Iverson is back for his 11th season in Philadelphia. The former league MVP was the subject of trade rumors during the offseason, although he indicated he never wanted to leave the franchise that made him the top overall pick in 1996 and general manager Billy King also claimed he never intended to trade the superstar.
The 6-foot guard is back after finishing second in the NBA in scoring last season at 33.0 points per game.
The question is whether Iverson’s return will make a difference for Philadelphia, which won 38 games last season and failed to make the playoffs. The 76ers did little to change their roster and expectations are very low.
Iverson is looking forward to the challenge.
“I like the idea of us being picked so far down because we can sneak up on a lot of people,” Iverson said. “A lot of people can take us lightly and we can get things done.”
The Sixers also have Chris Webber back after the power forward averaged 20.2 points and a team-high 9.9 rebounds.
However, Webber and his bad knees contributed to a defense that allowed 101.3 points per game last season, sixth-worst in the league.
Iguodala chipped in 12.3 points per game last season and is lethal in transition, yet often seemed to defer to Iverson and Webber.
Dalembert was impressive in the Sixers’ preseason games in Europe before he suffered a strained left hamstring that forced him to miss time. He is expected to start Wednesday.
Another season out of the playoffs could cost King and coach Maurice Cheeks their jobs.
Philadelphia may be opening against an ideal opponent with Atlanta, which has suffered through seven straight losing seasons. The Hawks will be missing forward Marvin Williams, who is out six to eight weeks with a broken bone in his left hand suffered Thursday.
“It’s one of those freak accidents,” coach Mike Woodson said of the No. 2 overall pick in 2005. “I feel for the player. Marvin put in a lot of time to get in this position. It’s definitely a setback.”
Williams was slated to fill the starting spot vacated by Al Harrington, who was dealt to Indiana in the offseason.
The Hawks are counting on youngsters like Josh Childress, Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia to develop into a better supporting cast around star guard Joe Johnson, who averaged 20.2 points per game in 2005-06 in his first season with the team.
Rookie forward Shelden Williams, the fifth overall pick out of Duke, also is expected to bolster the frontcourt.
“Nobody likes a losing team,” Johnson said. “The Hawks haven’t made the playoffs in who knows how long. It’s tough. Nobody likes to really root for a losing team. We’ve got to develop some respect. You don’t get respect just on paper. We’ve got to come out and start winning some ballgames. Then we’ll start filling the arena.”
The Hawks are hoping to get off to a good start on the road, where they lost 12 of their final 13 games last season.
Philadelphia has won five straight home matchups against Atlanta and won the season series 2-1 in 2005-06.
The Sixers have the league’s best record in openers at 38-19 (.667) while the Hawks have dropped seven straight openers—the longest such streak in the NBA.