76ers' guard says he and Chris Webber can make the team a winner - with the right cast around them.
By David Aldridge
BOWIE, Md. - Saturday brought the fans - his fans - from all over the Washington area, to a double-A ballpark in the suburbs for a charity softball game.
They were there to see gospel superstar Yolanda Adams, who sang the national anthem a capella, sweet as you please.
They were there to see hip-hop star Nelly (a former high school baseball star in St. Louis who showed surprising opposite-field power with a first-inning homer).
But it was the guy with the retro Dale Murphy No. 3 Braves jersey who got the loudest, most sustained cheers of the evening.
"I'm a Dale Murphy fan," Allen Iverson said. "I just wanted to wear my own number."
Could be, though Iverson was 7 years old when Murphy won the first of his two National League MVP awards.
Couldn't it also be the name on the front of the jersey? Atlanta? A city that just happens to have a dreadful basketball team at the moment, and can't sell tickets for said dreadful team on a dare?
"Should I read anything into your wearing an Atlanta jersey?" I asked.
Iverson smiled, sort of.
"I don't know," he said. "You know, God works in mysterious ways. So whatever happens, happens."
Iverson made it clear Saturday that if he's back in Philadelphia, somebody else other than he and Chris Webber have to make things better defensively, which is at least honest, if not encouraging. And he made it clear that he expects Sixers executive Billy King to improve the team's bench scoring.
And he still thinks that he and Webber are good enough around which to build a contender.
"I always admired [Webber] as a basketball player and as a person from afar," Iverson said, "but I've got a different love for him now, now that I know who he is as a man.
"He's just a great person and he's a stand-up guy and he's straightforward... I want to play with Chris. When people said that we couldn't play together, we proved everybody wrong. Now we just have to try and win together. We want to win together."
When he arrived about 90 minutes late, with son Deuce in tow (man, he's getting big), the crowd crackled like a log on a campfire, a sudden surge of noise, a murmur at first, building rapidly to the shrieks and screams that have been a part of Iverson's life for more than a decade.
To see the reception he still gets makes one wonder how on earth the Sixers could consider moving this guy.
In case you need reminding, even though I still believe the Sixers want to trade Iverson sometime within the next season, I also think trading a guy who was second in the league in scoring and dishing out more assists than ever is lunacy, a trip in the lead car to Crazy Town, a season pass to Nuttyville, a...
Knock it off, dope. We get it, we get it.
Anyway, the Sixers are having trouble finding a suitor outside of the Atlantic Division, where they don't want to repatriate Iverson and have to face him four or five times a year. And maybe that's a good thing.
The Sixers surely realize that teams are trying to rip them off at the moment, and will only get serious when their own seasons begin to blow up - a realization that usually takes hold around Christmas or so.
Maybe, if the Warriors have gone south again, Golden State might cave in and give Philly what it wants - either Troy Murphy or Jason Richardson.
And by then, we'll also know which way the Sixers are going.
Hope for an extreme, one way or another.
Because if the Sixers are terrible, and headed for another trip to the Lottery, not even Iverson's strongest backers could object to his being sent elsewhere. Or, if they're in the midst of a miraculous turnaround, they'll surely keep their group together. (No, I don't think that's likely, either.)
But if they're just slightly better, and still going nowhere in particular, we'll have to do all this speculating again around next February's trade deadline - with the possibility that the Sixers could enter another off-season not having accomplished much of anything.
That would be craziest of all.
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