Iverson's legendary career nears conclusion


Iverson's legendary career nears conclusion

That Allen Iverson officially will be retiring from basketball in the coming days, as reported by SLAM magazine, should not come as a surprise.

Iverson’s representatives did not confirm nor deny the report in an e-mail. Instead the reps stated that the former Sixer will make an official comment about the topic at an appropriate time.

Iverson last played in an NBA game on Feb. 20, 2010 for the Sixers. In the rare occasions since when he has spoken publicly, the guard said he hoped another team would reach out to him at some point.

That situation never came to fruition and Iverson hinted that his career was likely over when he returned to the Wells Fargo Center on March 30 for his own bobblehead night.

“At some point it comes to an end regardless, however it comes, whether it is retirement or injury, at some point it comes to an end,” Iverson said that night. “I am happy and content with everything that has gone on in my life and I am just looking for the next phase, and if I get a chance to play again I would love the opportunity, but if not I will continue to just be happy.”

Iverson turned 38 years old in June. He is not eligible for the Hall of Fame until 2015, but potentially being inducted weighs on his mind.

“I think about it all the time,” Iverson said. “My friends let me know about it. My family let me know about it and me being, I wouldn’t say arrogant or cocky, but confident as I am, I expect that to happen and I am looking forward to it.

“I think that would be the best as far as putting an exclamation point on my career. Being drafted was the best but going down as one of the best ever to play the game would be the exclamation point.”

Iverson played 914 NBA games over 14 years. He scored 24,368 career points, which ranks 19th all-time. He was MVP of the league in the Sixers’ magical 2001 season when they reached the NBA Finals. He made 11 All-Star Game appearances and won the league’s scoring title four times.

But Iverson’s departure from the NBA was not graceful. Following his 2½ seasons in Denver after being traded by the Sixers, Iverson had a stop in Detroit, three games in Memphis, 25 games in a second stint with the Sixers, basketball in Turkey and two exhibition games in China.

He had lost a step and without his explosiveness could no longer get to the rim. Iverson never wanted to come off the bench and spent little time in the weight room, if any. Both became issues for him as he aged.

Still, the city of Philadelphia admired the toughness and grit Iverson played with every night. That is something that can’t be measured by the numbers.

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

MIAMI — A woman performing the national anthem before an NBA preseason game in Miami on Friday night did so while kneeling at midcourt, and opening her jacket to show a shirt with the phrase "Black Lives Matter."

The singer was identified by the Heat as Denasia Lawrence. It was unclear if she remained in the arena after the performance, and messages left for her were not immediately returned.

Heat players and coaches stood side-by-side for the anthem, all with their arms linked as has been their custom during the preseason. Many had their heads down as Lawrence sang, and the team released a statement saying it had no advance knowledge that she planned to kneel.

"We felt as a basketball team that we would do something united, so that was our focus," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that has come out is the very poignant, thoughtful dialogue. We've had great dialogue within our walls here and hopefully this will lead to action."

The anthem issue has been a major topic in the sports world in recent months, starting with the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to not stand for its playing. Kaepernick cited racial injustice and police brutality among the reasons for his protest, and athletes from many sports -- and many levels, from youth all the way to professional -- have followed his lead in various ways.

"All I can say is what we've seen in multiple preseason games so far is our players standing for the national anthem," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in New York earlier Friday, at a news conference following the league's board of governors meetings. "It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do."

The NBA has a rule calling for players and coaches to stand during the anthem.

Heat guard Wayne Ellington often speaks about the need to curb gun violence, after his father was shot and killed two years ago. He had his eyes closed for most of the anthem Friday, as per his own custom, though was aware of Lawrence's actions.

"At the end of the day, to each his own," Ellington said. "If she feels like that's the way she wants to stand for it, then more power to her."

Making a statement in the manner that Lawrence did Friday is rare, but not unheard of in recent weeks.

When the Sacramento Kings played their first home preseason game earlier this month, anthem singer Leah Tysse dropped to one knee as she finished singing the song.

Tysse is white. Lawrence is black.

"I love and honor my country as deeply as anyone yet it is my responsibility as an American to speak up against injustice as it affects my fellow Americans," Tysse wrote on Facebook. "I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability."

Joel Embiid ends preseason on impressive note, has Sixers excited

Joel Embiid ends preseason on impressive note, has Sixers excited

MIAMI — It’s a cautious optimism to be sure — there can be no other type for the Sixers right now given their history of injuries — but you can tell the team is starting to get excited about Joel Embiid.

In Friday’s 113-110 exhibition finale win over the Miami Heat (see game story), Embiid scored 18 points in 18 minutes before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

The 7-0 center, who missed his first two NBA seasons because of foot surgeries, made 8 of 16 shots and 2 of 2 on free throws, adding a game-high nine rebounds.

“I’ve always felt like I’m a complete player — that’s what I do,” Embiid said. “I’m starting to get easy points.

“I just got better every game [in the preseason], defensively, offensively.”

Sixers coach Brett Brown said he is still learning how to best use Embiid.

Brown added that the rust is apparent in Embiid’s game. But …

“He is as self-taught as any player I’ve ever been around,” Brown said. “He grew up in Cameroon and hasn’t played a lot (because of injuries). But he studies, he looks at stuff. He pays attention. He’s instinctively curious.

“There’s a lot of stuff in his head that he thinks through. His mind is quicker than his feet. At times, his core, his balance and his decision-making are off because his mind is working faster than his body.”

Embiid scored most of his buckets on Friday at close range — a finger roll, a tip-in, a couple of put-back dunks, an alley-oop dunk and a fast-break layup. But he did make a 10-foot jumper and took — but missed — a three-point try.

“He does stuff in a game that makes you step back and say, ‘Wow,’” Brown said. “He will trail and hit a three. He will have a pound, pound drop-step, dunk.

“Like a traditional post, he will turn his face and make a bank shot. He has that up-and-under stuff.

“But he’s raw. His preseason has been highlighted by those few things that you notice, all under the umbrella of, ‘He really has a chance to be very, very good.’"

Brown was asked to summarize the Sixers' 2-5 preseason, and he called it a “completely erratic” exhibition season because of injuries.

“Jahlil [Okafor] hasn’t practiced,” Brown said. “Joel has been steady and incremental. I think we all see that Dario Saric has got a lot to offer. I think the pairing of Joel and Dario was solid.

“We’ve seen Jerami [Grant] have a really good preseason. Richaun Holmes has taken his opportunity to play big minutes. Those type of things come to my mind.”