Collins envisions a run with Bynum
Throughout the season, Sixers coach Doug Collins has not allowed himself to talk about "what ifs" when it came to injured center Andrew Bynum. Collins' rationale was that he wanted to concentrate on the players who were able to get on the court for him and not divert his attention to someone who couldn't help him win games at the time.
Now, though, with the Sixers more than a handful of games below .500 and Bynum working hard to get himself ready for his Philadelphia debut - which he says could happen not long after the All-Star break - Collins has allowed himself to peek into a future that would include the mammoth Bynum.
"We're not going to change our style of play," Collins said. "What we're going to do is we're going to continue to run. If we don't have something on the front side, then we're going to play through the post, and that's what we're talking about with Andrew. Where all of the sudden you come down and you have nothing, now you drop the ball in the post and if he's double-teamed you get shots from the perimeter and if you don't double-team you can get Andrew in the paint, maybe get to the foul line a little bit more."
Of course those are scenarios when Bynum is running at full strength. That might not happen for a while, even if he is in uniform. Rounding into basketball shape and finding his way around the court after an 8-month hiatus will take some time, even after he's in uniform.
"I think he's feeling better," Collins said. "The one thing we have to understand is that he's not going to, all of the sudden, jump into a five-on-five scrimmage. He's done nothing laterally or impactwise or anything like that. At some point in time he'll be able to start playing a little one-on-one in the post and then build up with that. We're hoping that we can keep winning games here and hoping that if and when he does come back that we put something together, especially with all those road games to finish up the season [12 of the last 16]. For us to say we're going to throw him out there for 30-some minutes, that wouldn't be feasible."
Then Collins allowed himself a little "what if."
"I thought going into the season with Andrew Bynum, we could win 60 percent of our games. I thought at worse we'd win 60 percent of our games. So if you take 60 percent of 45 [games played at that point] what is that, 27 wins? To me, that's where we would be right now."
Dancing in Houston?
If you've ever been to a Sixers game, you know the pregame ritual for Jrue Holiday often includes a little dancing while in the warmup line. If there's a song playing he likes, Holiday will allow himself to get in some serious footwork, and it's apparent that he can handle himself on the dance floor.
With Rajon Rondo out for the season and the All-Star Game (Feb. 17 in Houston) with a knee injury, Holiday could now be a starter. And if you've ever seen the opening introductions to the All-Star Game, you know the starters usually bust out some pretty good dance moves.
"I've thought about starting a little bit, and it certainly would be an unbelievable feeling to start in my first All-Star Game," Holiday said. "And I know the starters usually come out and have some kind of dance going. I might have to hire a choreographer or something if I'm lucky enough to start. Or at least find out what song might be playing so I could practice."
One final thought
There is no denying that on Dec. 7, 2009, the Wells Fargo Center had as much electricity running through the stands as it has at any time since, maybe more. That includes the Game 6 win that propelled the Sixers past the Chicago Bulls and into the second round of the playoffs last season. It also includes the Game 6 win over the Boston Celtics that tied the series at three games apiece and inched the Sixers toward an improbable chance at playing in the Eastern Conference final. (They didn't, of course, as they fell to the Celtics in Boston.)
When the Sixers played their 21st game of the season that year, the next-to-last starter introduced was Allen Iverson, back to the team where he spent 10-plus electrifying seasons. The crowd greeted him with a hero's welcome as the then-34-year-old returned not as a marketing ploy but as a player the organization thought could help a foundering team.
He couldn't. And he most certainly can't now.
Iverson was great in his time here, but the 25 games he played under Eddie Jordan in 2009-10 only proved what many still don't want to believe - that even one of the greatest and most exciting players to ever run the court had been beaten by that common foe, time.
While he was (probably unfairly) thrust into the starting lineup by Jordan and asked to play more than 30 minutes a game, it was painfully obvious that Iverson was a shadow of the player he used to be. Not that the Sixers were looking for him at that time in his career to be the player he was, but just having him available on a nightly basis was in doubt. He played the first five games of his comeback, all more than 30 minutes, and averaged almost 16 points a game. But then knee troubles shelved him for a couple of weeks, and knee drainings became more common than Iverson sightings on the court.
Then, in about a month span, Iverson played in 17 games, highlighted by a 23-point effort against the visiting Los Angeles Lakers. He went head-to-head against Kobe Bryant, and both electrified the sellout crowd. Bryant scored 17 in the third quarter and scored 13 in row for the Lakers at one point, spanning the third and fourth quarters. Iverson had 15 in the third, including 11 straight. As much as it was the type of exhibition the fans yearned for, it was obvious to me that Iverson's time was coming to an end.
I remember when the quarter was over, Bryant had a look on his face like that of a boxer who had just shared punches with an opponent and hadn't gotten hurt even a little bit. Iverson, on the other hand, seemed to have used every ounce of energy he had remaining in that small body, slowly walking to the Sixers' bench when the horn sounded. I wrote down in my notebook how easily Bryant scored his points and how Iverson's counter seemed to be so draining.
Two nights later, Iverson looked pedestrian on the court for 30 minutes against the Nets, taking just nine shots, missing six of them. After that game, he was out again for more than 2 weeks, with his knee again troubling him and rumblings of a medical problem hindering one of his children.
He played just three more games for the Sixers, making only seven of his 28 shots, looking even slower while practically dragging his injured knee along with him. My feeling and hope at the time was that he should wave goodbye, thank the Philadelphia fans for their undying admiration and somehow accept the fact that his body would no long allow him be the player he expected himself to be.
Like many athletes, Iverson has had a hard time coming to grips with that, with a quick run in Turkey and now the latest talk of joining the Dallas Mavericks' Development League affiliate (Iverson has declined). That has, once again, stirred talk of Iverson coming back to the Sixers as perhaps a reserve on Doug Collins' bench or maybe in another position with the team.
I'm not sure what type of position Adam Aron and company could give to Iverson in the front office, though many have emailed me that he could be an "after game consultant," complete with a free shuttle to Friday's. If the owners want to try to bring him back in the organization in some capacity, that's their choice.
But if even a passing thought of returning him as a player has crossed anyone's mind, it needs to be erased quickly. There is no good that could come out of it, either for Iverson or the organization. Let's remember Iverson for what he was - one of the most electrifying players this basketball-rich city has ever seen - and leave it at that.