By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Nov 28 2009 3:44PM
Allen Iverson's on-again, off-again retirement may end with a reunion in the city that had his heart at hello. Emphasis on "may," because there's only one voice that matters when it comes to Iverson and the Sixers -- team chairman Ed Snider -- and he hasn't been heard from yet.
The Philadelphia 76ers are considering signing Iverson to replace injured guard Lou Williams, according to a team source, confirming a Fox Sports report detailing the team's interest. However, the team has not yet discussed the relative pros and cons of bringing back Iverson, the team's first overall pick in 1996 and one of the city's most iconic athletes during his decade there until being traded to Denver in a 2006 package for guard Andre Miller.
Iverson became a superstar in Philadelphia, embracing fans that loved his hard-charging, fearless style as he threw his 5-foot-10, 160-pound body around the court, driving into the paint time and again against players that outweighed him by 80 to more than 100 pounds. But Iverson also set off extreme emotions throughout the city. Those that loved him would hear no criticism of his off-court issues; those that hated him would cut him no slack despite his on-court brilliance, which led to a 2001 NBA Most Valuable Player award and a trip that year to the NBA Finals.
Fox Sports' Stephen A. Smith, citing numerous team sources, first reported Saturday morning that the 76ers were considering bringing Iverson back to Philadelphia, quoting one team official as saying Iverson was being "seriously considered" and that Sixers coach Eddie Jordan and others in the organization had already signed off on Iverson's return -- which Smith said could happen as early as Tuesday. Smith had also been first to report Iverson's decision to retire Wednesday, posting an open letter from the 34-year-old guard on his website.
A source with knowledge of the team's thinking said Saturday afternoon that the Fox report was "premature," but allowed the team has added Iverson to its list of potential replacements for Williams, who will miss two months after breaking his jaw in the Sixers' 108-107 loss in Washington Tuesday. Williams was inadvertantly elbowed in the face by Wizards forward Antawn Jamison while trying to fight over a screen.
Until Williams' injury, the source said, the 76ers had resisted entreaties by Iverson's camp over the past several weeks to set up a reunion with Philadelphia, preferring to go forward with Williams as a starter at point guard, despite the fifth-year guard's inexperience at the position and as a starter. Williams had rewarded the team's faith so far, averaging a career-best 17.4 points this season on 49.7 percent shooting from the floor, along with 5.1 assists per game.
But after the team found out Friday that Williams will miss around 30 games, Iverson's name came up. The source said it was "strictly logical" to look at Iverson, as he is clearly the best available free agent guard on the marketplace.
The source disputed part of the Fox report that claimed Jordan could meet with Iverson in Atlanta on Tuesday, after the team plays in Dallas on Monday. "No meeting is set up," the source said.
And no decision on Iverson will happen without Snider's blessing and approval.
The team's chairman had strong feelings for Iverson over the years, but ultimately soured on Iverson's game and his entourage. It was Snider who made the decision in 2006 that Iverson had to go, following another blowup between the player and the team in which Iverson missed a practice -- something he had done with regularity earlier in his career -- and left a game with back spasms. The 76ers banished Iverson from the team, took his nameplate off his locker and Snider told ESPN during a broadcast that he would accomodate Iverson's latest trade request.
After the trade, Snider made his feelings clear. In speaking about Miller, Snider said, "What a classy young man. I think we need a little dose of class around here. I'm looking forward to seeing him make our young players better. It's a whole new thing around here and we want to build for the long haul."
Iverson has struggled to find a home since being traded. Despite making the playoffs with Denver in 2007 and 2008, the Nuggets felt he and Carmelo Anthony didn't mesh together, and Denver shipped him to Detroit early last season for guard Chauncey Billups. Iverson's time in Detroit was a disaster, though, as he clashed with former coach Michael Curry over his role. Curry wanted Iverson to come off the bench when starter Rip Hamilton returned from injury, but Iverson balked, saying he'd rather retire than be a reserve. After Iverson complained about a sore back, the Pistons sent him home with a week to go in the regular season, saying he would not be on the team's playoff roster.
After finding no suitors this offseason, Iverson signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Memphis Grizzlies, but only played in three games for Memphis, finding the same problems there that he had in Detroit. A hamstring pull kept Iverson out of most of training camp and the preseason, and by the time he returned, the Grizzlies wanted him to come off the bench. Instead, Iverson returned to Atlanta, saying he had to deal with a family emergency, and the team granted him a leave of absence.
A week later, Iverson and the team announced he would be released from his contract and be allowed to become a free agent once he cleared waivers. The Knicks developed interest in Iverson and appeared ready to make him an offer late last week. But the team pulled back at the last minute, saying that it wanted to concentrate on giving playing time to its young players.
"Plus, Allen deserves to be on a playoff contender," a team official said.
Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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