The emotion was tangible at the Wachovia Center on Monday night as Allen Iverson made his return to Philadelphia against his former team.
You could almost feel the energy emanating from the crowd as they awaited the familiar "a six-foot guard from Georgetown" pronouncement from the 76ers P.A. announcer, Matt Cord.
Yet, starting with the apparent refusal of Andre Iguodala to relinquish his final spot in the pregame player introductions, Iverson had to feel as though he was in unfamiliar territory.
AI was not without his moments throughout the game, he had 11 points, six assists, five rebounds, and most importantly 38 minutes. But, what was missing from his performance was far more apparent than that which was visible.
There was no killer instinct. There was little passion. There was no noticeable fight at all in the dog. He seemed to be completely at peace with his 76ers reunion, but one has to wonder what impact his newfound tranquility will have on a young and immature team.
When asked how he was feeling after the loss, Iverson responded, "I'm happy. That's the only thing that matters to me."
Is that really the message he wants to convey to a team that just lost their 10th straight game? Not sure that will exactly inspire the heart of a champion in his teammates.
The hapless 76ers might have been better off taking a look across the court at their opponent on this night for some inspiration.
Ty Lawson only played 24 minutes, but his impact on this game could not be ignored. He had nearly an identical night as AI did statistically (12 points, four assists, and six rebounds), but what can't be seen in the box score is the way he manhandled Iverson on the defensive end and almost single-handedly turned the tempo of the game in favor of the Nuggets.
The 5'11'' Lawson even handed Iverson his most embarrassing moment of the night with an impressive blocked shot on a vintage AI drive.
Lawson seemingly blew by Iverson at will during the second half making him look like an old man looking for his dentures. Even AI had to admit his inferiority in this respect after the game saying, "Me, stay in front of him? That kid is the fastest guy in the league."
I have to admit that it was good to see Iverson back in the red, white, and blue. It certainly brought back a sense of nostalgia for this NBA fan, but to focus solely on AI's return like most media outlets would be doing Mr. Tywon Lawson's performance an injustice, which was inspiring to say the least.
Lest we not forget that Lawson has already done something in his career that Iverson never was capable of, winning an NCAA championship during his time at North Carolina. But fear not 76ers fans, Iverson made it abundantly clear how much importance he placed on bringing this team back to championship form with his statements after the game. "Championship or not. It don't kill me. I don't wake up every morning dying because I haven't won a championship."
Well, at least he is getting his minutes. Welcome back AI.