Lynam: Iverson still an icon in twilight of career

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Lynam: Iverson still an icon in twilight of career

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- He has been out of the NBA since February 2010, departing in unceremonious fashion, and yet Allen Iverson still draws attention the equivalent of a rock star.

Last Saturday night in Greensboro, N.C., the 36-year-old held his annual summer celebrity classic All-Star basketball game. Iverson was the star, but his friends, many of whom work in the entertainment industry, helped him put on a show that would have made admirers of Ball Up Streetball jealous. At the completion of the game, those in attendance rushed the court clamoring to get an Iverson autograph or picture or even just a chance to rub elbows with the cornrowed icon.

During his 10-plus seasons in Philadelphia, Iversons charisma was always obvious. He and Frank Sinatra had one thing in common: they both could say, I did it my way. In the case of No. 3, his way was sometimes defiant, always bold, with fearless and awesome woven in between.

That combination makes his presence a magnet, still.

I hope that my legacy is that I gave the fans what they wanted, somebody who played the game like it was his last, Iverson reflected. Someone who played hard every night and tried to give them their moneys worth.

In no season did Sixers fans get their moneys worth more than 2001, when Iverson was the leagues MVP and the Sixers marched to the NBA Finals. Ten years have passed since that run, and in its wake when the Sixers have gone to the postseason, their journeys have all been one-and-done.

Who knew in 2001 that the magic would be so short lived?

One cant live in the past, but reminiscing is a worthy pastime. Do you remember the Sixers came out of the gate and won their first 10 games in '01? They had the best record in the NBA at the all-star break, 36-14, earning Larry Brown the opportunity to coach his superstar in the mid-winter classic, which was held in our nations capital.

The East outscored the West, 41-21, in the fourth quarter, staging the greatest comeback in All-Star Game history as Browns team won, 111-110. Iverson was named the MVP having scored 25 points to lead all players. Few remember details of that game, but everyone remembers the line delivered by Iverson after the win: Wheres my coach, wheres my coach? he said as he was handed the MVP trophy.

I was so young and I was really rebellious and I had to learn, Iverson said when asked why those words came out of his mouth in that moment. I used to think he (Brown) was criticizing me when he was telling me things, but he was just teaching me and being my coach, and sharing the things I needed to know to be an MVP and be an All-Star and be a good player. And once I learned that it was constructive criticism, then I realized that he brought me a long way.

Iverson was in his fifth NBA season that year and four of them had been under Browns tutelage. His All-Star Game MVP award turned out to be a prelude to a bigger, more significant Most Valuable Player recognition.

I was ecstatic, Iverson said of his being named the NBA's MVP in 2001. I knew that I worked hard all year long. I think I played well enough to be the MVP and just looking back on it and being the MVP, that is just a great honor. Obviously, when you get that award you are basically labeled the best basketball player in the world that year, but it was a tribute to my teammates and my coaches because without them I wouldnt have been able to do it because they put me in a situation to succeed.

In the spring of that year, success might as well have been Iversons middle name. In the second round of the playoffs, Iverson dropped 54 points in Game 2 against Toronto and followed with 52 points in Game 5. Sandwiched in between was a 50-point performance from opposing superstar Vince Carter. TNT may know drama, but NBA fans had no idea what they were witnessing was the kind of drama that may never come to pass again.

It was incredible, Iverson remembered. He (Carter) had great games at home and I had some great games at home, but both of us were just trying to put our teams on our back and win basketball games. It is great just having those memories and being a part of something like that.

Iverson's mano a mano with Carter defined the Toronto series, but the Finals against the Lakers, despite a 4-1 series defeat, arguably featured Iversons signature visual moment of his postseason career: the Tyronn Lue step over.

I think stepping over him was just an adrenaline rush, Iverson said of his post-jumper antics late in the fourth quarter of the Game 1 overtime victory. I was just into the game and me and him did a lot of trash talking to each other during that series and now today we are really good friends. It was another great memory and something my son (Deuce) always enjoys when he sees it.

If defiance helped Iverson achieve what he did in his pro career, humility spills from him now, 15 years after being the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft. He believes he can still play at the highest level and he is putting all of his energy into achieving that goal.

I just want to do whatever an organization wants me to do, Iverson said. Everybody made a big thing about me not wanting to come off the bench, but I said that at that point because it never happened to me in my life and it was something new to me, and obviously I didnt know how to handle it. But to be back on the biggest stage is my whole thing and I feel like I have a couple more years left in my career and I want to play. I sat through and watched the whole season and it was tough for me. Now I just try to do what I have to do to be physically and mentally able to get back on the stage.

Given the current NBA lockout, being on the stage is not imminent no matter how good Iversons sales pitch. Iverson was in the league when the last work stoppage took place in 1998. That year, the owners and players did not come to an agreement for more than six months before having a shortened 50-game season. Playing overseas was not a consideration by the NBA's stars then, which is contrary to now. New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams has agreed to a one-year contract with the very team Iverson signed with last year in Turkey, Besiktas, for 5 million.

Iverson is not convinced Williams will be a trendsetter, but he speaks highly of his experience, which was abbreviated because of a season-ending injury.

