Allen Iverson returned to Philadelphia for the first time on Wednesday night, and I was one of the people in the sold-out Wachovia Center. Here’s my diary from the evening:
For the last week my friends were asking me if I would â€˜boo’ Iverson. I really thought I was going to. His attitude about practice, towards coaches, and his selfish play on the court really helped him wear out his welcome with me. And since it’s all about me, I called Billy King and told him to trade Iverson to Denver for Andre Miller, Joe Smith, and two first round draft picks. However, I didn’t â€˜boo’ him last night. I couldn’t.
He brought me too much excitement over the years. The 2000-01 season and play-off run still goes down as one of my favorite Philadelphia sports seasons. I’ll always remember Allen stepping over Tyronn Lue after draining a basket at the end of Game 1 of the ’01 Finals as I watched the game in a packed bar in Buckhead (Atlanta), Georgia. His ovation last night was deserved. There may have been a few boos early, but they all changed to cheers and claps. Philadelphia loved and valued his time here and as Iverson pounded his chest we knew Iverson felt the same. Philadelphia fans get a bad wrap, but last night they did the right thing, me included.
Then it was game time. Denver throws out Iverson, Carmello Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Anthony Carter and Marcus Camby. How the heck is that team not one of the best eight teams in the Western Conference? Those five players are arguably the best starting unit in the NBA. However, they don’t play defense. I don’t know how many dunks the Sixers had last night, but Denver gives up too many easy buckets. Offensively, they are unstoppable, but George Karl needs to start coaching this team or they aren’t making the playoffs.
More on Karl, at every timeout he stands at the free throw line as the team just sits and relaxes on the bench. One of the assistants kneels down and talks about something, but I didn’t see one player listening. Also during the timeouts, Stacy Augmon comes from the first row, walks around the bench and joins the team on the court. When the timeout ends, he walks back to his seat. Very weird. I looked it up and Augmon is the player development coach for Denver. Therefore, I concluded that the Nuggets feel it’s more important to have Augmon in their huddle rather than their head coach. This team is fighting for a playoff spot. George, what are you doing?
I witnessed something for the first time last night. In the second half, Iverson was at the line and after his first free throw a lane violation was called. The NBA does not have one-and-one foul shots. There is no reason to get in the lane after the first shot. The ball is dead. However, the refs got together and reversed the lane violation. What? How does that happen?
Andre Miller is awesome by the way. He is always under control and you can tell he has that basketball sixth sense. He knows where everyone is on the court and he knows when he needs to shoot the ball. He dropped in 28 points, had 12 assists and came up huge with 1:17 left in the game when he drove the lane and got fouled by Iverson, making the basket and the free throw to give the Sixers a 113-110 lead against his former team. To add to the dramatics, 11 seconds later Iverson drained a three to tie it back up, which caused a roar in the crowd like it was a Nugget home game. On this night it seemed everyone in the stands would be happy with any outcome. During the whole second half it didn’t matter who scored and from what team, the crowd was going completely nuts with every basket.
However, there was a team of Sixers and Sixers’ coaches that wanted nothing more than a win. All night, you could see it in Andre Iguodala’s eyes. You could see it in Willie Green’s eyes. Andre Miller’s as well. They had a point to prove last night. They needed to show Philadelphia how good they are without Allen Iverson. They needed to prove to themselves that they had moved on. And when Iguodala threw the ball up over his head with 32 seconds left and Samuel Dalembert grabbed it, slamming it home to take the lead back, they knew they were one possession away from their biggest victory of the season.
It couldn’t have been written to be any more dramatic. If Iverson nailed a three to win, the roof would have blown off the building. If Iverson tied the game the place would have erupted with anxiousness for another five minutes of free basketball. But neither happened. Iverson was defended perfectly by Iguodala and Green forcing him to miss a shot with seven seconds left. Then, Camby missed a shot with five seconds left. Finally, Iguodala got the loose ball and sprinted down the court. Everyone in the building thought he was coming in for a classic Iggie dunk, but as time ran out he threw the ball up in the rafters, victorious over the original A.I. that ran this city for ten years.
At that moment, they had made their point. This Sixer team can play basketball with the best of them. They play hard, they play as team, they’re young, and they’re exciting. They deserve the city’s support. The Wachovia Center should be rocking every night like it did last night. It was a great moment. I still have chills. I didn’t want to leave. I love this game.