How Ya Like Me Now: Former Sixer Andre Iguodala Basks in the Glow of a Championship

NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala takes questions from reporters after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games for the NBA crown.  Photo by New York Daily News.com

NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala takes questions from reporters after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games for the NBA crown. Photo by New York Daily News.com

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—When Andre Iguodala was traded to the Denver Nuggets in 2012 as a part of the four-way deal that landed the 76ers Andrew Bynum, most Philly fans said good riddance.

After all, the Sixers were getting a legitimate impact center in Bynum and Iguodala never really panned out as a No. 1 scoring option. At the time, the 76ers and their fans were so giddy about Bynum that they threw him a big party at the National Constitution Center. It was like Andre-who?

It’s funny how things turned out.

Bynum, a man with bum knees, never played a minute in a Sixers uniform. Iguodala, who got traded to the Golden State Warriors a year later, ended up having the last laugh.

On Tuesday night, there was Iguodala holding two trophies—the NBA Finals trophy and the Bill Russell Finals MVP Trophy. The guy the Sixers sent packing a few years ago is now on top of the world with Golden State while his old team has struggled to put out reputable starting five on a nightly basis.

Oddly enough, Iguodala said it was his time with the Sixers prepared for him for his championship run with the Warriors.

“I think all those years and going through everything I went through, the good and the bad, can prepare you for this moment.  Being in Philly I had some teams‑‑ we were a very close group.  I think we maximized our talent,” Iguodala said. “I’ve been on teams that we’ve been close knit and it helped us just getting to the playoffs because we weren’t the most talented, but we got there because we played so hard together.”

What makes this Finals MVP award special for Iguodala is that he didn’t have to be the top scorer for his team. That’s Stephen Curry’s job to put the offense on his shoulder and he certainly did that, especially in the fourth quarter of the Warriors last three wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the title.

Iguodala had the most important job in this series—slow down Cleveland’s LeBron James. He held James to 38. 1 percent shooting after Game 3. No, Iguodala didn’t complete shutdown James, who was having an MVP series, but he kept him from having one for the ages.

“LeBron doesn’t have any weaknesses, or he doesn’t have a glaring weakness,” Iguodala said. “ So you’ve got to pick up on the smaller things to try to make him uncomfortable.  Like knowing which side he likes to shoot threes off the dribble, which side he likes to drive.  One side he’ll drive left more often, and the other side he’ll drive right more often.”

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he admired Iguodala’s willingness to contribute as the sixth man was important to Golden State’s run to the NBA title.

“You could make an argument that it could have gone to Steph, it could have gone to LeBron,” Kerr said.  “But for us, it’s really fitting that the award went to Andre because he sacrificed his starting role from the first game of the season.

“He had never come off the bench once in his entire career, and he sacrificed that job to make Harrison better, to make our bench better, and that set the tone for our whole season.  An All‑Star, an Olympian saying, okay, I’ll come off the bench.”

Iquodala also came up with some big three-point buckets in both Game 5 and Game 6 of the series that halted the Cavaliers attempt to comeback in the game. In the series finale, Iguodala scored 25 points, pulled down five rebounds and added five assists. For the series, Iguodala averaged 16 points per game.

Not bad for a guy who was supposedly a 100-1 shot to win the Finals MVP over 2015 league MVP Curry and a four-time MVP in James.

Iguodala is proof that you don’t have to be the leading scorer or the star to be valuable to your team. Playing your role-whether you are a defensive stopper, scorer off the bench, or a rebounder like Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman—is just as important to your team’s success as being the superstar.

Curry, whose scoring led the Warriors to the NBA’s best record, said he definitely appreciated Iguodala’s efforts.

“Obviously he deserved that Finals MVP for the way he impacted the game on both ends and was always ready,” Curry said. “Andre stepped up to that challenge every single night and a huge reason why we’re celebrating right now.”

 

Lack of Progress on Injured Right Foot Could Sideline Sixers Embiid for Next Season

Joel Embiid's foot has yet to heal and he could be out for next year.  Photo by Sixers.com

Joel Embiid’s foot has yet to heal and he could be out for next year. Photo by Sixers.com

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—Three weeks before the 2015 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers and their fans had visions of the team using the third pick in the draft to pick up Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell or China league sensation Emmanuel Mundiay to run the offense with Nerlens Noel and 7-foot center Joel Embiid at the Wells Fargo Center.

But the bad news on Embiid’s lack of progress on the injured right foot that forced him to miss all of what should have been his rookie season has Sixers fans shaking their heads instead.

