Burgos: Happy to see Iverson back in Philly

By Evan Burgos

It looks like the unthinkable has happened. Yesterday, Allen Iverson re-signed with the 76ers,… It looks like the unthinkable has happened. Yesterday, Allen Iverson re-signed with the 76ers, the team he played for his first 10 seasons in the league.

Who would have ever thought AI would be back in Philly? When he was dealt to the Nuggets in 2006, it seemed his course had been run. The team was going younger.

With Iverson’s signing, it seems the organization has already jumped that ship. It’s a desperate move but evidently a necessary one.

Now Iverson, who has been mired in restlessness over his search for starter’s minutes, appears to have one more shot in the place of his greatest professional successes.

It took a perfect storm.

The Sixers were floundering. They had no identifiable face of the franchise. Lou Williams, the point guard of the future, broke his jaw and is out eight weeks.

A deal Iverson had with the Knicks fell threw at the 11th hour. The Sixers lost six straight games and are boring. They have the second worst attendance record in the league, next to Memphis, the team Iverson played three games for early this season.

And so, rumors swirled. Now, it’s done. It’s been reported that Sixers inked Iverson for a one-year, prorated deal worth $1.3 million.

They’ve targeted Monday’s home game for his return.

OK, take a deep breath. This could mean a lot for Philadelphia, a city with a storied basketball history and numerous iconic players in its past.

It’s a city of Wilt Chamberlin, Dr. J, Charles Barkley and Moses Malone. It’s Dolph Schayes and Billy Cunningham. It’s “Fo-Fo-Fo” as Malone famously declared on their way to the ’83 championship. It’s the 68-13 record in ’66-’67, which at the time was the best regular season record in league history.

Until recently, it was Iverson and, in many ways, it still is.

The team felt the perpetual hangover a departed star leaves in his wake. It’s been mediocre at best and remains stagnant. The Sixers simply have nothing to lose.

The Sixers will sell considerably more tickets for the remainder of the season and should sell out a few, too. It will be the hottest ticket in town. As of Wednesday, the Sixers were 5-13 but just two games out of the Eastern Conference playoffs if the season ended today. In a weak conference, they would have a legitimate look at a low playoff seed.

If, somehow, Iverson re-wound the clock, they might even make a better run than that. Playing style and chemistry will obviously be a factor.

Five players remain from the 2006 team, so there is familiarity there. You can’t necessarily expect The Answer to play within Eddie Jordan’s Princeton offense, but the organization recognizes that Iverson will freelance some going in.

Iverson and the Sixers, though, have the potential for upside in a way that has nothing to do with the stuff between the lines — fan frenzy, passion and support.

When Iverson suits up at home, there will be no building in the NBA with more electricity running through it.

If the Sixers start to win, it will be loud all season. They could create one of the best home-court advantages in the league.

Winning, though, will be the ultimate impetus in sustaining that.

I know it sounds optimistic. Who’s to say that bringing back an older version of the same player they already deemed done two years ago is going to ignite the team and drive them to playoff success? Probably no one.

But there is definitely one person who believes that’s what will transpire — Iverson.

For all his detractors, no one has ever said AI doesn’t leave it all out on the court. He loves Philadelphia and would like nothing more than to prove the league wrong and show he can still be elite.

It might seem like a long shot, but if anybody can overcome a challenge as big as this one, it’ll be the little guy wearing No. 3 who has been fighting to overcome the league his entire career.