The 76ers will look to break their 9 game losing streak tonight down at the Wachovia Center against a very, very good Denver Nuggets team (15-5). Carmelo Anthony has been tremendous this year (30 & 6 per night) and in our opinion is making a serious run at the 2009-10 NBA MVP award. In addition to being on a 9-game losing rip, the Sixers are also pretty banged up. Obviously Louis Williams (broken jaw) and Mo Speights (torn MCL) have been out for some time now, but joining them over the weekend on the injury list were Jrue Holiday (rotator cuff) and Andre Iguodala (ankle). AI9 will play tonight on his gimpy ankle, but Holiday is out again leving us no PG, so we’re not loving the Sixers chances of keeping their losing streak from reaching double digits…
Wait, did we mention that Allen Iverson makes his return debut in Philadelphia tonight? We should probably discuss that, right?
Very well then, no problem. Here’s 5 Things We’re Going to be Watching for in Iverson’s Philly Re-debut:
1) The home crowd’s reaction to Iverson: Based on what people on the street are saying and the brisk ticket sales at the box office after the announcement of Iverson’s signing, we have to imagine he’ll get a standing-O tonight, but there’s always a long-shot chance there could be some boos mixed in when his named is announced with the first-five tonight.
2) Iverson’s minutes: Iverson said at his press conference that he really has not played a lot of minutes over the last 6-months and that since he left the Memphis Grizzlies, he has not touched a ball at all. Additionally, Eddie Jordan has already added that he does not expect to play Iverson for extended minutes tonight. Thus we should have low expectations for Iverson’s tick this evening. However throughout his career, Iverson has never been known to workout very hard in the off-season and has always played his way into shape once the season started. So it will be interesting to see what kind of shape Iverson is reallyin and if the adrenaline from the big night can mask any fitness level issues allowing Iverson to haul big minutes tonight. Also when the crowd starts chanting for Iverson, it’s going to be impossible for Jordan to keep him on the bench, thus we bet AI’ sees at least 25 minutes.
3) The Princeton offense: Will the hybrid version of this read-and-react offense that Sixers have been using get ditched completely when Iverson is on the floor, or will Iverson try to play within this half-court scheme? If Iverson buys-in to Jordan’s system, his ball handling skills and quickness could be a big boost to the Sixers Princeton offense. If he doesn’t, Jordan will have no choice but to scrap his already struggling offensive sets.
4) Iguodala’s Touches: We know it’s his first game back in a Sixers uniform and that at the return press conference he talked about fitting in, but Iverson is a scorer, plain and simple. Allen has never met a shot he didn’t believe he could make and we can not imagine that has changed with age. If Iverson plays his traditional style, then it makes sense that AI9, the Sixers leading scorer will see reduced looks tonight.
5) Are the other Sixers really happy that Iverson is back?: All of the Sixers are saying the right things to the media and on their Twitter pages about Iverson’s return, but really who would have the guts to bad-mouth a Philadelphia icon of Iverson’s caliber? No on on this Sixers team, that’s for sure. So after Iverson’s first ill-advised shot or defensive lapse, we’re going to watch closely for body language and facial expressions from the Sixers players that say otherwise and that will tell us what the real story is in the locker room regarding “The Answer’s” return to the 76ers.