“Joel and Sixers personnel travelled to Los Angeles for a series of routine exams with a number of physicians who have been actively involved throughout this process,” Sixers owner Sam Hinkie said in a statement issued to fans. “During his visit with Dr. Richard Ferkel, a standard CT scan on Joel’s right foot revealed less healing than anticipated at this point …Discussions regarding the appropriate next steps are currently ongoing and we will share an update once it becomes available.”

According to some reports, there’s a distinct possibility that the Embiid may not play next season. That’s really bad considering that Embiid reportedly missed rehab sessions, has had weight issues and has argued with the team’s trainers.

It’s also a bad thing with considering the YouTube videos of Embiid that show that he was getting better and starting to look good on the court during workouts. One of the videos shows Embiid dunking the ball from between his legs at the end of the team’s pre-game shoot-around.

Should he have been doing that given the state of his foot? Especially since now it looks like he could be facing more surgery and thus another year off the court?

For a fan base that’s not only had to endure some of the worst basketball ever played at the Wells Fargo Center, but has also had to watch in horror as former Sixer Andre Iguodala not only picked up a championship ring with the Golden State Warriors, but was also crowned the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, this latest setback to the team’s rebuilding efforts might be the one that makes folks start giving Hinkie the side-eye.

But we won’t know just how bad Embiid’s lack of progress in terms of his injury is until Draft Night. What the Sixers do with the third pick will tell the tale.

According to some recent mock drafts, the Sixers could go after a big man like Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, Kentucky’s Karl Anthony Towns or Latvian power forwards Kristaps Porzingis if neither of their first two choices is available. The team could also take a look at Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein.

But since the Sixers traded former Rookie of the Year point guard Michael Carter-Williams, that might be the need they meet first. They liked Ohio State’s Russell and Hinkie won’t want to let a fan base that’s finally starting to get a little skeptical and a media that always was think that the organization changed its way of draft thinking due to the lack of progress on Embiid’s injured right foot.

The bottom line is that the Sixers need to show that all of the tanking they did to get these lottery picks is going to lead to something. All that the team has gotten in the last two drafts for all of its losses is one healthy player in Noel, and he spent his rookie season riding the pine due to injury and one in Carter-Williams that they traded away before he had a chance to develop.

For those who are enamored by the unconventional thinking of Hinkie and company, it’s all about patience and letting things work themselves out. Hinkie apparently has his own timeline and in his mind, the gumbo is going to be done when he thinks it’s done.

After all, these are merely the quirks of a genius at work. Right? (crickets)

But in the course of getting things done, 76ers fans want to see some semblance of light of what has been a very dark tunnel for a franchise that’s made it to the NBA Finals just twice in the last 32 years.

Especially since foot injuries, specifically the kind that come with shooting yourself in the foot, seem to be this team’s forte.

 

Allen Iverson in the Front Office? An Interesting Concept

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Allen Iverson on his retirement day. After a brilliant and sometimes tumultuous career, Iverson thinks he can help in the front office.

Allen Iverson on his retirement day. After a brilliant and sometimes tumultuous career, Iverson thinks he can help in the front office.

PHILAELPHIA— In addition to a devastating crossover and a game that you’d expect to see from guys twice his size, former 76ers guard Allen Iverson was known for not being real fond of practice.

But according to an article on nbc sports.com, Iverson would like to help the Sixers find some guys who might have a better attitude toward it.

Iverson has expressed a desire to be a part of the Sixers brain trust. That’s right, the guy who often clashed with head coach Larry Brown and was the subject of an angry tirade from former Sixers general manager Billy King when he and Chris Webber failed to show up for Fan Appreciation Day back in 2006, wants a gig in the front office.

Because skepticism and Allen Iverson go together like chocolate and peanut butter for some people, many believe that his bad off-the court habits and the perception that being a great player doesn’t mean you can spot talent, will keep him out of the Sixers war room.

The skeptics have a point. For every John Elway who has successfully transitioned from the field to both coaching and the front office, there are guys like Ted Williams and Elgin Baylors of the world who were absolute disasters.

During a 76ers broadcast, the irrepressible Iverson made his case for why he would be an ideal candidate for a front office post when he was asked what he looked for in a player:

“Their fight. Their fight. The fight in a guy. I’m the biggest [Russell] Westbrook fan I think there is. You know what I mean? Because he reminds me so much of myself as far as his heart and laying it on the line night in and night out. This is a guy who’s going to bring it every single night.”

That statement coming from Iverson has a lot of credibility because he lived it.  In street parlance, “game recognizes game.” Sure, Iverson had talent, but you don’t rise from the streets of Norfolk, Virginia as an undersized guard who had done time in jail to become an NBA All-Star without heart.

