Philadelphia 76ers fans say one thing about Shawn Bradley, then show him something else.
It's been widely reported that Philly fans have started booing Bradley, and Tuesday's game was a good example. There was a smattering of boos for the ex-BYU star during the opening introductions, and later, when Bradley appeared on a video of the team singing a Christmas song, shown during a timeout, there was widespread booing.But asked individually what they think of their 7-foot-6, $44-million-dollar man, Philly fans don't sound like the same people.
"He's loaded with potential, but he's a little disappointing right now," said Sal Velardi, of Hammonton, N.J. "At times he shows flashes, makes you hopeful, and then other times he disappears."
"I have a bet with my brother, who lives in Detroit, that Bradley will be an All-Star within three years," said Nick Formicola of Levittown, N.Y.
Jack Wolf, a psychologist and season ticket-holder from New Jersey, said he thinks Bradley's problems are largely mental.
"Someone has programmed in that young man's head and heart that it's bad to be nasty," Wolf said. "For instance, he won't set a pick up high. He's got it in his head he's too frail."
Formicola said he thinks Bradley has actually improved, toughness-wise, since he's been a Sixer.
"You gotta remember, he didn't play for two years," Formicola said. "He's got to gain some weight, and he's got to get the mentality to win. But he's not wimpy, like he was his first year."
What Sixer fans such as John Norris of Philadelphia want to see from Bradley is some consistency.
"When he's out on the floor he's OK, but he's always on the bench, in foul trouble," Norris said. "He has one good game, then three bad ones."
Part of the problem may be the way Bradley is used in the Sixer offense, which is to say, hardly at all. Frequently during Tuesday's game he played the old Mark Eaton role, camping out beyond the three-point circle while others ran the offense.
But Norris said Bradley doesn't have to score to win over the fans. "We'd be happy with 10 points a game from him," he said. (Bradley averages 9.3.)
If fans aren't fed up with Bradley, though, the obvious question is: Why boo?
Formicola laughed at that question. "That's just Philadelphia," he said. "They boo everybody. If you're a Philadelphia team and you don't do everything correctly, you're going to get booed."
Fans said the problem is they've been spoiled by too many good teams over the years, that they've seen it done right so many times that it's hard to accept it being done improperly.
Bradley, meanwhile, said he is trying hard not to let the booing get to him.
"It's life," he said. "There's going to be people out there who, no matter what I do, don't like me. I have to be able to look in the mirror and say I did what I could."
Asked if he didn't like playing on the road more right now, Bradley paused, then said, "Aren't we better on the road?" Then he added, "You don't get as many boos on the road, but also, you don't get as many cheers."
And they do cheer Bradley, whenever he does something perfectly. But there do seem to be more opportunities to boo. Tuesday, for instance, Bradley played with a makeshift plastic mask that protected a nose broken in practice Monday by an elbow from Derrick Alston. The mask limited his vision, and he said it caused him to fail to grab an airball that plunked him in the chest and bounced to the Jazz. The fans booed lustily.
"It's really tough," Bradley said, "especially when I'm out there diving on the floor, working hard, trying hard."
Philly fans must recognize that, however, and despite their booing, they want to keep the kid around.
"We're not ready to give up on him yet," Velardi said.