The Philadelphia 76ers could be on the verge of welcoming back one of the best players in their history. There will be no reinforcements coming, however, before the team takes the court trying to avoid its first eight-game losing streak since Allen Iverson’s(notes) acrimonious departure three years ago.
With Iverson mulling a one-year contract offer from his former club, the 76ers look to end their skid Wednesday night when they visit the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Philadelphia coach Eddie Jordan, team president Ed Stefanski and two other members of the organization met with Iverson, his agent and his business manager Monday. A person with knowledge of the contract talks says the Sixers offered a one-year, non-guaranteed contract to the four-time scoring champion Tuesday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the contract talks had not been made public.
Iverson announced his retirement last week after a brief stint with Memphis that ended because he was disappointed with his bench role. The 10-time All-Star was league MVP in 2001, when he led the Sixers to the NBA finals. He left Philadelphia after 10-plus seasons in large part because he was frustrated with the direction of the team.
This season’s Sixers (5-13) haven’t distinguished themselves, either. They’ve lost 11 of 13, including seven straight since topping Charlotte 86-84 on Nov. 18. It’s their first seven-game skid since Jan. 2-14, 2008, and they haven’t had a longer losing streak since dropping 12 in a row Nov. 25-Dec. 20, 2006. Iverson played in the first five losses of that slide before demanding a trade and sitting out until he was dealt to Denver.
Philadelphia overcame a 17-point deficit Monday night at Dallas, with Andre Iguodala’s(notes) 3-pointer tying the game at 102 with 5.6 seconds remaining. The Sixers, though, gave up a jumper to Jason Terry(notes) with 1.4 seconds left to fall 104-102.
“We just fought all game long,” said Willie Green(notes), averaging 16.3 points in four games since emerging point guard Louis Williams(notes) was lost for two months with a broken jaw. “We didn’t hang our heads and I think those are some positives we can build on.”
The Thunder (9-8) were encouraged by their performances in double-digit wins over Utah and Milwaukee last week, but they fell 100-91 to Houston on Sunday night. They were outrebounded 29-14 in the second half and gave up a season-high 23 offensive boards that led to 23 second-chance points for the Rockets.
“When the ball goes up, you have to make that effort to go after the ball. We can’t leak out and we can’t give up second-chance opportunities, and that’s what killed us,” forward Jeff Green(notes) said.
Those struggles overshadowed another strong performance from Kevin Durant(notes), who had 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists. The third-year forward is averaging 28.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists while shooting 49.0 percent from the field over his last five games.
Durant has been held to 13.5 points and 41.4 percent shooting in two career games against Philadelphia. He missed the Thunder’s 89-74 win over the Sixers on March 8 because of an ankle injury.
Philadelphia had won five straight in the series before that defeat. It could have an easier time resuming its success against Oklahoma City with Elton Brand(notes) healthy. Brand returned to the Sixers lineup Monday after missing three games with a sore right hamstring. He had 21 points and 10 rebounds while going 8 for 12 from the field in 25 minutes off the bench.
Brand, averaging 17.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists in his last six games against the Thunder franchise, has averaged 16.8 points and 9.6 boards over his last five games overall.