And while it’s not something you can measure statistically, heart is important and Iverson recognizes that. Besides, talent evaluation is an inexact science. Just ask all of the guys who passed on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Iverson should be the next Sixers general manager, but I do think his experiences as a player—the good and the bad—could be a good starting point.

Granted, there’s a whole lot for Iverson to learn and, and the whole suit and tie on a regular basis thing might be a deal breaker.

But if Allen Iverson approaches the opportunity to help create a good NBA team with the same conviction he did as a player, he could be a real game changer.

I hope he gets the chance.

Enough Wheeling and Dealing, the Sixers need to Start Showing Progress

Former Sixers point guard Michael Carter-Williams takes the ball to the bucket against new 76ers point Isaiah Canaan. Photo from Spin.com

Former Sixers and new Milwaukee Bucks point guard Michael Carter-Williams takes the ball to the bucket against new 76ers point guard Isaiah Canaan in the Sixers Wednesday night loss to the Bucks . Photo from Spin.com

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—Now that the Philadelphia 76ers have traded 2014 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, what’s next?

If you look at it from the viewpoint of Sixers management,Williams struggled with his outside shooting, clashed with head coach Brett Brown and wasn’t part of the Sixers’ grand vision of success.

More importantly, the Sixers got a possible top-five lottery pick from the Los Angeles Lakers in the dealConsidering the fact that the 76ers are in constant rebuilding mode, this is a good thing. Right now, the Sixers are 12-44 and will have someone hanging out in Secaucus, N.J. and looking for a magic NBA Lottery ping-pong ball.

While being in a position to land high-end draft pick is a good thing, it’s also a huge risk. For every Kobe Bryant, there’s someone who turned out to be a wasted pick. Moving forward, the Sixers and general manager Sam Hinkie had better hope that their next pick is the real deal, is ready to play upon arrival, and that there’s light at the end of this rebuilding tunnel because there’s only so much more rebuilding the fans can take.

I remember people telling me two years ago that it was necessary for the 76ers to unload point guard Jrue Holiday, who was coming off an All-Star year in 2013, by the way, to get some younger impact player.

The Sixers came away with Nerlens Noel, who didn’t play last year because of an ACL injury, and Carter-Williams, who was the 11th player taken out of Syracuse. At the time, we all gushed over Carter-Williams’ athleticism and his upside as a 6-6 point-guard.

While we all knew that Carter-Williams was a poor shooter, he played well enough to be the league’s best rookie. He averaged 15 points and 6.3 assists per game, shot at 40 percent from the floor and 26 percent from three-point range.

Before he was traded to Milwaukee, Carter-Williams shooting percentage fell to 38 percent and he was averaging just 25 percent from behind the three-point line. Yet, he was still averaging 15 points and seven assists per game.

The Sixers pulling the trigger on Carter-Williams is an example of how the 76ers and its brain trust, a title I use loosely, might not know what they’re doing. While they got rid of Carter-Williams, who could have been worked with, their two most recent lottery picksNerlens Noel and Joel Embiid were drafted when they had both had leg problems. The big question for these guys is will they eventually be good enough to make the Sixers a consistent winner.

So far, the reviews on Noel’s rookie year have been predictably mixed. The 6-foot-11 is one heck of a defensive player who really needs to develop his offensive game. He is averaging 8.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

Noel’s defensive skills landed him a spot in the NBA Rookie game during All-Star Weekend.  He is averaging 1.8 blocks and 1.6 steals per game. According to Basketball Reference.com, the last rookie to accomplish that was Hall-of-Famer David Robinson.

Offensively, Noel needs work, lots of work.  He needs to develop some moves in the low post and he also needs to put on a few pounds, especially if he’s going to float between playing the power forward and center spots.

Meanwhile, at this year’s trade deadline, Hinkie was reportedly willing to part ways with Embiid, who has yet to put on a Sixers uniform and has supposedly put on a few pounds.  

For all of his reliance on basketball’s version of sabermetrics and his endless search for the bigger and better deal, Hinkie is going to have to put a team on the floor that’s going to develop into a consistent winner.

Before investing their dollars for season tickets, fans at the very least have to see some tangible progress. If you play for the lottery too many times, you’re not winning…and you wind up being the East Coast version of the Los Angeles Clippers of the Donald Sterling years

And besides, if fans want fantasy basketball, they can get that anywhere on the Internet.

Silver Lays the Hammer Down on Sterling and Racism

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver imposed a lifetime ban on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling who made racist remarks in a conversation taped by his girlfriend.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver imposed a lifetime ban on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling who made racist remarks in a conversation taped by his girlfriend.

