CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Routinely, Andre Iguodala does the impossible.
He double clutches dunks. He hits end-of-quarter shots from well beyond the three. He blasts up the court like a sprinter off the blocks.
Iguodala, without question, has been the 76ers' best player.
But maybe, just maybe, Iguodala has been trying to become something that might be out of even his quite-long reach: a go-to scorer, the franchise player.
Enter Allen Iverson, who was, no matter your opinion of him, most definitely those things.
As the hours dwindle toward Iverson's return debut - slated for tomorrow night against the Denver Nuggets - you have to wonder where that leaves Iguodala.
Let's approach these things out of order: First the bad, then the good.
The bad: Iguodala isn't a No. 1 scoring option. The addition of Iverson, most definitely a No. 1 option, feels a little like holding a mirror to Iguodala, showing him what he is not.
This is not breaking news to die-hard Sixers fans who watch the late-night replays on Comcast. Each Sixers game has too many moments when Iguodala is trying too hard to be the scorer he is not. At least once each half, he's going to the hoop not because it's open, but because he hasn't scored in a while, and he knows this team needs him to score. At least once, he's taking an off-balance, 18-footer not because it's the best possible shot, but because the weight of a team is on his shoulders.
Iguodala is the Sixers' best all-around player; anyone who disputes that doesn't know basketball from horseshoes.
Iguodala improves those around him. He plays each play - sometimes to his own detriment - the right way. If someone is open, he gets the basketball. But this isn't the mentality of a No. 1 scoring option. This is the mentality of the most integral player on a winning team that already boasts another wicked scoring option.
But does Iguodala know this?
He said Friday, while walking toward the team bus in Oklahoma City, that he knows he goes too long without asserting himself on the offensive end. Sixers coach Eddie Jordan said his main problem with Iguodala was that he didn't look for himself enough.
It isn't his mentality.
Now, in a 180-degree flip that no one around this team would have predicted, Iverson has returned.
Could AI and AI2 be any more different? Iverson spent his Sixers career tossing himself into the crowd like a giveaway T-shirt, embracing the love offered. Iguodala has spent the years since at odds with the fans, unable to open his arms as wide as his predecessor.
Which leads us to the good: Iverson's offensive ability, even at 34 years old.
Nobody on this current Sixers roster creates scoring opportunities for Iguodala. The closest might have been Lou Williams, whose broken jaw was the catalyst for this Iverson explosion. But mostly, Iguodala creates for others and, when he can, for himself.
How many times did we see power forward Elton Brand drawing a double team and dishing to Iguodala for a quick slam? It never happened, no matter how pretty it looked on the drawing board.
Iverson could - and let's repeat, could - make Iguodala the player he should be, even if only for this season. He'll be the opponent's secondary focus, the guy who does everything else: pass, rebound, defend, steal, and then score.
Tomorrow night, the soap opera returns to the Wachovia Center: packed house, Nuggets, AI and AI2, the franchise and the guy trying to be the franchise.
Andre Iguodala does the impossible: He dunks over Yao Ming, he hits leaning game winners that have 100-1 odds.
But he has never been able to win over the fans, and now he welcomes back a player who always could.
Read Kate Fagan's 76ers blog,
Deep Sixer, at http://go.philly.com/sports.
Posted by: phasor, 3:51 p.m. Friday
Subject: Why not start Brand?
The worst that can happen is that he can fail and have to accept a bench role. He's had some moments of brilliance out there on the boards, scooping garbage shots and keeping the Sixers in games with second chances. And with AI taking all those shots someone gotta go for the offensive boards, and we know it ain't gonna be Thad, at least not yet.EndText