Still talking about A.I.

Posted: March 04, 2014

ORLANDO - It was almost a full day after the ceremony, yet there was still plenty to talk about concerning the retirement of Allen Iverson's No. 3 on Saturday night. During a season in which there hasn't been much to smile about, no one could help but cheer up when talking about A.I.

Two members of the 76ers organization who have never put on a uniform were mentioned by Iverson during his heartfelt halftime speech, and a day later it still had them shaking their heads.

Allen Lumpkin started working for the team as a ball boy in 1977 and has served in a variety of positions with the team since, most currently director of basketball administration. Scotty Rego has been with the club for the past 27 years, also holding a variety of posts, and he now serves as the team's equipment manager. In the height of the speech Saturday, Iverson felt the need to mention both of them.

While fans in Philadelphia and throughout the world had their perceptions of Iverson both on and off the court, those two were with Iverson every day during his 10-plus years with the Sixers.

"When Allen came when we drafted him I knew he was good, but I didn't know how he would transcend basketball," Lumpkin said. "His popularity grew year after year after year after year. Traveling with that team, up to when we made the finals [2001] and after that, it was like traveling with a rock band - the Beatles, the Jacksons. His popularity was like nothing I've ever seen. Not Charles [Barkley], not anything.

"Three in the morning no matter where we went, Milwaukee, Seattle, 5-below, people out there trying to get his autograph or just trying to get a glimpse. It wasn't about anybody else. It was all Allen. And he accepted it, he was OK. There was no way he could stop and sign every autograph, but he did what he could. You see some [older] guys who are just autograph guys [to sell], so he would sign for the kids. It didn't matter what color, his popularity reached everyone. He changed how the NBA was perceived. He brought hip-hop to the NBA, to basketball."

"He could make you laugh from your toes," said Rego. "He was so funny. He was the worst singer in the world but you couldn't tell him because once he started singing, and it was the same three notes over and over again, we would all tell him to shut up but he'd sing even louder. There were many, many nights that before the game it would just be me and him in my office where he would eat his dinner that his mom brought him. We'd put on the TV and we'd watch whatever he wanted to watch. A lot of times he got ready for the games just sitting in there, hanging out with me or me, him and Aaron McKie. We would talk about basketball, we would talk about football, talk about life. Sometimes we didn't talk at all."

Both laughed when asked about Iverson's always-questioned work ethic, shunning the talk that he could have even been better had he worked on his game more.

"As long as the lights and cameras were on, he would be ready to go," Rego said. "He was a prime-time player and he loved playing the game. People talk whether he was a true team player or not. I know there was nobody who played it harder."

The night was also a learning lesson for Brett Brown's young players, a chance for them to see one of the all-time greats and what he means to this basketball-rich city.

"Even I would have learned something there," said Brown. "You go into Opening Night and you're playing the Miami Heat and we got a new team and a new coach and direction of the program and all that. So you sort of see it through that lens. And then the season plays out and it has played out as it has. And then you come into the building and they come out to celebrate one of their own. They celebrate a player who took a team to the finals. Not multiple championships, but to the finals, which is an amazing effort. A.I. had a way he lived life and played the game. In relation to playing the game it was done with such a reckless abandon, such a competitive spirit, such a toughness that the city responded as they did. There were a little under 21,000 at the game [Saturday] and that's our city. It's a blue-collar city that demands effort, demands a competitive spirit and it's just a reminder, a real reminder, on what we need to do to build a program. It's just such a great example to our young players to walk out on a court and see what the fans came to see, in droves, to recognize A.I.'s accomplishment."

Game stuff

Perhaps it was the fact that the team was staying an extra night in warm central Florida. Maybe they wanted to get to the hotel to watch the Oscars. Whatever the case, the 76ers showed an amount of energy last night against the Orlando Magic that hasn't been around in quite some time.

But it wasn't enough, and thoughts of erasing a long losing streak flew away like one of the 19 turnovers the team committed on the evening as they dropped a 92-81 decision to the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center.

"Our offense hurt us probably more than our defense," said coach Brett Brown. "Throwing the ball away, not knowing who to go to. I'm very pleased with our energy. Any time we can look up and somebody ends the game with 90-something points, that's a winnable game. We poked ourselves in the eye with our turnovers and some of it is just frustration in forcing and some of it is the realities of the landscape where we're all new."

The loss dropped the Sixers to 15-45 while Orlando improved to 19-43.

Thaddeus Young scored 12 of his team-high 29 points in the third quarter and Michael Carter-Williams delivered his first five assists of the night during that period, which ended with the Sixers holding a 69-66 lead. In five of the previous eight games the Sixers had given up at least that many points at the half, so it was understandable why hopes were high to end the losing skid.

The Magic, though, started the fourth quarter making seven of their first 10 shots and used a 13-2 run in building the lead to as many as eight, and with losing becoming such a common thread for the Sixers, you could just feel another one coming.

"We had three, four turnovers in a row at a crucial point in the game and those are the ones we can't have," Young said. "It was one of those situations where with those turnovers they got some buckets and got to the free-throw line a little bit and got the momentum to swing in their favor."

Tobias Harris scored 31 to lead the Magic, while former Sixer Nicola Vucevic collected 18 points and 17 rebounds.

Backing Young was Carter-Williams, who scored 17, grabbed 11 rebounds and dealt six assists. He also turned the ball over eight times. Newcomer Henry Sims had 12 points and seven rebounds and Tony Wroten came off the bench for 12 points.


Jameer Nelson, who torched the Sixers in a fourth-quarter spree last week in leading Orlando to a 101-90 win, was out with a sore calf last night . . . Arnett Moultrie and Lorenzo Brown were the only two Sixers not to see action . . . The team will travel to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder tomorrow.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


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