With 9.3 seconds remaining in last night's season-ending, 97-91 loss to the Miami Heat, 76ers forward Elton Brand made his way toward the bench after picking up his sixth foul. He was intercepted by coach Doug Collins, who appeared to say to Brand, among other things, "I love you to death."

That is the kind of emotion you get from Collins, a man who wears his heart on his sleeve, along with his grandchildren's names tattooed over his heart.

"I told him I loved him and that I was so proud of him," Collins said. "What a great year it was for him, after going through 2 tough years in Philadelphia. He's got the heart of a lion. He just competes every single moment and I'm glad he's on my team. I thanked him for all he did for me this season. He missed one game, and that was due to a suspension. He played with a broken left hand, a dislocated left pinkie finger and never, ever complained. He is one of the most ultimate pros I have ever been around."

Brand finished one of his most gratifying seasons with 22 points and six rebounds. Besides leading the team in scoring and rebounding much of the season, he has been the foundation that Collins needed with such a young roster.

"The growth was enormous by this team," Brand said. "From the start to now with just about every single game [in the series] going down to the wire except one. We're proud of ourselves, but we're definitely going to work harder to get better. It's obvious we're not far away from being a top-notch team.

"Andre [Iguodala] and myself were proud to have these guys under our tutelage. They work hard and they're going to get better. Being vets, we've played with young guys and sometimes it's tough, but not these young guys. They did a great job this season."