Sunday, July 16, 2006

Iverson talks about his future with the Sixers

The whole world wanted to hear a word from him. And Allen Iverson's press conference at the ESPN Zone began one hour later than scheduled. That is not a gag about the man's tardiness -- Iverson was in the building at 4 p.m., but first there was flesh to press and people to see.

Following the presentation of the inaugural Allen Iverson Scholarship, Iverson took his first question at 5:09 p.m. At 5:20 p.m., his handlers cut off queries and whisked Iverson out the back way, through the kitchen, futilely pursued by a handful of newspaper reporters.

In fact, Iverson, appearing Friday as he does each year at the Allen Iverson Celebrity Summer Classic (his annual charity event, highlighted by a celebrity softball game today) did not say anything absurdly controversial in his first public statements since the rumors surfaced that the Sixers were genuinely trying to trade their most important guard.

And the Answer made it clear: "I want to be a Sixer, I've said that since day one. But if I'm not wanted then I definitely don't want to be a Sixer, and I'll start my career over. But everybody knows I want to be a Sixer.

"No matter where in the world I go, people come up and ask the same question. I'm used to it. However, I'm still tired of it. Sometimes I think leaving might not be a bad thing; I may not have to deal with this every summer. My wife and my children won't have to deal with it."

It's good to mention that at the NBA Draft it truly looked as if Iverson was on his way out. Talks have cooled since then, and it's entirely possible Iverson could open the season in Philadelphia.

"I don't think the answer is getting rid of me," Iverson expressed. "Anybody can look at any Sixers game and see what I bring to the table every night. But it's a business. It's a situation where, depending on what they get for me, it could be the best thing.

"Of course, we didn't make the playoffs last year, so they feel they've got to do something. I just don't know why it has to be me."

But we could say that this isn't really about basketball. It's about whether the 76ers want to move past the Allen Iverson era. GM Billy King said he wants to "change the culture" of his team. What does Iverson think that means?

"I don't know, you'd have to ask him," Iverson replies. And we believe him.