Allen Iverson signs with 76ers again
PHILADELPHIA (AP)Allen Iverson is rejoining the Philadelphia 76ers and is expected to make his debut Monday at home against the Denver Nuggets.
Iverson's brief retirement is over after signing a free-agent contract with Philadelphia on Wednesday, three years after their acrimonious split led to his trade and seemingly ended any chance of his return.
The Sixers needed a replacement once they lost starting point guard Lou Williams, who's expected to miss eight weeks after jaw surgery. Williams, who averaged 17.4 points and 5.1 assists, broke his jaw in a loss to Washington on Nov. 24.
Iverson, his agent and business manager met with team president Ed Stefanski, coach Eddie Jordan and two other members of the organization Monday to talk about returning.
"Without really seeing him on the floor, I would like to compare him to Brett Favre, a guy who people think is too old to play and he's almost having an MVP year," Jordan said. "That's off the top of my head. When I woke up this morning, I said, 'Maybe he can be that.' It's not a big maybe. I think he can be that."
The 34-year-old Iverson announced his retirement last week after a stint with the Memphis Grizzlies. The 10-time All-Star was NBA MVP in 2001, when he led the Sixers to the NBA finals.
"We had, at times, a rocky road with Allen Iverson, but we also had a fantastic run with Allen," Peter Luukko, COO of Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the 76ers and Flyers, told The Associated Press. "The expectations with Allen have changed dramatically. We're not looking for Allen to individually lead this team the way he has in the past."
Iverson was offered a one-year, non-guaranteed contract Tuesday, according to a person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the talks were private.
The Sixers would owe just under $650,000 if they guarantee his contract for the remainder of the season on Jan. 10.
"The whole situation wasn't about the contract and the money," Iverson's agent, Leon Rose, told The AP. "It was about the opportunity and the chance to come to Philadelphia."
In 10 seasons with the Sixers, Iverson posted the highest scoring average in team history (28.1), was second on the points list (19,583) and holds the record for 3-pointers (877). He was a seven-time All-Star, won four scoring titles and two All-Star game MVPs.
"He's like a rock star," Stefanski said.
The Sixers (5-13) had lost seven straight entering Wednesday night's game at Oklahoma City and need Iverson to spark sagging ticket sales. The Sixers are 29th in the NBA in attendance.
Luukko said Iverson's deal was "absolutely, strictly a basketball decision."
Jordan said Iverson will likely start in place of rookie Jrue Holiday.
"I told him I would like for him to start, and that's where it sort of ended," Jordan said. "And he was really like a kid at Christmas. That's how he sort of explained it to me. He's really excited and we're looking forward to it."
Iverson's last game with Philadelphia was Dec. 6, 2006, in Chicago. He refused to play the fourth quarter and was banished from the team two days later. He was eventually traded to Denver as part of the Andre Miller deal, and bounced to Detroit before landing in Memphis.
"Certainly, the way it left off, it's surprising," Luukko said.
Rose said he wasn't surprised both sides put their bitter parting behind them.
"It was a good situation that made sense for them," Rose said. "Allen has always had an affinity for the city of Philadelphia, the fans, the memories of playing here. He's always talked about the opportunity to come back."
The 6-foot Iverson played three games this season with Memphis before taking a leave of absence to attend to personal matters. He was waived after the two sides agreed to part ways.
The New York Knicks considered signing Iverson after he cleared waivers, before deciding he would take too much playing time from younger players they are trying to develop.
Iverson would get another look at his former teams after playing Denver. The Sixers, who have not won a playoff series since 2003, play at home Dec. 9 against Detroit.
Iverson was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 draft, but his 10 turbulent seasons in Philadelphia were marred by rants about practice, run-ins with former coach Larry Brown, arrests and a failed rap career.
In one infamous blowup at the end of the 2002 season, he repeated the word "practice" nearly 20 times during a rambling monologue.
"Times change, situations change," Luukko said. "The best way was to make this a basketball decision. Don't get personal with it."
Iverson has a career average of 27 points in 889 games over 14 seasons, and is tied for the fifth-highest scoring average in NBA history. He ranks third among active players.
"It's a great challenge, and I think it's a motivational aspect to it, too," Jordan said. "Guys are going to be jacked up. He's a winner, he's an assassin on the floor and that sort of thing is contagious."