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Miller, Ratliff skip 76ers' final team meeting

Posted May 1 2009 7:49PM

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Andre Miller's ironman streak for the Philadelphia 76ers does not extend to team meetings.

The veteran point guard who has played an NBA-high 530 straight games no-showed the Sixers' final team meeting on Friday, something his agent blamed on miscommunication between Miller and the team.

At the final roll call of the Sixers' season, center Theo Ratliff joined Miller on the unexpected absentee list.

Both veterans are unrestricted free agents and the no-shows at the team meeting further soured the mood of a franchise that was embarrassed a night earlier in a Game 6 season-ending playoff loss at home against the Orlando Magic.

Coach Tony DiLeo and team president Ed Stefanski stewed over the whereabouts of two leaders they expected to know better than to blow off a team meeting.

Stefanski considered the absences unexcused.

"I don't know if that's sending us a message or what," Stefanski said of Miller's truancy.

Miller's agent, Andy Miller, said he talked with Andre Miller and the guard was not taking a stance. Miller thought the meetings were optional.

"He would like to re-sign with Philadelphia if the opportunity presented itself," Andy Miller said.

Ratliff's absence was particularly troubling since he wasn't there to defend the criticisms he levied at the coaching staff following the Game 6 clunker. Ratliff described DiLeo and his staff as not holding players responsible for a lack of effort and concentration.

DiLeo disagreed with Ratliff's disparaging characterization of the team.

"We do hold players accountable," DiLeo said. "Maybe not in the way his definition of accountability is. But we do correct players. We point out things."

And so the drama goes with the Sixers (41-41) who were knocked out of the Playoffs in six games for the second straight season.

They played better with DiLeo (32-27) once he took over for Maurice Cheeks in December. DiLeo has not decided if he wants to return to the bench or his role in the front office. He'll meet with Stefanski in the next few weeks to discuss his future.

His players gave the mild-mannered DiLeo mostly lukewarm endorsements.

Forward Thaddeus Young called DiLeo "one of the nicest guys in the world," but didn't go out of his way to praise him.

"Some coaches in the league have that meanness about them," Young said. "We just haven't found that meanness yet."

Perhaps a more demanding, authoritative coach who can spark an underachieving team is exactly what the 76ers need.

"That type of coach helps," guard Andre Iguodala said.

Iguodala suggested vague changes and tweaks that needed to be made to transform the Sixers into the type of team that can become an Eastern Conference contender.

When asked which way the perennial .500 team was headed, Iguodala was uncharacteristically blunt.

"I don't know if I can say it, but I think we're going down," Iguodala said.

He quickly backtracked off the statement and said he was committed to winning.

Having a healthy Elton Brand might help.

Expected to be the post-up presence they sorely lacked, Brand instead has played in only 37 games the past two seasons. Brand vowed to return as the double-double threat he was in stints with Chicago and the Clippers.

Brand averaged 13.8 points and 8.8 rebounds in 29 games for the Sixers in the first season of a five-year, $80 million contract.

Maybe Brand could bring out the best in erratic center Samuel Dalembert. The 6-foot-11 Haitian has never developed any kind of consistent offensive game and his erratic play has long plagued the Sixers.

Dalembert, who asked for a trade earlier this season, said he wanted to remain in Philadelphia.

"I'd never come down and be like, 'Get me out of here, or I don't want to be here.' I'm happy with the guys here," Dalembert said. "As long as the Sixers are here, you'd love to see yourself retire here."

What about the trade demand?

"Anybody can be in the workplace and you don't feel like they utilize you as much and then your team is losing and you're frustrated. It's like, 'Hey, please, let me be utilized,'" he said.

Stefanski found no takers when the Sixers tried to accommodate the trade request and isn't necessarily looking to move him now. Stefanski warned after the Game 6 debacle no Sixer was untouchable.

"It's a shame this is the lasting impression," DiLeo said, "but our season has been pretty good."

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