There's No 'I' in Team, But We Do Have A.I. Back in Philly

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2009

TORONTO - NOVEMBER 8:  (L-R) Kevin Ollie #12, Allen Iverson #3 and Samuel Dalembert #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers share a laugh during the game against the Toronto Raptors  on November 8, 2006 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Raptors defeated the Sixers 106-104. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

It's official: Allen Iverson is making his triumphant return to the Philadelphia 76ers, the place where he started his NBA career 13 years ago, after signing a pro-rated, one-year, non-guaranteed contract on Wednesday.

"In light of the recent injury to Lou Williams, which will sideline him for close to eight weeks, we felt that Allen was the best available free agent guard to help us at this time," team president Ed Stefanski said.

According to a source close to the negotiations, the Sixers offered Iverson the one-year contract on Tuesday for a pro-rated portion of the veteran's minimum $1.3 million , after coach Eddie Jordan and general manager Ed Stefanski met with Iverson for two hours on Monday .

This news comes on the heels of the Sixers management having met Tuesday with Iverson's agent, Leon Rose.

As early as Monday night, ESPN had reported that the meeting brought the Sixers closer to signing Iverson more than ever , with both sides considering a deal "far more likely than not."

In fact, ESPN even quoted one source as saying, "No doubt he's coming back."

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ESPN reports  suggest that the Sixers will send assistant coach Aaron McKie (a former teammate of Iverson's) to meet Iverson in Philadelphia this week and if the signing does go through, the plan is to get him up to playing speed as quickly as possible. 

The Sixers are reportedly targeting Monday's home game against the Denver Nuggets (the team who the Sixers traded Iverson to during the 2006-07 season) as a potential return date for "The Answer."

For what it's worth, Sixers players appear to hold Iverson in high regard, as several Sixers had positive comments about Iverson this week.

Guard Royal Ivey said, "He's a Hall of Fame-type player; he's a great leader, I think he'd help us if he decided to come back. He's a great contributor; I'd like to have him as a teammate, it's that clear and simple.''

Much to the chagrin of Phil Sheridan of the Inquirer, Jrue Holiday chimed in , "I think Lou [Williams], Willie [Green], everybody here that played with him learned something from him. I think I could learn from him, too."  (Sheridan is skeptical, saying, "There is nothing they could possibly want Holiday or Marreese Speights or anyone else to learn from Allen Iverson").

And Andre Iguodala (who might need a new nickname besides "A.I." with this impending signing) told the Philadelphia Daily News , "With the situation we're in, we can always try to improve.  A guy like that could really help us out, you know? Just the caliber player he is, he could come in and help us."

With the team 5-13, slumping through seven straight losses, and barely able to attract more fans per game than the Memphis Grizzlies (and keep in mind, Memphis is a city where its college basketball team has a larger fan base than its professional team), the Sixers really didn't have much to lose when considering bringing back the future Hall of Famer, especially with the injury to Lou Williams opening up a huge hole in the starting lineup for the next eight weeks.

I firmly believe that Jrue Holiday is going to be great someday—trust me, I wrote all about it here —but the kid is a 19-year old-rookie.  He's going to get abused by professionals all season. 

Brandon Jennings came firing out of the gate because he'd played in a professional league for a year and he's even suffering through some slowdown after battling through 20 NBA games. 

Iverson gives the 76ers the best shot at winning games and remaining competitive this year and isn't that all that a fan base can ask for now?

The Sixers' best (only?) move was to go through with this signing, as they risked the complete and total alienation of their fan base if they balked on such an opportunity. 

You think they're having trouble drawing fans now?  What about when most of the city rallies to bring Iverson back, only to see management snub the idea and say they're happy with the horrible team they have now?  (Here's looking at you, New York Knicks .)

So,with all of that said,who else is ready to see No. 3 in the Sixers' new, old-school uniforms? Say hello to the best Christmas present a 76ers fan could ask for; welcome back home, Allen.  We've missed you.