This article was originally published in the Daily News on January 10, 2001.
It is time to at least suggest the possibility:
Allen Iverson as an NBA Most Valuable Player candidate.
"If you based it on today, us having all the injuries, you could make a fair case for it, and I'm not politicking," 76ers coach Larry Brown said.
And that was before Iverson put up a team-high 22 points, knocked down 10 of 12 free throws, handed out five assists and committed just two turnovers last night in a 104-87 victory over the New Jersey Nets. He also moved ahead of Fred Carter into 10th place on the Sixers' all-time scoring list with 7,690 points. Carter had 7,673.
This comes on the heels of last Saturday night's 54-point outburst in a 107-103 victory in Cleveland, at the time his fourth performance of 40 or more in his last seven games.
"With what we've done, with what we've been through, it's pretty neat for someone to even mention that," Brown said.
Iverson was one of six Sixers in double figures against the injury-depleted Nets. He has led them in scoring in his last 20 appearances, incredibly sitting out just one game after suffering a partially dislocated right shoulder Dec. 22.
"He's having his finest season," Nets general manager John Nash said. "He's doing what it takes, asserting himself or letting others do it, whichever has been necessary.
"Obviously, of late, he's been a monster. He's been shooting 50 percent [6-for-14 last night, but 50 percent or better in three of the last five games], and nobody quarrels with anybody shooting 50 percent. We've had the same conversations internally about [Sacramento's] Chris Webber. . .He could have taken time off, but he's a warrior. And, to me, there's no such thing as a minor dislocation. "
But, Nash said the other day, there's much more to the Sixers than Iverson's explosiveness.
"We have great respect for their defensive pressure," he said. "They've been playing the best defense in the league as far as I'm concerned. Theo Ratliff has guarded the basket as well as anyone, and their defense overall has been as cohesive as any team's."