The 76ers made their biggest move of the 2009 season when they signed free agent guard Allen Iverson on December 4th. Both in the stands and on the court, Iverson's return has already proven to be a step in the right direction.
The Sixers sold out their first game of the season in his return, and battled evenly with the heavily favored Nuggets for three quarters—even entering the fourth with a small lead before things unraveled.
Even in last night’s defeat, there’s room for optimism in Philadelphia again. From a purely blunt perspective, Iverson didn’t have much of an impact last night—at least not on the floor—but since he hadn’t started a game in over six months and was forced to miss Memphis’ training camp due to an ailing hamstring, that’s easily forgivable.
What Iverson did impact was the entire Wachovia Center—with his presence and their renewed interest inspired the Sixers.
Once Iverson returns to form and Lou Williams recovers, this Sixer team will be as good as we’ve seen them in the last decade if they tap into their potential. The question is: what if they don’t?
Iverson’s presence alone won’t sell out seats at Wachovia forever if the team doesn’t produce, but everyone knows that Iverson has a following all his own and as long as he’s with the team, Wachovia won’t be nearly as vacant as it is without him. But will that be enough to satisfy Sixers management if Iverson can’t turn this season around?
The main reason for Iverson’s departure back in ’06 was management’s inability/apathy towards surrounding him with talent. Given reasonable ticket sales, management showed absolutely no desire or sense of urgency in upgrading the Sixers from first round roadkill into anything resembling a title contending team.
If this season were to go further south, the re-signing of Iverson alone would be enough for management to feign productivity and maintain the declining status quo—or enough to lure a solid free agent and get one step closer to hanging with the league’s big boys.
The Sixers were quickly heading to a crossroads even before Iverson returned. Iverson is simply getting them there faster. As the season goes on, we’ll gain a much clearer understanding of which path the Sixers will choose.
Strap yourself in. One way or the other, it’ll be a hell of a ride.