PHILADELPHIA—In what was the first major crisis of his tenure as the commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver laid down the moral authority of his leadership like an emphatic LeBron James slam-dunk.

A few days after hearing the bizarre audio of Donald Sterling’s racist rant with his girlfriend, Silver banned the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers from the NBA for life.

That means that Sterling is no longer allowed to participate in any aspect of the franchise—from personnel decisions to attending the NBA’s Board of Governors Meetings.

Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million and is recommending that the league’s Board of Governors force Sterling to sell the team.

The commissioner’s action was applauded by Philadelphia 76ers Managing Owner Josh Harris. Sterling’s views have no place in the league, Harris said.

“The Philadelphia 76ers completely support NBA Commissioner Adam Silver,” Harris said in a statement issued by the team. “There is no place for any type of discrimination in our society, and those hurtful and ignorant comments are contrary to the core values and beliefs of our ownership group and organization.”

Sterling’s bigoted telephone conversation with his girlfriend was the tipping point of a sordid racist past that includes the largest housing discrimination suit the Department of Justice has ever filed on behalf of Black and Latino tenants of his apartment building and a lawsuit by NBA great Elgin Baylor, who accused Sterling of running his franchise like a Southern plantation.

The way Silver used the bully pulpit of the commissioner’s office to sanction Sterling was reminiscent of the way President Lyndon B. Johnson used the moral authority of the presidency when he urged a joint session of Congress in 1965 to pass the Voting Rights Act.

“Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multiethnic league,” Silver said at Tuesday’s press conference.

“I am personally distraught that the views expressed by Mr. Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken such a leadership role in matters of race relations and cause current and former players, coaches, fans and partners of the NBA to question their very association with the league.”

Silver also issued an apology to the game’s Black basketball players who broke the color line in professional basketball like Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, Bill Russell and Magic Johnson, whose Instagram photo with Sterling’s girlfriend apparently sent the Clippers owner over the edge.

The NBA and Clippers brands were damaged with advertisers and sponsors thanks to Sterling tapes. Carmax and State Farm Insurance withdrew their sponsorships with the team, although State Farm retained its association with Clippers point guard Chris Paul.

Silver urged the departing sponsors to rethink their decisions.

“I would say that those marketing partners of the Clippers and partners of the NBAshould judge us by our response to this incident and I think we have responded appropriately,” Silver said. “I would be hopeful that they would return into their business relationships with the Clippers. … I can understand how upset they are and I’ll do my best to bring them back into the NBA Family.”

Silver’s handling of a potential crisis in his sport from a historical standpoint is comparable to that of Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, who became the commissioner of Major League Baseball in 1920 in the aftermath of the Black Sox scandal in which several members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to fix the 1919 World Series.

Landis’ first act as commissioner was impose a lifetime ban on the players involved in the gambling scheme even though they were exonerated in court.

In banning Sterling, Silver made it clear that whether it’s player or owner, no one is above the league enough to run afoul of its rules or to damage its brand.

“My message to Clippers fans is league is far bigger than any one owner, any one coach, any one player,” Silver said. “This institution has been around for a long time and it will stand for a time.”

One Last Hurrah for the Answer

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Allen Iverson gives a salute to Sixers fans at the Wells Fargo Center as the team retired his jersey during halftime of the 76ers game versus the Washington Wizards.  Photo by Yahoo.com.

Allen Iverson gives a salute to Sixers fans at the Wells Fargo Center as the team retired his jersey during halftime of the 76ers game versus the Washington Wizards. Photo by Yahoo.com.

PHILADELPHIA—As they raised the banner with his No. 3 jersey above the rafters at the Wells Fargo Center, Allen Iverson looked up in amazement as the crowd roared its approval with some chanting MVP.

It was one last good-bye and one final cheer from the crowd for the 39-year-old Iverson, who wearing a Black fedora, some chains around his neck and some studious-looking glasses. He put his hand to his ear to really feel and hear the energy of the crowd one more time.

After the ceremonies ended, Iverson said hearing that crowd cheer for him was a bittersweet occasion because he knows it may be the last time he gets to hear the roar of the crowd again until he is eventually inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

“It feels good, but you know in some part of my heart, it hurts,” said Iverson, who won four NBA scoring titles and two All-Star Game MVP Awards. “I realize and I understand that it’s over. When I come into the arena, I’m stepping onto the basketball court with street clothes on and I know it will never be in a uniform again.

