Iverson starts against former team

Updated: December 7, 2009, 11:07 PM ET
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- The A.I. Show took center stage again in Philly.

And the early returns have Philadelphia 76ers fans in love with the revival as much as the original.

All Allen Iverson needs to do now is help the Sixers win. Iverson scored 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting and had six assists in Philadelphia's 10th straight loss, 93-83 to Denver on Monday night.

Iverson
Iverson

"I had chill-bumps running all through my body the whole game," Iverson said. "It just felt good to be back."

Iverson took a familiar route to the Wachovia Center for his first game since returning to the Sixers last week. He pulled in to the player's parking lot at 5:55 p.m., waving to fans who waited in the cold for a glimpse of one of the most polarizing athletes in Philadelphia's deep sports history.

He hit the court for warmups to the sound of fans screaming his name and holding "Welcome Home" signs. He took passes from his former 76ers backcourt teammate Aaron McKie, now an assistant coach.

He sank shot after shot to the delight of the crowd and broke out in a wide smile as they erupted in cheers.

"That was the best part of the night, just hearing these people's voices all over again," Iverson said.

Iverson was edited out of highlights and banished from the team in the week leading up to his acrimonious 2006 trade to Denver. But he got his own greatest hits montage on Monday and a sellout crowd of 20,664 stood and roared in approval.

There was an NBA finals electricity in the arena for a team that hasn't won a playoff series since 2003 and was 29th in attendance. The Sixers averaged a measly 11,965 fans in their first eight home games.

But Iverson received a standing ovation when he left in the fourth quarter.

He was introduced fourth, bowed and kissed the logo at midcourt, then joined his teammates for a little dance. Iverson gave a friendly point to former coach George Karl and hugged ex-teammate Carmelo Anthony.

He missed his first shot, a makable layup early in the first quarter.

"I did the best I could," Iverson said. "My heart said yes, but my body said no. My legs were weak, my arms were weak."

Iverson has time to work his way back into shape. Coach Eddie Jordan said Iverson may start the rest of the season for the struggling Sixers.

Allen Iverson

Legends of the Liberty Bell

"I feel like I am home," Iverson said. "Just seeing people I'm accustomed to seeing, seeing the reporters, seeing some of the fans when I go out to eat. Just the smell of Philadelphia when I go outside."

Iverson's not sure how many minutes he can play because of his limited basketball activity over the past year. His stint in Detroit was cut short because of a back injury, and he played only three games for Memphis this season.

Iverson played 37 minutes but has some concerns about playing in game condition.

"If I can't get my scoring on like I want to, I just want to do other things on the basketball court that will help us win," Iverson said.

The Sixers hope Iverson can lead them back into the win column Wednesday against another one of his former teams, Detroit.

Karl, who had Iverson for two-plus seasons in Denver, said he was surprised Iverson was back with the Sixers.

"I was thinking it would be a team trying to win a championship that needed points," he said. "He always had a love affair with the city and he took them on an incredible run."

Iverson always considered Philly home and dreamed of a return to the team he led to the 2001 NBA finals.

"In your dreams, you always hope for the best," he said. "That's what I'm doing. I love these people here. They know that. They love me back. Hopefully, it'll just be a great experience."

Iverson broke down in tears at his press conference after he signed a non-guaranteed deal with the 76ers last week.

Chairman Ed Snider said before the game Iverson was starting with a clean slate.

"I think he's learned a lesson and so have we," Snider said. "I've learned that he's on a tight leash."

Not everything was the same for Iverson. He once occupied two or three of the end stalls in the 76ers' locker room. Iverson's new locker was sandwiched like a rookie between Jason Smith and Rodney Carney.

Jordan said he envisioned eventually pairing Iverson with injured point guard Lou Williams in the backcourt. Williams is out about six more weeks with a broken jaw. His injury sparked 76ers management to consider bringing back Iverson.

Iverson believes the Sixers can jump back into playoff contention.

"It's just going to take some time and I have to get back into a rhythm," he said.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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