A.I. Officially Retires, Loves Aaron McKie, Regrets Nothing

A.I. Officially Retires, Loves Aaron McKie, Regrets Nothing

It may feel like he's done this a half-dozen teams already over the course of the last three years, since his final season in his second tour with the Sixers petered out unceremoniously, but today, he made it official: Allen Iverson is no longer a professional basketball player. AI announced his retirement today at the Wells Fargo Center, with his kids, mother, and various other Allen Iverson This Is Your Life figures by his side.

Iverson was his typical emotional self today at the ceremony, sounding on the verge of tears throughout and answering every question with a sincere thoughtfulness--you could actually see him thinking about his answers, rather than just spewing his pre-prepared cliches--which remains extremely rare of professional athletes. No huge revelations were had--no, Iverson hasn't accepted a role on Michael Jordan's assistant coaching staff in Charlotte, and no, he's not standing on call in case the Sixers need a backup point guard on a ten-day in March--but there were memorable A.I. moments:

  • Giving credit to his Holy Trinity of Coaches, Mike Bailey (high school), John Thompson (college) and Larry Brown (pros, obv), repeatedly mentioning them in succession as the three men who shaped him as a basketball player and made him the player he eventually was.
  • Expressing apathy towards his standing in the all-time ranks of sports columnists that have never played the game: "All I care about is what the guys that play think," sez Iverson
  • Boasting about the greatest reward of his playing days: "I got the best NBA stories. I won't never run out. Never."
  • Clarifying his emotional state during the infamous "Practice" speech: "If I coulda gone back, I would have never done the interview... [the media] had no idea that my best friend had just gotten killed. You never heard about how I thought I had been traded from the Sixers."
  • Responding curtly to Howard Eskin's self-ID before asking his question: "I know your name."
  • Responding to Howard Eskin's question about if he had any regrets: "Nope."
  • Responding to another question about if he kept himself in shape in the off-season waiting for teams to give him a call: "No."
  • Speaking on his perceived legacy in the realm of Philly sports: "There's Doc and there's A.I. And that's Philly basketball."
  • Explaining his post-playing plans: "Yeah, there'll be a lot of fishing."
  • Listing the teammates who meant the most to him in his career: "Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. Aaron McKie. He was my teammate...but it was on another level. It was more than just basketball with me and him. I made a million mistakes, but if it weren't for Aaron McKie, I'd have made two million of 'em."

The high point of the interview, apart from the genuinely touching McKie moment--which was the only time that Iverson actually broke into tears--was a comment from a fan in the audience. Iverson had just gotten through talking about his greatest moment as a Sixer, which he unsurprisingly deemed the feeling of being in the middle of the then-First Union Center after winning the East finals, feeling "like we had a chance to win the title." When he was through rhapsodizing, the audience member shouted out:

"Tyronn Lue, baby! Tyronn Lue!"

Thanks for the memories, AI. And RIP Tyronn Lue forever.

Here's A.I. on McKie:

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."