“That part of it brings back so many memories just hearing the roar of the crowd, doing my signature put my hands up to my ears.  It brings it back, but it hurts still. I’m a basketball fan, it’s hard for me to watch the Sixers play. … It feels like just yesterday I was here trying to entertain these fans.”

The Philadelphia 76ers organization retired Iverson’s number during halftime ceremonies of the Sixers game versus the Washington Wizards.  To keep it real, those who witnessed Iverson’s jersey being raised above the rafters to go along side the likes of Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks and Wilt Chamberlain will probably not remember the outcome of the game itself.

That’s because they came to celebrate a player in Iverson who was perhaps the embodiment of what means to be an athlete in a broad-shouldered city like Philadelphia. If there was a Mount Rushmore of gritty, tough athletes in this town, you’d have to carve out a statue of Iverson.

Philly fans will never forget Iverson leading the Sixers run to the 2001 NBA Finals. The 6-foot former Georgetown star was brilliant in the Eastern Conference semifinal and finals. Fans will never forget the fourth quarter of the Sixers Game 1 win over the Los Angeles Lakers and the three-pointer he hit while stepping over Tyronn Lue.

“The best one was in Toronto when Vince (Carter) got 50 and the next game Allen goes back and gets 50. You don’t see that in a playoff series,” said former Sixers general manager Billy King. “It was games like that … beating Milwaukee, winning the first game in LA. The whole year was magical. (Iverson) getting MVP of the All-Star game, I was blessed to be a part of it and to have a front-row seat.”

During the course of the evening, Iverson was showered with affection from all-time great Sixers like Erving and his former head coach Larry Brown, who appeared on the Wells Fargo jumbotron, congratulated Iverson for having his jersey retired.

There were video accolades from current players like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Ray Allen and Chris Paul who paid tribute to Iverson and thanked him for being an influence on them as players.

Some of the players Iverson played against were also in attendance. One of them was former Seattle Supersonics guard Gary Payton. Known as the “Glove” for his defensive prowess, Payton said Iverson was difficult to defend.

“He was always a nightmare to guard because you knew he was going to score,” Payton said. “He could get to the basket and hit jump shots. You just had to contain him and hope he had an off night.”

Iverson was also an iconic figure to the mid to late 1990s hip-hip generation. His braided hair, jewelry and tattoos gave a voice to a generation of young fans that the world would prefer not to see or hear. Iverson brought street swag to the NBA like no other player before him.

“He changed a lot of things with the cornrows, he changed a lot of things with the chains,” said former NBA guard Gary Payton. “He changed a lot of things in the NBA as an icon. When he goes to the Hall of Fame, it will solidify his greatness.”

Iverson, who won the NBA’s MVP award in 2001, said he took a lot of criticism from the media for the way he looked, the way he dressed, the friends he hung with and his attitude. If he had to do it all over again, he would still do it his way.

“I enabled this generation now and took the beaten, so they can express themselves and be who they are,” Iverson said. “It’s a bittersweet situation, but I wouldn’t change it for nothing else.”

 

 

 

 

 

The Final Answer: Allen Iverson Retires as a Sixers Icon

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grXws5m11SA

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Allen Iverson taking questions from reporters at his retirement press conference at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Allen Iverson taking questions from reporters at his retirement press conference at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Allen Iverson may have stood a few inches under 6-feet, but on the court he was as tall as Wilt Chamberlain and could fly as high as Dr. J., Julius Erving.

Like Chamberlain and Erving, Iverson, the Philadelphia 76ers first-round pick in the 1996 draft out of Georgetown, did some incredible things on the court. He also left a hip-hop sensibility in his wake similar to Chamberlain’s signature headbands and Dr. J’s ‘fro.

And he owns every bit of it.

“I took an ass-kicking for me being me in my career, for me looking the way I looked and dressing the way I dressed,” Iverson said. “My whole thing was just being me. Now, you look around the NBA and all of them have tattoos, guys wearing cornrows. You used to think the suspect was the guy with the cornrows, now you see the police officers with the cornrows. Know what I’m saying? I took a beating for those types of things.”

On Wednesday, Allen Iverson returned to the Wells Fargo Center, the place where he made his mark, to formally retire from the game of basketball as a 76er, and to thank the fans that supported him the most throughout his career.

He leaves the game with no regrets, despite the on and off the court drama that sometimes accompanied him, Iverson said.

Iverson also leaves knowing that he made it a lot easier for the nonconformist in the NBA due to his hard-charging, uncompromising style both on and off the court that gave a voice and a platform to an often-criticized and misunderstood generation of young people.

