Ayers not certain if Iverson will be available for part of Western road trip 76ers Notes

Posted: December 23, 2003

The wait for Allen Iverson's bruised right knee to heal continues, and 76ers coach Randy Ayers says that his star might join the team after the start of its five-game road trip.

Iverson missed his fifth straight game last night when the Sixers took on the Orlando Magic at the Wachovia Center. Ayers said that he had talked with Iverson yesterday and reported that progress was slow.

"We're looking at him maybe joining us on the West Coast trip," Ayers said last night. "I don't know when. He said it wasn't any better, but it didn't get any worse in the last 24 hours. So, to me, that's a positive sign. Maybe we are starting to make some progress."

Ayers said that he would allow Iverson and Jim McNulty, the Sixers' director of sports medicine, who is directing Iverson's rehabilitation, to make the call on the player's return. He said that he would not rush him back and risk his suffering a more serious injury.

The Sixers open their trip Friday in Los Angeles against the Clippers. They also will travel to Phoenix, Utah, Houston and San Antonio.

Ayers said that while there is nothing structurally wrong with Iverson's knee, he worries about the pounding and banging it takes when Iverson gets knocked to the floor, which is often, considering his aggressive, go-to-the-basket style.

Davis' return. The last time Johnny Davis had entered a game as an NBA head coach at the Wachovia Center before last night, it was known as the CoreStates Center. That was two names and 6 1/2 years ago.

Last night, the former 76ers coach returned as head man for the Magic, a team that had gone 6-2 in its last eight games.

The Sixers went 22-60 in 1996-97, Davis' only season as their coach. He coached the final nine games of Orlando's 19-game losing streak this season.

"Our chemistry is starting to come together," Davis said. "Any time you lose 19 straight games, there's a lot of emotional damage, a lot of mental stress that takes place, so we had a lot of that hovering around us. Now things are beginning to lift, and we understand what we have to do to win games."

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano

at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.

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