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Iverson, Robinson shoot down concerns

Editor's note: ESPN.com is once again visiting all 29 NBA teams during training camp and the preseason. The tour continues with a report on the Philadelphia 76ers.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The third quarter is winding down in the 76ers' preseason game against the Nets, and Allen Iverson is aiming to launch another 3-pointer from the top of the arc.

Iverson is about to do that rhythm dribble of his -- the between-the-legs move that freezes the defender -- to create enough space for him to hoist another three, but out of the corner of his eye, he spots Glenn Robinson breaking free off a screen along the right baseline. Instead of shooting the ball, Iverson shares it, feeding the Big Dog for that feathery jumper of his from 18 feet.

Not even Larry Brown could've drawn it up better.

"It's going to be fun," Iverson said of Philadelphia's new double-barrel offense.

"I'm happy with the situation I'm in," Robinson said of being the 76ers' second trigger.

Doesn't sound like two guys unwilling to work together, does it?

Ever since a four-team trade brought Robinson from Atlanta to Philadelphia, the question of whether Iverson can coexist with his latest sidekick has been analyzed and debated, mostly with a negative conclusion. Morning shootarounds figured to be the only time there would be enough basketballs to go around to please Iverson and Robinson, who ranked second (23.7) and 15th (18.1), respectively, in shots per game last season.

But unlike Jerry Stackhouse, Tim Thomas, Larry Hughes, Toni Kukoc, Matt Harpring and Keith Van Horn -- the scorers who were paired with Iverson in the past and then shown the door -- Robinson comes with credible credentials.

Robinson, like Iverson, was the No. 1 pick of his draft class in 1994. Robinson, like Iverson, has been an All-Star, two times in fact. More importantly, Robinson, unlike the others, already has the respect of Iverson, who wasted no time deeming the former Buck and Hawk as "a better player than all of those other guys."

In Iverson's estimation, teams will enjoy facing the 76ers' new tag team about as much as he likes answering reporters' questions.

"We feel like if we got Glenn on the basketball court and myself, they got to play him honest and they've got to play me honest," Iverson said. "They can't double me as much like they used to.

"I can post the ball up to Glenn if I stay on the same side," Iverson continued in his best coach speak. "If my man doesn't help, he can destroy his man. If my man does help, then I get a chance to make some things happen. So I'm excited about it."

"I feel good about it," said Robinson of his new role as Philly's second option. "... Because he's going to draw a lot of double teams, because he can beat his man all the time. It's just up to us to be spaced out (on the floor) and be ready for the ball when we get it."

That's the catch. For all of this to work, the 76ers need a magnanimous Iverson, not the one-on-one magnificent Iverson. Point guard Eric Snow will determine who gets the first touch in the 76ers' halfcourt sets. But since everything still runs through Iverson, the responsibility of getting the most out of Robinson falls on No. 3.

"We have to make it easy for him," Snow said of Robinson. "We have to make sacrifices as far as getting him the ball and I think Allen has to do the same."

"He's a total team player," Robinson said of Iverson. "He knows his role. I know my role. Everybody knows their role. That's what's going to make it easy for us."

Playing just their second game as Philadelphia's new 1-2 punch last Tuesday, Iverson and Robinson attempted 28 of the team's 43 shots while on the floor together. Robinson, after a 2-for-6 start, made seven of his 13 attempts for 15 points. Iverson went 5-for-15 for 11 points and had three assists.

Derrick Coleman and Kenny Thomas didn't suit up, but they're still only third and fourth options, at best. New head coach Randy Ayers has already given Iverson and Robinson the green light. He's just figuring out how to direct traffic for them.

"They are a legitimate threat on the court -- somebody that the defense has to be concerned about because they both are capable of having big scoring nights," said Ayers, who has designs of a more uptempo offense. "What we have to figure out here in the next two to six weeks is how they fit in together."

Even if Iverson and Robinson hit their career scoring averages (27.0 and 21.1 points per game, respectively), the 76ers can't expect to outgun the opponent. Philadelphia got to the 2001 NBA Finals because of a stultifying defense and must improve on a No. 23 ranking in defensive field-goal percentage (.452).

Ironically, during that Finals run in '01, Iverson didn't have the luxury of a true No. 2 scorer.

"We just have to help each other out on the defensive end," said Robinson, who played on a high-scoring, defensive-deficient team in Milwaukee.

"A lot of times, Iverson is guarding guys who are bigger than him. So he has to use his quickness, and when teams take it to the post, we have to help out. We just have to be alert. It has to be like a chain and everybody cover for each other."

"Defense can create easy opportunities," Snow added. "The more easy opportunities we get, the more (points) we get."

Iverson and Robinson speak fondly of each other now. But the true test of these Iverson/Robinson 76ers will occur when the two aren't making their shots, especially when Robinson falls into a rut.

Will Robinson still have Iverson's trust?

"I think we still have a lot of doubt (whether it can work)," Snow said. "If it doesn't, we'll have to make changes."

Snow then paused to ponder that statement. "You know," he said correcting himself, "that's probably the only thing we can't change."

Joe Lago is the NBA editor at ESPN.com.