensive-minded. Takes charges. Fifteen-foot range. Considering that this opposing player was Eric Snow, the coach probably didn’t need to write anything. The Sixers already know a whole lot about Snow, who played six-and-half successful seasons in Philadelphia, including its drive to the NBA Finals in 2000-01. And even though Snow is now two seasons removed from his days with the Sixers, the Cavs points guard said he still has a lot of strong feelings towards the team and city that bred him into the player that he is.
"It’s still strange," Snow said before Saturday’s game, his first return to Philadelphia this year. "I spent a lot of time here. I still have a lot of friends. It’s not often when you go into an arena and know everyone -- people at the doors, everybody working the game. It’s still a special place, and it’s going to continue to be one."
This season, Snow has continued to do what he did best in Philadelphia: Provide valuable leadership. With the reliable pass-first point guard steering the ship, Cleveland has jumped out to its second-best start in franchise history.
"Eric has a presence about him," rookie Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "He’s running the ballclub extremely well."
Even the King himself agreed.
"He’s been to a finals before," Cleveland star LeBron James said. "He’s been to a lot of playoff games. He knows the ins and outs of this league. On the court and off the court, he has really helped this team develop."
Interestingly enough, Snow did not rule out a trade to the dysfunctional New York Knicks, whose coach, Larry Brown, has been rumored to want a true point guard to play alongside Stephon Marbury. Brown and Snow, of course, shared many good seasons together in Philadelphia.
"That’s my man. He’s gonna stay my man," Snow said of Brown. "I’m happy where I’m at. But if anything were to change, I’ve love to be with Coach Brown."
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Not often does someone get to play alongside two NBA superstars on two different teams. So granted, Snow has a good take on the similarities -- and differences -- between James and Philly’s own star, Allen Iverson.
"They continue to amaze," Snow said. "Their intensity, their energy and how they’re able to do thing that even NBA players just dream about."
This season, James, 20, is averaging 26.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game on 50 percent shooting from the field. Iverson, 30, leads the league in scoring with a 32.0 points per game clip. He’s also averaging 7.9 assists per contest.
When pressed about it, however, Snow did offer a fundamental difference between the two players.
"LeBron’s game is made to play with other people," Snow said. "A.I.’s game is made for people to follow him."
Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks, who had the unenviable task of preparing for Dwyane Wade and James on back-to-back nights, didn’t back down when asked to compare the players of the famed 2003 draft to some stars of the past.
"I don’t know if Michael Jordan and Larry Bird were as good as these guys are now," Cheeks said. "These guys are pretty good now, only two years into the league."
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In James’ first two years in the league, the Cavaliers struggled and failed to make the playoffs. Now, with a solid supporting cast that includes former Sixer Larry Hughes, Donyell Marhsall and Damon Jones, the Cavs are fast becoming one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.
Before Saturday’s game with the Sixers, they had won six straight.
"When we get teams down, we’re not letting them back in," James said. "When we get them down, we’re gonna step on them. We all have the winning mentality and that burning desire to win."
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