With Iverson barred from the building and on his way out of Philadelphia, the short-handed 76ers couldn’t overcome Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler in the Washington Wizards’ 113-98 victory Friday night.
“We’re going to go out and put effort on the floor no matter who’s out there,” Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. “I’ll concentrate on whatever guys we have in the locker room, it doesn’t matter who it is.”
Iverson will likely never change in that locker room again.
The Sixers caught a glimpse of life without Iverson, their former MVP who led them to the NBA finals in 2001. Iverson may have played his last game in Philadelphia after he asked to be traded this week. Sixers chairman Ed Snider said the team is prepared to trade Iverson, ending his 11-year stint with the team that made him the No. 1 pick in the 1996 draft.
“It’s just time for him to go his way and for us to go our way,” Snider said.
In a surprising turn of events, Iverson was banished by the club and didn’t play Friday. Team president Billy King said the move was not a suspension and Iverson’s future would be re-evaluated after Saturday night’s game at Orlando.
King and Cheeks said Iverson was sent home because he did not practice on Thursday and left Wednesday’s blowout loss at Chicago with back spasms. However, the move to bench their captain comes with Iverson’s name swirling in heavy trade rumors.
Iverson released a statement through his agent, Leon Rose, stating that he told the Sixers he was healthy enough to play.
Iverson said he was told not to participate in shootaround and instead watched from the sideline. He joined the Sixers in the huddle, then was told by Cheeks not to come to the Wachovia Center.
“As hard as it is to admit, a change may be the best thing for everyone,” Iverson said. “I hate admitting that because I love the guys on the team and the city of Philadelphia. I truly wanted to retire a 76er.”
Whether Iverson sticks around or not, the Sixers seem destined toward the draft lottery again. The lowly Sixers lost their sixth straight game, 13 of 15 overall and dropped to 5-13 overall.
Arenas finished with 32 points, and Butler had 20 points and 11 rebounds. DeShawn Stevenson had 17 points and Brendan Haywood 12 to lead the Wizards to their second straight win on the road after dropping their first eight. They beat New York on Wednesday to start their dominance against the Atlantic Division’s worst.
“We were passing the ball and everybody played good defense,” Stevenson said.
The Sixers were up by 20 in the second quarter, but, as has been their habit the last two years under Cheeks, let the lead disintegrate. The Wizards got consecutive 3-pointers from Arenas and Stevenson midway through the third to key an 18-2 run that put them up 73-65.
“It was a struggle at first. The shots just weren’t going down,” said Wizards coach Eddie Jordan. “We were calm throughout. I thought we had a chance.”
Philadelphia pecked away in the fourth, with Willie Green hitting a 3-pointer that pulled the Sixers within eight. Two layups by Steven Hunter midway through the fourth kept it an eight-point game, but Arenas scored five straight points to help put away the game. ^Notes: Referee Joe Crawford left the game with a leg injury in the first quarter. … Arenas hit a pair of near-halfcourt shots at the buzzer to end the first and second quarters. … The Wizards hadn’t won in Philadelphia since 2004.