They would be shocked to see how fun it is playing over there, Iverson said of his experience in Turkey. The fans over there are the best basketball fans as far as their energy in the building, maybe even more because they keep going during the timeouts and halftime with the chants and everything. They are really into the game. When you have a home game there you know you are at home.

As complimentary as Iverson is of the European basketball way, overseas still isnt where his heart is ultimately. Looking back, plenty of Iverson's draft peers are still playing Marcus Camby, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash to name a few. But because Iverson relied solely on his gift of incredible talent and spent little time putting other facets into his game, he finds himself on the outside looking in at a world he probably took for granted.

Learning curves. Obviously I have a different work ethic than I did before and, honestly, its because I am older, he said, imploring of his changed ways. I am not as fast and quick as I was, but I can run with the young boys and I can still do the things that I have always been capable of doing, and that is my whole thing with continuing to play. As long as I can continue to do the things I am accustomed to doing, then I will play until the wheels fall off.

Whenever those wheels do fall off, The Answer will then be inducted into the Hall of Fame. It is just a matter of time. For a guy from Newport News, Va., who was on a path of hard knocks as well as hard time as a teenager, that feat seems of the land of make believe.

That will mean everything, Iverson speculated of such an honor. God gave me this talent and in basketball that is the ultimate goal, to be a Hall of Famer. Hopefully one day that will happen and all my teammates that I played with on every level and all the coaches I have ever had and my fans will get credit for that because without them I wouldnt be here.

And with that the 6-foot, 165-pound rock-star-esque Iverson was escorted by police out of a high school gym, leaving behind fans who will never get enough of The Answer. Its a routine 15 years in the making.

E-mail Dei Lynam at dlynam@comcastsportsnet.com

Related: 'Shot Doctor' Magee working with Sixers' Turner Comcast-Spectacor reaches deal to sell 76ers

Report: Sixers in California for NBA draft workouts

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Report: Sixers in California for NBA draft workouts

As the Western Conference Finals are taking place in Oakland, the Sixers are looking for new talent of their own in California.

This week, members of the Sixers' front office are attending pre-draft workouts organized through multiple agencies, including BDA Sports Management, CAA Sports, Landmark Sports Agency, Octagon and Wasserman Media Group.

While the Sixers hold the No. 1 pick, these workouts are opportunities for them to evaluate players that could be fits for their 24th and 26th selections.

On Thursday, the list of workout participants included projected first-rounders Deyonta Davis (Michigan State) and Cheik Diallo (Kansas), according to the Philadelphia Inquirer

The scouting process takes NBA teams coast to coast. Earlier this week, the Sixers reportedly attended a private workout with Excel Sports Management in New York City, in which Brandon Ingram and Jamal Murray participated.

The Sixers have held two workouts at their own practice facility, bringing in a total of 12 prospects thus far.

As the draft nears, 57 early-entry candidates withdrew their names from the 2016 draft.

NBA Playoffs: Stephen Curry, Warriors fight off elimination

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NBA Playoffs: Stephen Curry, Warriors fight off elimination

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND, Calif. -- "We ain't going home! We're not going home!" Stephen Curry screamed at the top of his lungs.

No, his Golden State Warriors are going back to Oklahoma City, after keeping their title reign and the winningest season in NBA history alive for at least one more game.

Curry scored 31 points, raising his arms in the early moments to fire up Golden State's raucous crowd, and the defending champions staved off elimination with a 120-111 victory over the Thunder on Thursday night in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.

"We just did what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to win at home," Curry said. "We know what we still have to do going forward. ... We knew if we didn't win we were going home. There's no other motivation you need."

For all the speculation about the current state of Curry's beat-up body -- that troublesome ankle, sore knee or tender elbow -- he did it all.

"I thought he looked like 91 percent," coach Steve Kerr cracked. "He came out and played a really good game. That's all I can tell you. He's going to compete every night. He had an excellent night and helped us get it done."

Led by Curry, the Warriors looked like their old winning selves again.

The MVP made a snazzy layup late and dished out six assists, while Klay Thompson added 27 points as Golden State sent the best the best-of-seven series back to Oklahoma City for Game 6 on Saturday night. The Warriors trail 3-2 and are trying to become just the 10th team to rally from a 3-1 deficit.

"None of us want to go home," Thompson said. "We're having too much fun out there."

Kevin Durant scored 40 points and Russell Westbrook added 31 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals for the Thunder, trying for the fifth NBA Finals appearance in franchise history and first championship since moving from Seattle.

The record-setting, 73-win Warriors, coming off their first back-to-back defeats all season, had been blown out in two losses at Oklahoma City by a combined 52 points.

"We have to take that game and travel," Curry said of keeping momentum.

Durant's 3-pointer with 4:34 left got the Thunder within 103-98, then Curry answered with a three-point play.

Curry scored seven points in a 58-second stretch of the second quarter and hit more big shots late, but the Thunder didn't go away easily.

"I liked our will, I liked our fight," Kerr said. "We were embarrassed in OKC the last couple games."

