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PHILADELPHIA MAKES WAY FOR BRADLEY

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The Philadelphia 76ers are gambling that a 7-foot-6 center who likes to dive for the ball can overcome two years away from basketball.

Shawn Bradley, who left Brigham Young to become a Mormon missionary in Australia, must turn his attention to the basketball basics.In effect, the Sixers are doing the same thing.

On Wednesday, the same day they signed Bradley, they renounced their rights to six veterans and put a seventh on waivers.

"Taking two years off, it's hard getting back into it," Bradley said. "All aspects of the game are coming back to me. Not that they were ever lost, but all things need to be oiled up."

Sixers owner Harold Katz signed Bradley to a multiyear pact involving figures neither side discussed. Katz says it involves more money than people might think.

"Total dollars, it may be one of the highest in sports," Katz said. "It's by far . . . the most lucrative contract I've ever signed. It's the biggest gamble I've taken by far."

He added, "I still have enough to go after a free agent or two."

That's because the club renounced all rights to Manute Bol, Ron Anderson, Greg Grant, Mitchell Wiggins, Eddie Lee Wilkins and Charles Shackleford. Forward Armon Gilliam was put on waivers.

With the housecleaning, the Sixers are building their team around Bradley, 21, who fills a position considered spotty since the Sixers traded away Moses Malone in 1986. Bradley says he's not at his best after two years away, but he pledged to work tirelessly.

"If you're going to play with the best in the world, you have to train like the best in the world," Bradley said.

The 7-foot-7 Bol, like Bradley, played center. Renouncing rights means the team gives up all options of re-signing, officials said.

Team officials showcased the Bradley signing with a lavish news conference at a local hotel suite. Hours later, they faxed a terse, one-paragraph statement announcing the other moves.

Bradley was the second overall choice in the NBA draft last month.

In one season at BYU, in 1990-91, Bradley averaged 14.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.2 blocks in 34 games.

"I knew going in that Shawn is going to be rusty. He knows he's going to have to work real hard this summer," Katz said.

But he also called attention to Bradley's athletic ability and competitive spirit.

"You don't see many 7-footers diving for balls on the floor," Katz said.

The deal, struck July 19 at Katz's home, involves a base salary and incentives, the owner said.

The No. 2 pick last year, Alonzo Mourning, signed for six years at $25.2 million.

Falk also was behind the decision to put Bradley in training with the Sixers while contract negotiations progressed.

"I felt it important that he be here - not from a negotiation standpoint but from a preparation standpoint so he can be as prepared as he can be," Falk said.

Sixers general manager Jim Lynam has called Bradley a "potential perennial All-Star" and an immediate force on defense, but says he expects Bradley's game to develop over time.

The 245-pound Bradley is undergoing a conditioning program of playing ball, lifting weights and running.

Bradley was asked if his time away from hoops taught him anything.

"I found out that I'm not going to take two years and not play basketball again," he said.