Today at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Allen Iverson practiced with the 76ers for the first time since being brought back to the team. Iverson will make his return debut tomorrow night against the Denver Nuggets at the Wachovia Center.
Sixers coach Eddie Jordan said he "anticipates" starting Iverson tomorrow night. You can check out four videos from today's practice in the Deep Sixer video player below on the right. We have AI practicing, Jordan talking about Iverson's impact, and then two videos of Iverson talking afterwards. If you want all this info right as it happens, follow on Twitter, click here: Deep Sixer.
Iverson made it clear today that he's not yet in game shape. He said he will need his coaches, teammates, and fans to be patient with him as he works himself back into shape.
The starting unit at today's practice was Willie Green, Iverson, Thaddeus Young, Elton Brand, and Samuel Dalembert. The Sixers leading scorer right now, Andre Iguodala, did not practice because of a sprained right ankle. He is listed as a game-time decision for tomorrow night. About Iguodala being out, Jordan said, "With Willie scoring 26 last night and adding Allen, maybe, into the starting lineup, that's not a bad fall-back plan."
>Odds are AI will be in the starting lineup tomorrow night. Although AI cautioned that "tomorrow night is more for the fans," and that his game wasn't yet ready.
Said Iverson: "Tomorrow, that whole thing is probably more for the fans than anything else. It’s going to take a while. It’s frustrating for me because I was kind of in a rhythm before I left Memphis, then sitting out as much as I did I got off beat a little, but it won't take but a little while for me to get it back."
Continued Iverson, after being asked about possibly needing to call for a sub: "I’m going to have to. I’m not going to lie to myself. I’m not in the basketball shape that I want to be in. And at times out here I got real winded and once you get winded like that your arms get weak and your legs get weak. And obviously I’m going to have to be the judge of that and be honest with coach about when I’m going to have to get a blow because one thing I don’t want to do is go out there and hurt the team. I want to contribute and do what’s right for the team and if me not playing a lot of minutes is good for the team then that’s exactly what we should do."
Jordan said Iverson's presence alone has gotten this team excited.
"A lot of energy," Jordan said of the practice. "A lot of veteran presence on the floor. A lot of hop to everybody’s step. There was really great energy and anticipation and it was better than I expected … because of his presence, because of his movement on the floor. What he does on the ball, off the ball, how he talks … because of all the things the average person doesn’t see."
Jordan said at the start of practice they were jogging through plays and Jordan had to tell Iverson to slow down. Iverson responded, "I am, this is my jog." Jordan said Iverson looked fine today, but they didn't do anything too pressing and the team will monitor his conditioning. Jordan also said he's already made a difference and everybody that played with him got an easier shot because "that's what good players do."
>Jordan also said he asked Iverson if he can play a matchup zone.
Said Jordan: "He says, ‘Coach, with 14 years in the league I played matchup somewhere I just don’t remember.’ So that’s going to be good for us, too, in that way to help us save his legs a little bit, mix up some man and zone."
Later, Jordan said all the coaches were marveling that the offense already looked better and that he did not foresee a problem with Iverson having the ball too much.
"You tell a player like that that the best players help their teammates and make their teammates better and if they’re really sincere about being the best player then they’ll look to help their teammates in different ways."
Sounds like a nice start for Iverson. Only thing concerning about the day, for die-hard Sixers fans, was the way Jordan sounded about the defense. Oh, can he play a matchup zone? Sure, let's just jump into a matchup zone. That doesn't necessarily sound like a hard and fast defensive game plan with Iverson. Sixers are 5-15, losers of 9 straight, and defense has been the biggest issue.We'll leave that issue to another day.
More Sixers news: Jrue Holiday (right rotator cuff) and Marreese Speights (partially torn MCL) did some three-man weave today. Holiday is listed as day-to-day.