Updated: Allen Iverson will not return to the 76ers this season. The Sixers officially confirmed this morning. Here's what General Manager Ed Stefanski said in this morning's press release: "After discussing the situation with Allen, we have come to the conclusion that he will not return to the Sixers for the remainder of the season, as he no longer wishes to be a distraction to the organization and teammates that he loves very deeply," Stefanski said. "It has been very difficult for Allen and the team to maintain any consistency as he tries to balance his career with his personal life."
As if the 76ers on-court performance wasn't enough tonight, tonight became even more disturbing after the game.
Only a few minutes after tonight's 126-105 loss to the Orlando Magic, Sixers coach Eddie Jordan had some pretty harsh words about the character of his team. Here's Jordan's words from tonight's post-game press conference:
"We just didn’t respond in a passionate way. We lost the passion to compete. We saw some pooor body language and there was a couple of timeouts where we addressed it. And I wasn’t going to have it. I addressed it a couple of times; I addressed it just then, just now. It’s leadership or lack thereof. It’s contagious where misery, just one guy’s miserable and it’s just contagious throughout the team and we just can’t have. Someone has to stand up and try to rally the troops, your teammates. The coaches are certainly trying to do it every timeout, every time we get a chance to. But it doesn't come from the coaches ... We try to address it; we try to get them with some more spirit and some more positive energy. And it’s just hard when you don’t have that sort of internal leadership."
How often has he encountered the problem?
"Maybe once or twice, but certainly tonight was, I didn't want to see the same sort of body language, the same sort of lack of energy. We were right there with it. I don't know if it was worse than last year or about the same, but it was certainly addressed."
More from Jordan: "They just dominated the game. We were dominated. We were dominated. And whether you’re dominated or not, you have to learn how to compete, you have to learn how to rally, you have to learn how to hold your chin up, as individuals, as professionals, you have to learn how to do it. If you've gone through it before, and you went through it again, now is the time you should have learned some lessons and try to get it up. But, obviously, our team hasn’t learned it."
After the game, the Sixers didn't seem overly concerned with Jordan's words.
Said guard Willie Green: "I think that's his opinion and he's entitled to view this team whichever way he wants to."
Andre Iguodala, the guy you would think Jordan was talking about, said it doesn't really frustrate him.
"You start to play the blame game and it really leads to a dead end, it doesn't go anywhere. I'm just going to go out there and keep doing what I've been doing my whole career, which is play basketball the right way."
Iguodala is widely considered the leader of this team. And tonight Jordan said the team has no internal leadership. What makes it odd is that after Firday night's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Jordan singled out Iguodala for his in-game leadership that night, specifically saying that he "loved" Iguodala's leadership. Now, tonight, he said the team has no leadership. Iguodala, for what it's worth, did not seem to believe Jordan's words were addressed at him. When asked if he noticed any of this poor body language and attitude, Iguodala said maybe he noticed once in the fourth quarter. Coincidentally, Iguodala did not play the entire fourth quarter, so he clearly did not believe himself the culprit about whom Jordan was speaking.
So, since the Sixers continue to deliver nothing on the court -- they're all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs -- we're going to have to analyze what Jordan's words mean. First thing that stands out is that Jordan is not taking ownership for this "defect" in his team. His attitude tonight in the postgame was almost as if this has something that has been out of his hands from Day 1, as if it's a problem he walked in on and didn't create. As if it's a problem he's tried his best to remedy, but must surrender the battle. He didn't say "we should have learned this by now," and "we have to learn how to rally," and "we have to keep our chins up." He seems to be saying "you" (aka, them, his players) have to learn how to do it.
Maybe it seems like too much analysis, but it seems if there's a disassociation between "the coaches" and "the players," ("us" and "them"), then this season is about as lost as it can get.
At this point, March 1, the question becomes: How much longer is this going to last? Comcast, Ed Stefanski, and the Sixers in general are maxed out on salaries for a team that has been blown out in three of its last five games. They're not going to make the playoffs and, beyond that, the coach is fed up with his team and his team doesn't seem overly worried about it.
The Sixers have only so many fans, and those fans are dwindling each game.
p.s. Elton Brand, who did not play tonight with right Achilles tendinitis, will also not travel to Atlanta for Wednesday's game against the Hawks. Brand ruptured his left Achilles while he was with the Los Angeles Clippers. This current injury was initially being called a right calf strain, but at some point tonight it was changed to Achilles tendinitis.
Keith Pompey has been an Inquirer reporter since September 2004 and took over the Sixers beat in the summer of 2013 after covering Temple basketball and football for the previous three years.
Marc Narducci has served in a variety of roles with the Inquirer since beginning in 1983. He has covered the 76ers as a backup and a beat writer. In addition, Narducci has covered everything from the Super Bowl to the World Series and a lot in between.