For six seasons, Allen Iverson and Larry Brown endured one of the most turbulent relationships in sports.
That came to an end last May when Brown resigned as coach of the Philadelphia 76ers.
A week later the Hall of Fame coach signed a five-year deal with the Detroit Pistons, the team which had recently eliminated the Sixers from the second round of the playoffs.
Brown will make his return to Philadelphia when his Pistons meet the Sixers at the Wachovia Center. Iverson knows it will be more than just an ordinary game.
“It’s not because we’re playing against Coach,” he said Monday. “We want to win this game. But it’s going to be emotional. It’s going to be a crazy night. It’s something I’m definitely looking forward to.”
Iverson played his rookie season under Johnny Davis, but Brown took over prior to the 1997-98 season. He guided the Sixers to the Eastern Conference championship in 2001, and Iverson credits Brown for turning him into a four-time All-Star and the 2000-01 MVP.
“He developed me into the player that I am today,” Iverson said. “I owe him a lot for what he gave me.”
What most remember about Brown and Iverson, however, is their frequent bickering over practice, Iverson’s erratic behavior during Brown’s tenure and a number of other issues.
“I honestly think our personal relationship is better than what people think,” Iverson said.
While Iverson is excited to face his former coach, he is more concerned about stopping the Sixers’ two-game losing streak.
Robinson, who has missed five games with a left ankle sprain, was placed on the injured list Tuesday. Greg Buckner, who had been out with a hamstring injury since the start of the season, took Robinson’s spot on the active roster.
Iverson scored 28 points Tuesday, but he also committed six turnovers in a 95-91 loss to the Bucks.
Sixers coach Randy Ayers said he was disappointed that the Sixers allowed the Bucks to shoot 51.7 percent from the field.
“I thought our lack of defensive intensity hurt us tonight,” Ayers said. “We’ve been getting down in games early and it has been killing us.”
The Pistons, who will likely be without guard Richard Hamilton, have won five of their last six. Hamilton has missed the last two games with a neck strain.
Chauncey Billups hit four straight free throws in the final 18.3 seconds Monday to help the Pistons beat the Atlanta Hawks 94-89. He finished with a team-high 24 points one night after missing two foul shots with seven seconds remaining in an 81-80 loss to the New Orleans Hornets.
“I’m happy for Chauncey,” Brown said. “You know, he was pretty down, comes up and makes four big free throws and plays great. Really gave us a lift.”
STANDINGS (through Nov. 24): Pistons - 3rd place, 2 GB, Central Division. 76ers - 1st place, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Pistons - Billups, 21.5 ppg and 6.3 apg; Wallace, 12.7 rpg. 76ers - Iverson, 27.9 ppg and 6.7 apg; Thomas, 8.8 rpg.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Tied, 2-2.
LAST MEETING: April 8; 76ers, 91-74. At Philadelphia, Iverson, playing with left knee bursitis, finished with 37 points and eight assists, and Thomas added 16 points and 15 rebounds to help the Sixers snap a two-game losing streak. Clifford Robinson led the Pistons with 16 points.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Pistons - 5-3 on the road; 76ers - 3-3 at home.