Introducing A.I.

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Allen Iverson hugs Sonny Hill upon arriving for his introductory press conference Thursday. (Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer)

Allen Iverson is back, but he doesn't represent the only issue surrounding the 76ers as they play tonight in Charllotte and come home to face the Denver Nuggets Monday night in the Wachovia Center. There's also a game-time decision with Jrue Holiday and a start-or-sub situation with Elton Brand.

First, Iverson: This is just me, but if coach Eddie Jordan decides to start Iverson against the Nuggets, I hope he is not introduced last. It's one thing to bring back the four-time NBA scoring champion, but to announce him last in the pre-game introductions would be tantamount to saying it's already HIS team again.

He will have one practice, Sunday at Philadelphia College Of Osteopathic Medicine. Jordan's decision will be based on what he sees there, in terms of conditioning and how quickly Iverson picks up the basics of the offen sive and defensive systems

But whether Iverson starts or comes off the bench, be assured it will be to waves of ovations from the crowd. And if he has the effect the Sixers are hoping for, it won't take long for him to again emerge as the centerpiece. There is, however, one big difference between his teammates during the 2000-01 drive to the Finals and his teammates now. Back then, Eric Snow, Aaron McKie, George Lynch, Tyrone Hill, Theo Ratliff and (later) Dikembe Mutombo basically took care of the defense, the rebounding, the diving on the floor and the screen-setting, allowing Iverson to do what he does best. The current team isn't built that way; this time Iverson will have to do some adjusting.

Next, Holiday: The rookie guard, the No. 17 overall pick iu the June draft, has been starting, but he suffered a strained rotator cuff in Friday's practice and, as of this afternoon, is being listed as a game-time decision.

That leaves Jordan with the possibility of moving Andre Iguodala to shooting guard, sharing the backcourt with Willie Green and using Jasson Smith or Jason Kapono up front. Or, Jordan could plug in Royal Ivey.

Then there's Brand: I'm not certain, but it seems as if Jordan is again playing mind games with his comebacking power forward. Earlier, Jordan talked about using Brand as the center with the second unit, then kept him in the lineup. Now, returning from a tweaked hamstring, Brand's coming off the bench. He's cooperative, because that's the way he is, but  he's not happy.

Brand responded nicely in the first case. Now, he openly admits he's not happy being a second-teamerand playing 20-25 minutes. It would really be interesting if Jordan turned around and started Brand tonight.

One more Iverson-related item: Former Georgetown coach John Thmpson, who has been a father figure and mentor to Iverson, attended Wednesday's introductory press conference in the Wachovia Center. Thompson had been quoted earlier as saying he didn't want Iverson to retire, but he declined Daily News colleague Marcus Hayes' request for comment when the press conference ended. He was off to do his radio show with Iverson from the Sixers' locker-room, and denied my request to speak with him after the show. There's no rule that anyone has to cooperate with the media, which is interesting because, by virtue of that radio show, Thompson is indeed part of the media. Full disclosure: Through Iverson's first 10 seasons-plus run with the Sixers, Thompson was always gracious and helpful talking about Iverson. His refusal now is just disappointing, because Thompson has been such a powerful and positive voice in Iverson's development.

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