TO LONGTIME 76ers fans, it was a sight to see. Julius Erving graciously and, as always, eloquently speaking to the media when Allen Iverson joined the session and the two shared a couple of bearhugs before Doc planted a kiss on Iverson's forehead.
It was a look into the past. Into what had been a great franchise on a night when the bridge from past to present continued to be constructed.
The team hosted the Sixers Youth Foundation gala Thursday night on the floor of the beloved Palestra, a charitable event with the proceeds benefiting area kids who are less fortunate. Current and former players, coaches, sponsors and fans got a chance to mingle and forget about what has been a wretched period of professional basketball. And they got a chance to remember what once was.
But, as is all things Sixers right now, a bit of bad news appeared to be on the horizon.
Although coach Brett Brown wouldn't say exactly what is wrong with Jahlil Okafor's right knee, a CT scan was taken early in the week. If the news were good, you would assume Brown would be eager to share it.
"It's something serious enough for us to wait this long to try to figure it out," Brown said. "He's clearly that important to the program, and it's just something that we don't feel comfortable with making any decision right now on declaring something categoric to the marketplace. When we do, we will. Right now we are not in that position.
"We don't know everything. When we don't know everything, that's enough for us to realize that we have to hold things right now close to our chest, so we can figure it out. I think (Friday), with the collaborative effort of everybody involved, we'll be in a position to declare to the marketplace that this is what's going on, this is what we intend to do, and this is the path that Jahlil will follow for a while, and off we go."
When asked whether Okafor could miss the rest of the season, Brown said: "Anything is on the table. We're not in a position to acknowledge that. It's all up for us to review and what is best for Jahlil."
Before a game in Orlando on Feb. 28, Okafor appeared to have discomfort in the knee. He met with some of the medical staff on the court during warmups, then returned to warmups and appeared fine. He got hit hard in the shin on his right leg late in the game and hasn't been on the floor since.
When asked Thursday whether he knew anything about the injury, center Nerlens Noel said: "He's going through his proper precautions. He got fitted for a brace. That's all I've really seen."
The team hosts the Brooklyn Nets Friday, and Brown will speak with reporters before the game. That probably will be when we all find out the extent of the injury.
The team is mired in a 13-game losing streak and still has only eight wins with only 18 games to go. While talk is starting to heat up about whether the Sixers post the worst record in NBA history (the 1972-73 Sixers were 9-73), Iverson and Erving understand that patience is still needed.
"I catch some games and am looking forward to chiming in this week," said Erving, who will be in town for the next two games. "There's always hope. I think the core group has a future here. Important decisions have to be made. Can the bigs play together? Where's the stability going to come from in terms of the draft and the free-agent situation? We're looking at a situation that is in the process of becoming something special, and that's what everybody's hope and wish and dream is. But decsions still have to be made that aren't necessarily on-court decisions."
Iverson, a nominee for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this year, could only shake his head when asked whether his beloved team was tough to watch.
"It ain't painful. I think Philadelphia, real fans, got to be patient and understand how young these guys are and know that the potential is there," Iverson said. "The talent is there. They're just young. We have to give them a chance. Allen Iverson ain't walking through the door tomorrow or the next day. We got to recognize and understand that they're young, they're talented and there's a future for these guys."
The immediate future is all about the health of Okafor's right knee.