It’s a marriage made in Hollywood heaven. Allen Iverson returning to Philadelphia to end his week-old retirement and playing for the 76ers is tantamount to Rocky Balboa dusting off the gloves and fighting Mason Dixon. It makes perfect sense, right?
Unfortunately, the Sixers have yet to win a game since Iverson rejoined the franchise and are just 4-19 entering their Monday’s game (Dec. 14) against Golden State.
Before the deal was finalized, Philadelphia head coach Eddie Jordan and general manager Ed Stefanski reportedly met with Iverson and his agent to lay down what the Sixers expect from the 10-time NBA All-Star and his role with the team.
“He’s a guy that’s been to the top. He’s been to the Finals. He’s just a guy that would be an extra weapon on the floor for us,” Jordan told NBA.com.
The Associated Press reported that the 76ers offered the 34-year-old future Hall-of-Famer a non-guaranteed contract and the team would owe just under $650,000 if they guarantee his contract for the remainder of the season on Jan. 10. Iverson quickly agreed to the deal and showed his gratitude during an emotional press conference.
Philadelphia is a city that absolutely worshiped Iverson, much like the city fell in love with Sylvester Stallone’s fictional boxer who made comebacks fashionable.
Regardless on how this script will ultimately be written, the bottom line is Iverson wants to play in the city that helped him become an iconic basketball figure for a decade, and the Sixers were desperate enough to grant him his wish because of the following reasons:
1) Starting point guard Lou Williams had surgery to repair a broken jaw he suffered on Nov. 24 against Washington. With Williams sidelined for at least eight weeks, the Sixers are in the market for a lead guard.
2) Philadelphia is next to last in attendance and no player in 76ers history – and that includes the great Dr. J – can fill an arena like Iverson. A.I. may not be the same player who captured the league MVP trophy in 2001 and won four NBA scoring titles, but he can still command a spotlight.
3) The Sixers are 24th in scoring at 96.2. In 54 games with the Pistons in 2008-09, Iverson averaged 17.4 points per game, which makes him the second-best scorer on this year’s Philly squad.
Unlike Memphis, Philadelphia boasts players who are familiar with Iverson: Andre Iguodala, whom Iverson respects and admires having played with him for three seasons, Williams, Willie Green, Rodney Carney and Samuel Dalembert. Assistant coach Aaron McKie was Iverson’s teammate for eight seasons and a close friend, so team chemistry should not be an issue.
From a pure basketball standpoint, signing Iverson to a one-year deal was worth the gamble. He is still a serviceable starting guard and a double-digit scorer. What worries teams, and that includes the Sixers, is Iverson’s delusional insistence that he’s still a bona fide top-10 superstar in this league.
During his short stay in Detroit and drive-thru in Memphis, Iverson had a big problem with coming off the bench and was perplexed at how he was being used by the coaching staff. “I didn’t really know my role. I only know one way and that’s to play hard and to attack,” Iverson said during training camp.
Brown, who has maintained a close relationship with Iverson over the years, said his former player was clearly embarrassed and frustrated by the whole Memphis experience, which ultimately forced him to rethink his NBA career.
“He still has a passion to play. Anybody that knows him understands how much he loves to play,” Brown told The Canadian Press. “You still know he can play.”