“I’m proud that I’m able to say I changed a lot in this culture and in this game,” he said. “It’s not about how you look on the outside, it’s who you are on the inside.”

During the ceremonies, Iverson acknowledged his former coaches–Georgetown head coach John Thompson and 76ers head coach Larry Brown–and former Sixers vice president Pat Croce for helping him to shape his career as a basketball player and as a man.

Poster featuring the many faces of AI. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Poster featuring the many faces of AI. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Known as one of the best pound-for-pound players in the history of the game, the 38-year-old Iverson won four NBA scoring titles, was an 11-time NBA All-Star, a seven-time All-NBA selection, a two-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, and the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2001. He was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year during the 1996-1997 season. He also averaged 26.7 points per game during the regular-season, giving him the sixth highest average all-time, and scored 29 points per game during the playoffs.

With those numbers, there is no doubt that Iverson is a Hall-of-Famer, possibly on the first ballot. He was arguably one of the best little men to play the game along with guys like Nate “Tiny” Archibald, Isaiah Thomas and Bob Cousy.

“I don’t think anybody would dispute that,” said Theo Ratliff, Iverson’s Sixers teammate during the 2001 season. “A guy that put up the numbers and do what he did throughout his career at 160 pounds and being one of the best scorers to ever play the game, you can’t beat that.”

Of course, Philly sports fans no doubt remember how Iverson led the Sixers on a magical run to the NBA Finals. Though the Sixers would lose in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers, Iverson played well, especially in game one of that series when he scored 48 points and hit that memorable jump shot over Lakers guard Tyronn Lue who leapt to block the shot.

During his retirement press conference, Iverson said he was glad to have had the opportunity to play in Philadelphia and  be mentioned in the same discussion with greats like Dr. J.  In the times that Iverson has made appearances at the Wells Fargo, the roar of the crowd is the same when Erving is in the building.

“When I think about Philly fans, that’s what I think about. I always wanted them to treat me the same way they treat him when he comes home,” he said. “When people tell me that it’s Doc and it’s A-I when you talk about Philly basketball that’s like one of the biggest compliments someone can give you. You put my name in the same sentence as Doc. That’s why this day is so special because of things like that.”

Iverson’s years in Philadelphia didn’t come without its share of controversy or vitriol. Aside from the braids and tattoos, people didn’t  like the company he kept, the way he partied and caroused, or his inability to take criticism from his coaches and the media. He also had his brushes with the law, most notably an incident involving his now ex-wife Tawanna. There were more than a few people in the community who thought him to be rude and arrogant.

And then there was 2002’s press conference that rocketed him into the Jim Mora stratosphere of sports-related meltdowns with the line “We’re talkin’ ‘bout practice!”

Iverson acknowledged all of that and admitted that some of the criticism hurt, especially when his kids heard it.

But through it all, Iverson said he has no regrets about his time as a basketball player in Philadelphia.

“It’s easy to say I wish I would have did it this way. I can’t go back and rewind it and do it all over again,” Iverson said. “I’m happy with the way I’ve done it because it taught me a lot.  To answer the question, no I don’t regret anything. If I could take back all the mistakes I made throughout my career, I would have missed no shots, I would have made no turnovers, I would have gone right instead of going left. I would have got on I-76 at 4 o’clock instead of five…

“I don’t regret it because it was blessing to get me here to the point to where I can retire. …Coming from Newport News, Va. what more could you ask for? My family is taken care of for the rest of their lives. What do you mean, regrets?”

Patience: New Sixers Coach Brett Brown Sees the Light at the End of the Tunnel

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report/The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

New Sixers head coach Brett Brown knows that rebuilding the 76ers will be a long-term process. Photo by Chris Murray.

New Sixers head coach Brett Brown knows that rebuilding the 76ers will be a long-term process. Photo by Chris Murray.

PHILADELPHIA—Everyone in the 76ers organization, along with fans and media, is bracing themselves for a season where they’re not going to win many games.

But new Sixers head coach Brett Brown told everyone at his press conference on Wednesday that it wouldn’t be that way forever and that there’s light at the end of what some see as an endless tunnel.

“I hope that everybody understands the level of patience that we’re all going to have, not acceptance. Patience,” Brown said, his thick New England accent perfuming the air. “Because when we’re not playing hard and we’re not executing well, they will be coached. They should be coached, that’s my job.

“But when you step back and you see that we’re undermanned, then we have to patient and grow it, develop it, free agent it and let a ping-pong ball [determine], those types of things. That’s the evolution we’re just going to have to expect.”

Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie said the thing he likes about Brown, who signed a four-year contract with the team, is the ability to understand that building a winner doesn’t happen overnight.

