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Iverson Move Pays Off In Dividends As Sixers Actually Win A Game

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistDecember 15, 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

Stop the presses.  After a three-week, 12-game losing streak, the sun finally rose for the Philadelphia 76ers this morning, as they snapped their dubious streak with a blowout win over the Golden State Warriors last night.

With the win, one thing became immediately clear; their surprisingly controversial decision to sign Allen Iverson has already begun to pay off in dividends.

The Sixers approached the Iverson deal from two very different standpoints: the playing side and the business side.

On the business side: Before the Sixers signed Iverson, they averaged drawing 11,820 fans per home game. Since his signing, they've raised their home average to 12,942 (largely on the heels of a sell-out crowd of 20,664 for Iverson's home return against Denver).

Although the Sixers' attendance average hasn't shot up through the roof, (in Iverson's second home game, against the Detroit Pistons [another of his former teams], only 12,136 fans came out), any noticeable uptick is a considerable improvement. (For what it's worth, 12,795 attended Monday night's game.)

Especially for a team from a city where fans find themselves on the brink of a collective city-wide heart attack because of a trade in a sport that doesn't start for another four months.   

And especially because they could bring back a guy who dominated Philadelphia's NBA airwaves for a decade, all for a grand total of $650,686. It's not every day that you can bring a future Hall of Famer to your team for less than a million bucks.

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The team wasn't going to draw sell-out crowds either way, while they were being blown out of buildings and dropping to the third worst record in the NBA.

But bring Iverson back to get the fans' interest, then start winning a few games and pulling a streak together? The seats will start to fill up.

The deal was a knockout, no-brainer on the business side; score one for the Sixers.

Basketball-wise: The Sixers found themselves in the midst of a nine-game losing streak when Iverson strapped on his playing shoes in Philadelphia for the first time this season.

And while Iverson's return generated veritable excitement and considerable PR for the team, the results weren't much different, as the Sixers dropped three straight at home last week before last night's breakthrough against the Warriors.

Astonishingly, Iverson ran out of gas in the fourth quarter of those first few games.

Yup, it was a real surprise that a 34-year-old, who hadn't played competitive basketball in over a month, had fallen out of game shape and couldn't immediately re-insert himself into a brand new offense with brand new teammates.  

Well, apparently to some.

The Philadelphia Inquirer immediately hopped off the Iverson bandwagon with an article titled "Iverson Glow Fades Quickly." (yowch!)

But the fact of the matter is, Iverson wasn't brought in to completely reinvigorate the team and he wasn't going to be the dynamic, clear-No. 1 option superstar this time around in Philly. The surrounding team has more talent, coach Eddie Jordan's Princeton offense isn't structured to feature a one-on-one guy taking 25 shots per game, and Iverson isn't part of the team's long term future any more.

Not to mention that Iverson's physical style of play, where he aims to always draw contact on his way to the basket, seems like it's finally starting to take a toll on his body.  He was a game-time decision last night after having fluid drained from his knee.

"I can't move around like I'm accustomed to moving,'' he said. ''It makes it that much harder because I'm relying on my jumper more than I ever did in my career. I'm used to just trying to get in to the paint; being that my legs aren't there yet, it's limited me from being as aggressive as I can be."

''They get weak the more I go. The first half, I'll be all right, then I'll sit down, stiffen up and then I'm not able to move as I'm accustomed to moving,'' Iverson continued to say.

All physical ailments aside, Iverson managed his best game in a Sixers uniform (this season) last night, finishing with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting, along with two rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes of play.

If Iverson provides the Sixers with even 75 percent of what he used to do, then the Sixers got a steal by bringing him back.  

So far, even with a 1-3 record, the results have been only positive. Any progress is good progress at this point for the Sixers.  

But keep those expectations tempered; this team is likely to struggle until Marreese Speights and/or Lou Williams return.  

With the Nets showing nearly no signs of life, and John Wall establishing himself as the unquestioned No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Sixers might need to forget about the John Wall countdown, but a Greg Monroe countdown isn't such a bad consolation.

And for anyone looking to consolation, if you're still concerned with the Sixers' 6-18 record,imagine how badly Billy King would have screwed this Iverson deal up if he were still general manager.  

Judging by the contracts he gave to Sam Dalembert and Willie Green (in the summer when he lampooned the Sixers with bloated contracts for the next half-decade), I'm guessing Iverson would have landed a three-year, $12 million deal with $8 million guaranteed and been handed a key to the city.

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