The last decade of basketball in Philadelphia was dominated by one man who went by A.I. — Allen Iverson, who's remembered in the City of Brotherly Love as a prolific scorer and one of the best athletes of his generation.
But the new A.I. has taken over now — this is Andre Iguodala's team now, and he's got the $80 million max contract to prove it. Iguodala now faces the challenge of turning this Sixers team around — it's been seven years since they've gotten out of the first round in the East playoffs, and it might take a while to give the franchise new direction.
2009-10 Record: 27-55 (fourth in Atlantic Division, 12th in Eastern Conference, missed playoffs)
Celtics' record vs. Sixers: 237-176 all time, 3-1 last season
Familiar faces: Tony Battie (played six seasons with Celtics)
Key additions: Evan Turner (draft), Andres Nocioni, Spencer Hawes (traded from Sixers), Tony Battie (free agent)
Key losses: Samuel Dalembert (sent to Sixers in Nocioni/Hawes deal)
Burning question: Can Iguodala and Turner share the ball?
Doug Collins is the new coach in town, and Collins likes it when one guy dominates the ball in his offense, running every play through his star player. He did it with Michael Jordan as a youngster in Chicago in the late 1980s, he did it with Grant Hill in Detroit, and he did it with Jordan again on the Wizards in his later years.
Inevitably, he'll do it with Iguodala as well. A.I. is a pure wing guy, able to play the two or the three interchangeably with ease. Under Collins, he'll probably function as a point forward, constantly working with the ball in his hands.
But he's got to get Turner involved. Turner is 21 and he brings so much talent and so much versatility to the table, that not getting him his touches would be a sin.
The future of the Sixers' franchise depends on their two stars, Iguodala and Turner, learning to play together. Having one star wing player is nice, but having two is enough to make the Sixers a serious threat down the road. As long as the two can coexist, that is.
2010-11 outlook: With Iguodala and Turner on the wings, Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young in the post and Jrue Holiday running the point, the Sixers have assembled a decent starting five. Now they need everyone to stay healthy and focused, and they need to stumble upon a little extra bench depth if they want to survive the 82-game grind. This team has some upside. A playoff berth in 2011 might be a stretch, but expect the Sixers to take small steps this season toward being competitive again.
Did you know? Only 18 players in pro basketball history have had the last initial I. Six are active today, and three — Iverson, Iguodala and Royal Ivey — played for the Sixers last season. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ersan Ilyasova and Serge Ibaka are the other three active players.
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