The 11-yearrelationship between Allen Iverson and the 76ers has been like a rockymarriage: They fight a lot--even threaten divorce--but always make up. So itwasn't surprising this summer that Iverson, 31, was again the subject of traderumors, although ultimately Philadelphia did not swing a deal. (A potentialpredraft trade with the Celtics fell apart.) "Whatever decisions theymake," Iverson says of team management, "I will always roll with them.I don't have a choice."
While Iverson hasupped his scoring average in each of the last three seasons, to a career-high33.0 in 2005--06, the Sixers have continued their slow decline since losing inthe Finals in '01, missing the playoffs in two of the last three years. "Wehaven't achieved the ultimate goal," says Iverson. "Obviously therehave to be a lot of changes and, if need be, adjustments on my part."
The club haschanged coaches (five in four years) like gym socks, to no avail. And withChris Webber, Samuel Dalembert and Kyle Korver also tied to lucrative long-termcontracts, what personnel moves can be made under the salary cap aresuperficial. (Philadelphia's lone veteran acquisition in the off-season wasjourneyman forward Alan Henderson.) The only option that would create room toshake up the team is to deal its star guard. Just don't expect him to gowillingly.
"I don'tthink there would ever be a day that I'd ask to leave," says Iverson."When you've been some place for so long and you've been trying toaccomplish the same goal for years, you just want to keep going until thewheels fall off."
ProjectedStarting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
Record: 38--44 (9th in East)
Points scored: 99.4 (8th in NBA)
Points allowed: 101.3 (25th)
Coach: Maurice Cheeks
(second season with the 76ers)
RODNEY CARNEY * (R)
ALAN HENDERSON *
(R) ROOKIE (COLLEGE STATISTICS)
An opposing team's scout sizes up the 76ers
When AllenIverson and Chris Webber blew off Fan Appreciation Night near the end of lastseason, it was emblematic of the whole franchise and where it's headed.... Youcan't win with a "me" guy as your point guard. There are worseoffenders than Iverson, but in the end he doesn't provide the kind ofleadership that the Sixers need. A point guard such as Jason Kidd would scorefewer points than Iverson, but he would do a much better job of elevating theperformances of his teammates simply by getting the ball to them where theywant it.... It's amazing that Webber still gives them close to 20 points and 10rebounds even though he can't move very well because of his surgically repairedknee. The question is, Does his scoring compensate for the fact that he's aliability at the other end? ... Andre Iguodala is a good perimeter defender,but I don't see him as a potential replacement for Iverson. He doesn't have alot of the offensive skills of a 20-point scorer.... Samuel Dalembert runs thefloor well but needs to become more of a threat in the low post.
Allen Iverson is the second player to average 30 points and seven assists inmore than one season. The first, Oscar Robertson, did it six times (1960--61and '61--62; '63--64 through '66--67).