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PHILADELPHIA - Allen Iverson is talking about a comeback. And the Philadelphia 76ers are at least discussing the idea of bringing back their former franchise superstar.
A person with knowledge of the talks says the Sixers have been approached about signing the recently retired guard, and team management has held internal discussions about bringing Iverson back.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because talks have not been made public, says Iverson is among the free-agent candidates the Sixers are considering to replace injured point guard Lou Williams, who’s expected to miss eight weeks after jaw surgery.
“I think we would look at all the options for sure, but nothing has really happened,” Peter Luukko, COO of Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the 76ers and Flyers, told The Associated Press. “We have had no formal discussions.”
With no apparent interest from NBA teams, Iverson announced his plan to retire this week. His statement read more like a job pitch for a playoff contender rather than a final farewell.
Iverson said he planned to retire, but also stated that “I feel strongly that I can still compete at the highest level.”
The statement also said Iverson has tremendous love for the game and the desire to play, adding there is “a whole lot left in my tank.”
He could find out how much in Philadelphia, where he spent the first 10-plus seasons of his career.
The 10-time All-Star was NBA MVP in 2001 when he led the Sixers to the NBA Finals. He was the No. 1 overall pick of the 1996 draft and became a global star with his all-out play — and a major headache with his rants about practice and run-ins with former coach Larry Brown. He made “talking’ about practice” part of the sports lexicon.
Fed up with losing and his relationship with former coach Maurice Cheeks irrevocably broken, Iverson wanted out in 2006 and he was traded to the Denver Nuggets. He played for Denver until early last season when he was traded to Detroit.
Brown, now coaching the Charlotte Bobcats, said it would be great to see Iverson reunited with the Sixers.
“I just want to see him back in the league. He’s loved in Philly,” Brown said before the Bobcats played at Washington. “He did a phenomenal job for that franchise. If you look at games now, they’re not nearly as exciting. There’s not as many people at the games. We need him in the league.”
The 6-foot Iverson played three games this season with Memphis before taking a leave of absence to attend to personal matters. He was waived after the two sides agreed to part ways.
Iverson’s agent, Leon Rose, and 76ers team president Ed Stefanski did not immediately return messages for comment.
Iverson would find a Sixers team in the same mediocre shape he left it amid squabbles with management. The Sixers have lost five straight and are 5-11 entering Sunday’s game at San Antonio. The Sixers were bounced out of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs each of the past two seasons.
Iverson would immediately spark interest and ticket sales among Philadelphia’s largely apathetic fan base. The Sixers are 29th in the NBA in attendance, and Iverson would spike that sagging number.
Stefanski has said he wanted to build around his nucleus of Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young. Iverson, like he has in every stop, would demand the ball and could hinder team chemistry more than he could make Philly relevant.
Iverson also has made it clear he won’t come off the bench. With Williams out, he would start over rookie Jrue Holiday, but it’s not clear where he would fit in once Williams is healthy to return.
The New York Knicks considered signing Iverson after he cleared waivers, before deciding he would take too much playing time from younger players they are trying to develop.
One of the NBA’s great scorers, Iverson entered this season with a career average of 27.1 points, which ranks fifth all time. Yet there was almost no interest in him this summer before he went to the Grizzlies on a one-year deal.
“I don’t think deep down he ever wanted to leave Philly,” Brown said. “He’s said, deep down, numerous times that’s where he wanted to finish his career. Let’s hope he has an opportunity to come back. If it’s not Philly, somebody will pick him up. I’m confident of that.”
Iverson has played one game in Philadelphia since he was traded, with Denver on March 19, 2008. He planted a kiss on the 76ers logo at midcourt, blew imaginary ones to the fans, and regretted how his Sixers career ended.
“I always wanted to finish my career here in Philadelphia,” he said. “The opportunity was there for me to do it. In a lot of ways, I made sure that didn’t happen.”
He might get that second act to make it end the way he wants.
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