“I like long-term thinkers. I like people who get up and put their hard hat on every single day,” Hinkie said. “I like people who can see the big picture and who think about how important the foundation is to the third floor when you get the old thing built. Doing the foundation right really matters and that really resonated with me.”

Brown does bring a pretty good coaching pedigree to the Sixers.  He has four NBA Championship rings as an assistant to San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich.  Brown also coached in the Australian National Basketball League where he won a championship for the North Melbourne Giants in 1994.

At the 2012 Olympics in London, Brown coached the Australian national team to a 3-3 record, which was one of the best Olympics runs in the history of Australian basketball.  Brown played his collegiate ball at Boston University under Louisville and soon-to-be Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino.

A native of Maine, Brown played for his high school basketball for his father, Bob Brown, a member of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.

After working in the basketball heaven that was San Antonio where he coached players like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, Brown certainly has his work cut out for him with a young team that includes rookies like former Syracuse star Michael Carter Williams and Kentucky big man Nerlins Noel.

But the one thing that seems to bode well for Brown is his background in player development. During his time with the Spurs, player development was Brown’s specialty as an assistant coach.

“We need a staff, we need a mentality that’s going to be heavily, heavily focused on development and it’s going to start with me and it’s going to start with a structure where we’re practicing now and then to evolution of a new practice facility,” Brown said.

“Pre-practice work, video work, all those things contribute to how you develop somebody whether it’s Tony Parker’s jump shot, Bruce Bowen realizing that everybody double-teams Tim Duncan so you better be skilled at that single floor spot in the corner,” Brown continued… “We got fantastic development people in San Antonio…We’ve really have paid a lot of attention to that area.”

With the relatively young players that he has like Thaddeus Young, Brown, like his old mentor Popovich, is a defensive-minded coach. During his press conference, he made it clear that Sixers won’t sacrifice the offensive end of the floor for defense.

“We want to go, we want to get out in open court and we want to run,” Brown said. “One of the main things we’re going to look at is pace …We’re going to run …It’s hard running over 82 games. You really can’t do that unless have an extraordinary fitness base and you play 10 or 11 deep.

“I hope that you’re going to see a team that’s exciting offensively and that is appreciated with the competitiveness and toughness defensively,” he said.

If anything else, Brown does understand the odds of rebuilding a team from loser to a perennial powerhouse are stacked against him. But for him that’s the beauty of this job.

“Can you imagine if we can get this thing right?” Brown said. “Really? If we can get this right with the culture and the history that this city has, with the pride and the toughness that this city has, that is very alluring. It’s tempting. It’s dangerous. Rebuilding is a hard thing. I feel thrilled to be here.”

Sixers Hope Bold Moves on Draft Day Will Lead to Future Success

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and Philadelphia Sunday Sun

The Sixers acquired Nerlens Noel in the deal that Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Sixers acquired Nerlens Noel in the deal that sent Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans.

PHILADELPHIA—When the 76ers announced they had traded Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for the No. 6 pick, 6-foot-10-inch center Nerlens Noel, I thought it was the dumbest move they could have made.

Why, after all, why would you trade an All-Star for a player who’s never played a minute in the NBA? Also, especially in light of the Andrew Bynum debacle, why would you trade for a guy with a busted knee?

Noel, who looks like he needs to spend some time in the weight room, averaged 10 points and 9.5 rebounds per game during his first (and only) year at Kentucky.  Until he injured his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last March, he was projected to be the Number One pick.

Now mind you, Noel’s condition isn’t as degenerative as Bynum’s, but the idea of bringing in a guy with a bum knee does not engender much confidence from the Sixers fans that hooped and hollered at the Bynum trade, only to find that he was a dud.

Add to this, Noel isn’t expected to be back on the court before December if his rehabilitation is successful. By then, the Sixers will probably be in a familiar position: on the outside looking in as other teams compete for playoff spots.

To be fair, because the Sixers were going to be a young team whether GM Sam Hinkie had decided to build around Holiday or not, fans were going to be asked for their patience. The performance of a rookie is one of the NBA’s great unknowns.

But there are some bright spots…such as they are…

The biggest bonus of this trade is that the Sixers are approximately $15 million under the salary cap for this season. It’s expected that Hinkie will try to move other players like Evan Turner to clear even more space.

Also, to replace Holiday, the Sixers drafted Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who at 6-6 will be bigger than the some of the people that will be competing against him on both sides of the ball.

Sixers No.1 Draft choice Michael Carter-Wiilliams led Syracuse to the 2013 Final Four.

