Mike was on hand to see Iverson's return to the Wach last night, his notes after the jump. (Sorry, had to get one image of a sick Iguodala dunk on the blog after this one and couldn't find the reverse on the blocks).
- We arrived at 6pm, and the Wachovia lot was already filled to the
max. It hasn't even been this packed for any playoff game played here
the last 2 seasons.
- Iverson was shooting jumpers off feeds by Aaron Mckie at 615pm, and
it was one of the most surreal sights you could imagine. A huge crowd
developed behind the Sixers bench, along with another crowd across the
court. Every so often, Iverson would acknowledge one of the seemingly
hundreds of AI signs by waving or pointing, which would elicit a loud
roar from the crowd. This happened at least 5 times while he was
shooting. Iguodala & Williams (glad to see his jaw doesn't prevent
him from practicing) were also shooting. Lou left at one point so for
awhile it was just Iguodala & Iverson on the floor. It was very
strange, and a little disconcerting, watching this. I did notice that
Iverson was missing a ton of layups, so I couldn't help but laugh a
little bit when he missed that wide open layup on the game's first
possession. He must have been nervous as hell.
- By the time the Sixers were officially introduced as they ran out
into their layup line, the crowd was in a frenzy. AI looked amped to
about 1000, jumping and skipping around for just about the entire
pregame until he started stretching. EVERYONE in the entire arena was
standing during the pregame layups & stretching, which I don't think I
have seen once in 15+ years of attending NBA games ('01 Finals
- This wasn't a big deal, but I thought it was funny that Iverson took
off his jacket and completed most of warmups in a white sleeveless
t-shirt, while every other Sixer was wearing a full red uniform with
long pants & jacket.
- AI's step over Tyronne Lue in the '01 Finals in the pregame video
drew a gigantic response of course. After the normal video they play
for every game, they showed an Iverson highlight clip, with a
voiceover of his recent press conference. The specific part they used
was his description of his relationship with Sixers' fans. Instant
standing O. It was pretty fucking awesome.
- During the National Anthem they showed him on the jumbotron twice
and the crowd roared. Needless to say, this was a theme throughout
the evening. At this point I assume everyone in attendance has the
same chills I do.
- After he was introduced he trotted over to midcourt and kissed the
76ers logo. More chills.
ONTO THE GAME:
- It's usually freezing inside the Wachovia Center, but with the
sellout tonight it was pretty warm.
- Every time he touches the ball the crowd roars. It actually becomes
kind of comical.
- I have mixed feelings about the crowd tonight. It is clear that
they are not Sixers fans. I suppose it doesn't really matter as long
as they are in the building and providing the team with some energy,
but it feels strange as a season ticket holder who lived & died with
this team the past 2 seasons as we saw their youth movement grow to be
joined by these Iverson fans who just happen to be rooting for Philly
now. Regardless, it is more fun watching this team play to a packed
house, so I'll keep my mouth shut.
- Mcnabb is sitting at the end of the Nuggets bench all night, a lot
of the time next to JR Smith. If I didn't know better I'd think he
was just a big fat guy. Westbrook, Shady McCoy, and Leonard Weaver
(who draws the loudest response of all the Eagles) are also there to
witness AI's homecoming.
- In one of my previous write-ups I mentioned how every team has an
honorary bench player who spends the majority of each timeout staring
into the crowd, I assume to scan for hot chicks. The Nuggets have
nominated Chris Andersen to fill this role.
- When AI is whistled for his 2nd foul, Ed Snider jumps out of his
courtside seat across from the visitor's bench to bark at the
official. Before tonight I hadn't ever really seen him move while in
- Iguodala is one of the streakiest shooters in the league right now,
and he was on fire in the 1st half. I didn't think he played
particularly well, he was just hitting jumpers that he normally
misses. He did pretty much shut down Melo, but he was looking to
score tonight whereas he usually sets up his teammates and gets them
involved. I'm sure people will say he was sending a message that it
was still his team, and I really have no idea, but it was pretty clear
that he was looking for his own shot tonight.
- It seems like Thad always starts each half really well, and then
gets lost in the mix. Tonight he was being extremely aggressive,
which I loved. He is the Sixers' best pure scorer, and should average
20 ppg. I really liked what I saw from him tonight.
- Sammy and Elton were absolute monsters on the boards, at least in
the 1st half. Sammy also had like 6 blocks in the 1st half. He was
just incredible, and despite a few turnovers pretty much had an
optimal "Sammy" game, where he concentrates on D & rebounding and
doesn't worry too much about finding his shot.
- I was skeptical about his signing, but I absolutely loved what I saw
from Iverson tonight. He didn't force anything and really seemed to
play within the team. To the largely misguided crowd's dismay, he was
looking to set up teammates as opposed to looking for his own shot. I
don't know if this was because it was his 1st game and he was out of
shape, or if he will be making a conscious effort to be more of a
floor leader for the rest of the season. I will say I noticed he
looked incredibly slow tonight. It was the first time I've seen him
play in person since he left, so the contrast in play could just be in
my mind. But it looked like he had trouble getting by any defender
off the dribble. He had a lot of trouble with Lawson in particular.
I'm sure he'll look quicker in a few games but we have to keep in mind
that he is now 34.
- I said at halftime that we would lose this game by double digits.
Denver shot 31% in the 1st half and I knew that wouldn't continue. I
guessed Carmelo would go off, but it ended up being Billups & Lawson.
I've seen Billups do this so many times now that nothing he does
surprises me. Dude is just a pitbull, who gives his team exactly what
they need every single night. He saw Melo was struggling, so he
decided to take over.
- The Sixers played so much harder out of the gate tonight than I have
seen so far this season. It was a combination of many factors, but if
they continue to play like they did tonight, they are going to win
some games. In fact, I am guaranteeing a win Wednesday night against
a pretty bad Pistons team.