Trailing 58-50 at halftime, Oklahoma City came out of the break with a 9-2 run. Westbrook's 3-pointer with 6:06 left in the third put Oklahoma City ahead 68-67 for its first lead of the night. But Golden State led 81-77 going into the fourth and began the final period with an 8-0 burst.

"We didn't shoot a particularly good percentage when we got into the lane and got into the deep paint," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "We had our opportunities."

Curry shot 9 for 20 and also had five steals, while Thompson had his 11th 20-point game for the second straight postseason despite shooting 2 for 9 from 3-point range. After struggling the past two games, Draymond Green had 11 points and 13 rebounds a day after receiving some encouraging words from Kobe Bryant on the phone.

"We really relied on the entire team tonight, which is when we're at our best," Curry said.

Kerr figured his Warriors might have an edge against the percentages of teams having trailed 3-1 because they're the defending champs and were playing at home, where they have been nearly unbeatable.

He wasn't surprised to see this team respond so well.

"We played with great desperation," Kerr said. "I knew how we would play. This is a championship team."

Kerr called for center Andrew Bogut to do more and the 7-footer delivered with a playoff career-high 15 points and 14 rebounds for his second double-double this postseason and seventh of his career.

Marreese Speights had a pair of three-point plays on follow shots and a 3 in the second quarter to give Golden State a nice lift off the bench. He had nine points in four minutes during that stretch and 14 points overall for his fifth double-digit scoring game this postseason.

"Their bench came in and made shots, made plays for them," Durant said. "We know we're going home. We can't relax."

Golden State made 31 of 34 free throws.

With his 1,248th career postseason point in the third, Curry passed Wilt Chamberlain (1,246) for second place on the franchise's playoff scoring list.

"That's who he is, that's what he's done, and that's what's made him a very good player," Donovan said.

Tip-ins
Thunder: The franchise lost in the finals in 1977-78, 1995-96 to Kerr and the Chicago Bulls and in `12. ... Steven Adams sat down with his second foul at the 9:34 mark of the first quarter. The Thunder had seven fouls to Golden State's one after the first. ... Oklahoma City took Game 1 at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors have lost only three times all season. ... The Thunder started the game 3 for 14.

Warriors: Green picked up his fifth technical of the postseason. He also has at least one steal in 16 straight playoff games. ... Golden State missed six of its first seven 3s. ... The Warriors supported Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager with "Sager Strong" T-shirts for sale to support awareness and research for leukemia and lymphoma, both blood cancers.

57 early-entry candidates withdraw from 2016 NBA draft

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57 early-entry candidates withdraw from 2016 NBA draft

NBA prospects have been testing the waters and putting out feelers to the gauge interest levels of organizations during the pre-draft process. As a result, 57 early entry-candidates have withdrawn from 2016 draft eligibility. 

Among those are Villanova’s Josh Hart, who worked out for the Sixers and made his decision close to the deadline (see story), and Kris Jenkins. Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame also worked out for the Sixers and will return for his senior year. 

Below is a complete list of entry entry candidates that have withdrawn:

Abdul-Malik Abu, North Carolina State 
BeeJay Anya, North Carolina State 
Ian Baker, New Mexico State 
V.J. Beachem, Notre Dame 
James Blackmon Jr., Indiana 
Antonio Blakeney, LSU 
Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson 
Trevon Bluiett, Xavier 
Amida Brimah, Connecticut 
Isaiah Briscoe, Kentucky 
Dillon Brooks, Oregon 
Elijah Brown, New Mexico 
Deonte Burton, Iowa State 
Antonio Campbell, Ohio 
Conor Clifford, Washington State 
Charles Cooke III, Dayton 
Bakari Copeland, Maryland-Eastern Shore 
Moustapha Diagne, Northwest Florida State 
Tyler Dorsey, Oregon 
D’Andre Downey, Stillman College (AL) 
Vince Edwards, Purdue 
Jimmy Hall, Kent State 
Josh Hart, Villanova
Josh Hawkinson, Washington State 
Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin 
Ike Iroegbu, Washington State 
Justin Jackson, North Carolina 
Kris Jenkins, Villanova 
Que Johnson, Washington State 
Peter Jok, Iowa 
Moses Kingsley, Arkansas
Travion Kirkendoll, Centenary College (LA) 
Dedric Lawson, Memphis 
Marcus Lee, Kentucky 
Makai Mason, Yale 
Jahmal McMurray, South Florida 
Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina 
Dallas Moore, North Florida 
Jalen Moore, Utah State 
Tyrell Nelson, Gardner-Webb 
Malik Newman, Mississippi State 
Marc-Eddy Norelia, Florida Gulf Coast 
Cameron Oliver, Nevada 
Alec Peters, Valparaiso 
QJ Peterson,VMI 
Malik Pope, San Diego State 
Rodney Purvis, Connecticut 
Corey Sanders Jr., Rutgers 
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue 
Rakish Taylor, Anderson University (SC) 
Ethan Telfair, Idaho State 
Trevor Thompson, Ohio State 
Melo Trimble, Maryland 
Maurice Watson Jr., Creighton 
Andrew White III, Nebraska 
Alec Wintering, Portland 
Zeek Woodley, Northwestern State