PHILADELPHIA – Allen Iverson not only may come out of retirement in a matter of days. But he also could very well return to the franchise where all of his glory began.
Numerous team sources confirmed on Friday that the 76ers’ brass has already talked — and talks will only escalate this weekend — about bringing Iverson back to Philadelphia. Possibly as early as next week.
“It’s being seriously considered,” one Sixers official said before his team lost to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night. “We know the history. We know the ups and downs. But we’re also aware of what (Iverson) can do and that he’s needed here. We simply can’t just ignore the upside he’d bring. Not with our situation.”
As of Friday night, coach Eddie Jordan was on board with bringing Iverson back, according to sources. So were officials within the club’s hierarchy, along with the team’s executive adviser, Sonny Hill.
The rest of Jordan’s coaching staff is amenable to Iverson’s return, including assistant and former Sixer Aaron McKie, one of Iverson’s best friends, as well as assistant coach Randy Ayers — the former Sixers coach who had his share of run-ins with Iverson, ultimately lasting just 52 games before he was dismissed by former president and GM Billy King in 2003-04.
The Sixers say they are aware it will cost them less than $3 million to get Iverson — “possibly less than $2 million, according to another team source — and have every intention of acting on it, probably as early as Tuesday.
With the Sixers’ scheduled to play San Antonio on Sunday, then Dallas on Monday, sources said it’s entirely possible Jordan will fly from Dallas to Atlanta to meet with Iverson on Tuesday. That also happens to be the day Iverson is scheduled to meet with his former coach at Georgetown, John Thompson.
As far as the Sixers are concerned, it’s almost a no-brainer.
Entering Friday night, the Sixers were ranked 29th in league attendance, averaging 11,820 fans. Only the Memphis Grizzlies are worse.
Jordan is said to be incredibly frustrated with everything from Elton Brand’s work ethic to Andre Iguodala’s inability to make plays off the dribble. The one player he absolutely loves, guard Louie Williams, is out for eight weeks with a broken jaw.
“Eddie needs a playmaker,” another source said. “He needs an identity. Something to create some excitement.”
To add to the misery, the Sixers are 5-11, averaging just 97.6 points. Their only bona fide shooter is Jason Kapono. So there’s no question Iverson is appealing to the Sixers at the moment; even to team chairman Ed Snider, who screamed, “We’re gonna trade him,” before actually shipping Iverson (averaging 31.2 points per game at the time) to Denver in 2006.
The question remains, however, whether the Sixers would be appealing to Iverson.
“Scratch that,” one of Iverson’s confidants told me last night. “He’s interested.”
One thing’s for sure: If Iverson returns to Philadelphia, he will be a starter.
Team sources confirmed on Friday that Iverson would be a starter because Jordan had planned on starting Williams with rookie Jrue Holiday anyway, just to put some excitement and more ball-handlers into his Princeton-style offense. So even once Williams returns from injury, he’d be in the starting lineup with Iverson.
That means Iverson will return as a starter. He’ll be back in Philadelphia. And with the talent the Sixers already have on their roster, he could be the missing piece that propels them back to the playoffs.
Assuming, of course, the Sixers are willing to pull the trigger.
Under normal circumstances, considering the manner in which Iverson departed, the Sixers wouldn’t do this.
“But let’s face it: We’re very, very boring right now,” a team source said. “We have absolutely nothing to lose by bringing Iverson back. Nothing at all.”