They showed up late to the home finale, caused trouble together,
were fined together, and disrespected the fans and management
together. The duo inspired a memorably profane rant from team
president Billy King, had to apologize for their tardiness and
looked disinterested watching the finale in street clothes.
Webber and Iverson sure made headlines at season's end -- just
not for getting the Sixers in the playoffs.
"I gave people ammunition to be able to start a whole bunch of
stuff before the summer comes," Iverson said. "Every summer is
this way. I just feel bad that I let that happen."
The summer fun has not yet truly begun for Iverson and Webber,
who can expect to hear their names connected to countless trade
rumors as the floundering Sixers decide what path to take after a
38-44 record under coach Maurice Cheeks.
"We're going to do whatever it takes to get us back on track,"
Certainly this will be a pivotal offseason for King, the
embattled president who has yet to prove he can make the smart
decisions needed to turn the Sixers back into contenders. King has
promised major changes on a defense-deficient roster that saw its
touted young nucleus take big steps back.
With a lottery pick in the NBA draft, King could go with a
rebuilding effort, trade Iverson or Webber (with their contracts
and age, it's hard to imagine both will be gone) for young talent
and more picks and start over.
Or he could decide to go for it all and try to contend by
putting veteran, defensive-minded players around Webber and Iverson
and give the veterans one last shot at a championship ring.
"Maybe we are not as good as I projected," King said. "I know
we add to some veterans for the experience factor. We've got to
revamp our approach and become more defensive oriented."
The Sixers allowed 101.3 points a game this season -- only five
teams were worse -- and they frequently collapsed late in games.
Only five more wins could have given them a fifth or sixth seed in
The tone was set way back on opening night when they blew a
seven-point lead with 1:10 left and lost to Milwaukee in overtime.
Against Indiana last month questionable play calling and poor
defense led to a loss in the final seconds.
Cheeks said this week that 94-93 loss to the Pacers was the one
the Sixers could never recover from, and he was right. The Sixers
lost 16 of their final 24 games.
"We scored a lot this year, but we didn't defend anyone,"
Iverson said. "When defending's not important, you're going to
lose basketball games."
Iverson showed no sign of decline at 30, enjoying one of the
best seasons of his 10-year career. He finished second behind Kobe
Bryant in the scoring race with a 33.0 ppg average, shot 43 percent
and averaged 7.6 assists -- all better numbers than when he led
Philadelphia to the NBA Finals.
Iverson had some offensive help from Webber, considered a bust
in his half season with the Sixers before showing some surprising
durability (75 games) on one bad leg. Though his lack of mobility
made him a defensive liability, he averaged 20.2 points and showed
he could coexist with Iverson.
"I just want to come back a little more healthier and be ready
to play," Webber said.
Samuel Dalembert and Kyle Korver -- signed to long-term deals
last summer -- regressed this season. Dalembert was in-and-out of
the lineup because of injury and inconsistency, and was still
complaining after two seasons as the starter that the coaches
haven't made him better.
Korver played in every game, but he pouted after losing his
starting spot and his 3-point numbers dipped, though he wasn't
asked to shoot as much beyond the arc this season. He's also one of
the Sixers worst defenders.
Willie Green's future is uncertain after missing most of the
season with a knee injury, and John Salmons and Kevin Ollie are not
the backcourt answers off the bench. Free agents Lee Nailon and
Steven Hunter were disappointments.
Andre Iguodala remains a mystery. Is he nothing more than a
showstopping dunker or a promising player who can develop a
mid-range game and become a legitimate scoring threat?
Cheeks will return next season, even though 43 wins and a
playoff berth got Jim O'Brien fired after one season.
Though Iverson and Webber humiliated Cheeks in the home finale
by showing up late and making him find out from the media his stars
had not yet arrived, the players seemed to like him. Without a
veteran assistant to bounce ideas off, his strategy was often
puzzling and he could not lead the Sixers out of their second-half
King refused to blame Cheeks.
"I think, in retrospect, I probably should have added a few
more veteran pieces to help him," King said. "I'll take full
responsibility that I don't think I gave him the right pieces to be
successful this year."