Sixers No.1 Draft choice Michael Carter-Wiilliams led Syracuse to the 2013 Final Four.

his final year with Syracuse, Carter-Williams averaged 11.8 points per game, 7.3 assists and nearly five rebounds per game. He was one of the big reasons the Orange was able to make a Final Four run in 2013.

Unlike Holiday, who still managed to average 17 points and seven assists with a bunch of mediocre to bad players, Carter-Williams will probably have some guys around him who can put the ball in the bucket so that he doesn’t have to score as much.

Despite starting for just one season, Carter-Williams broke the single-season school record for steals and finished his career with 292 assists, second only to Syracuse legend Sherman Douglas’s single-season number of 326 back in 1988-1989.

Looking at the numbers, the upside for Carter-Williams is pretty good. Having played in what is formerly the Big East Conference, Carter-Williams has had his share of high profile, high-pressure games.

The question is how all that will translate when it comes to the pro game. Some fans are still smarting from Turner’s lackluster play despite being the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft.

Despite my initial criticism and the praise these moves have received from some people, we have no idea of how this is all going to turn out.  If by some miracle, everything the Sixers are doing somehow translates into the team making some noise and winning a title, Hinkie will never have to buy a drink in this town again.

But if it’s the same old Sixers, a bad to mediocre team that is a sure first-round knockout if it makes the playoffs at all, folks will look back on the Holiday trade as the impetus needed to come to the Wells Fargo Center with torches and pitchforks.

Well, look at it this way…the Sixers have a couple of No. 1 draft picks next year and the experts are predicting a much deeper draftee class in 2014. Hope they have their shopping lists ready…

Love Him or Hate Him, LeBron James Fourth Quarter in Game Six Was Unforgettable

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

LeBron James is looking to come up big in Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals.

LeBron James is looking to come up big in Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals.

I don’t know if Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals is going to match up to the thriller that was Game 6, but we sure can hope.

In any event, the rollercoaster that was Game 6 of the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat was arguably one of the best of this generation and maybe of all-time. It definitely raised the bar for tonight’s  Game 7.

The Miami Heat toughed out a 103-100 overtime nail biter over the San Antonio Spurs that had more plot twists and turns than any episode of the ABC-TV series, “Scandal.”

This game had its share of heroes on both teams. When it looked like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the Spurs were going to blow the Heat out of the water, LeBron James refused to allow to Miami to go gently into that good night with an outstanding effort in the fourth quarter and in the overtime.

I am by no means a big LeBron fan of any sort and some of the criticism he gets is deserved for being hyped as “King James.”  At the same time, the negativity he gets is way over the top.

That said, a struggling James came into the fourth quarter shooting just 3-of-12 field and his team down by 10 points. He put his team on his back and did just about everything he could to put his team in position to eventually win it.

Not only did he score 16 points in the fourth quarter, he made plays on defense including a huge block on Duncan driving to the basket. Even when he had a few foibles along the way which included a turnover and some missed shots, James never quit and just kept finding ways to make plays.

That’s called “heart” ladies and gentleman. James would not let his team die even when Miami fans were filing out of the arena thinking that their team was done. He was like that line from a Rudyard Kipling poem: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.”

Finishing the game with a triple-double—32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, it’s safe to say James definitely kept his wits about him.
James’ big three-point bucket with 20.1 seconds left that put the Heat to within three actually came after he missed an attempted three-ball shot a few seconds earlier.

It was James missed three-point shot with under 10 seconds left that wound up in the hands of teammate Chris Bosh who passed it to Ray Allen, who sank the game-tying three-point bucket  that sent the game into overtime.
If you want to say Miami was lucky that James missed three-ball fell into Bosh’s hands, okay feel free.

To me, good things can happen when just you keep firing. Just as James carried his team when they needed him through much of the fourth quarter, Bosh with the critical rebound and Allen with the big-time three, lifted him when he needed them.
That’s called team work, folks—a foreign concept in an era where fans, including those of James, are foolishly caught up in the cult of personality and an overindulgence of individualism.

Even if Miami had lost this game and the Spurs had walked off with the title, I would say the same thing about James effort in that fourth quarter. He gave his team a chance to win or go down swinging.

And so beyond all the overblown hype of James’ most devoted disciples who see him as “The Chosen One ” and the ignoble impulses of his detractors who want him to lose just to prove James followers wrong, I thought Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals was an “instant classic.”

I suspect that James and the Heat and Parker and the Spurs will leave everything on the floor in Game 7.  I am also predicting that no matter how well James plays in a losing or winning effort, those who love him and those who loathe him will be arguing well into the night on Facebook and Twitter.