76ers

Allen Iverson on Aaron McKie: 'I owe a lot to him'

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Allen Iverson on Aaron McKie: 'I owe a lot to him'

Allen Iverson was the centerpiece of the Sixers for the 10-plus years he was in Philadelphia. He made 11 All-Star teams, seven All-NBA teams, won four scoring titles and a league MVP award.

But he did not accomplish those things as a one-man band.

“Without my teammates none of this, the accomplishments I have had in my career, they would not have happened without those guys,” Iverson rightfully acknowledged during his retirement ceremony on Wednesday (see story). “Those guys set screens for me, they played hard for me and they were with me the whole way in allowing me to become a household name.”

Teammates came and went in Iverson’s 14-year career, but friendships were also made, and one such relationship in particular resonates with Iverson as special.

The question was simple: Which of your teammates stood out the most as a positive influence on you?

There was no hesitation in Iverson’s answer and it was wrapped in true, heartfelt gratitude.

“Aaron McKie,” Iverson said and he repeated the name three more times. “I mean he was my teammate but he was on another level. He was my teammate but he was my friend.”

Iverson paused long and hard in between his thoughts, fighting back tears.

“He helped me so much in my career,” Iverson continued. “I talk about the mistakes that I made in my career. I made a million of them, but if it weren’t for Aaron McKie I would have made two million of them. He is just somebody I always listened to and could talk to about anything.”

Iverson always has a way with words and the one million, two million comment brought laughter to a very emotional moment for him.

And in sharing a friendship with McKie, Iverson learned a life lesson: Stay open to new experiences.

“I had guys I grew up with that I loved and cared about and I have a lot of admiration and respect for them, but this is a guy that I met up here on the high level,” Iverson said. “People say once you get to that level you don’t want any more new friends. I don’t need them, I have enough of them. But don’t close that door because people like him do come along in life, and I just owe a lot to him.”

What Iverson feels for McKie is a two-way street.

“I have never had a problem expressing to him how I felt about a situation, something in a game or get here on time or do this, do that,” McKie said. “He knew I was going to be honest and respected that, and the thing that I respected was that he never really cared what people thought about him and never changed himself. I have a lot of respect for people who feel that way.”

Mutual respect and no regrets were the themes of Iverson’s retirement announcement. Throughout the course of The Answer fielding questions, there was clarity about the core of Iverson’s message.

“I am not wasting time thinking about if I go back in time because you can’t change it. It is what it is. This is who I am and I think I did pretty good with who and what I am,” McKie surmised.

Only the best of friends could have summed up A.I. in such a description.

Sixers Talk podcast: Matisse Thybulle might already be the sixth man

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NBC Sports Philadelphia/NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sixers Talk podcast: Matisse Thybulle might already be the sixth man

Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss the amount of games they expect Joel Embiid to play, Ben Simmons' self-awareness and Matisse Thybulle already surpassing expectations.

• Will Embiid set a career high in games played with his new load management plan? The guys make a friendly wager.

• Simmons gave arguably the most thoughtful quote he's ever given.

• Is Thybulle already the Sixers' sixth best player?

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Sixers pick up Zhaire Smith's third-year option, make clear call to bank on his further development

Sixers pick up Zhaire Smith's third-year option, make clear call to bank on his further development

Zhaire Smith's role with the Sixers isn't yet clear for this season, but the 20-year-old guard has a future with the team.

General manager Elton Brand confirmed that Wednesday. The team announced it has exercised Smith's third-year option for the 2020-21 season, worth $3.2 million

The Sixers acquired Smith and the Miami Heat's 2021 first-round pick last year in a draft-night trade with the Phoenix Suns, who received Mikal Bridges. Smith played in six regular-season games his rookie year, averaging 6.7 points and and 2.2 rebounds per game, but that's far from the whole story. Smith broke his foot in August, then suffered a severe allergic reaction and subsequent complications that led to him losing over 35 pounds. Over time, Smith regained his standout athleticism and rebuilt his jump shot after changing his form to compensate for his loss of strength (see story).

Head coach Brett Brown described Smith during training camp as a "pogo stick" and has praised his talent for on-ball defense, comparing him on multiple occasions to Avery Bradley. However, Smith has not been part of the Sixers' rotation during the preseason. Brown has acknowledged that development is a great priority for the Sixers with Smith than immediate contribution, especially after everything he went through as a rookie. The emergence of rookie Matisse Thybulle and solid play of Shake Milton during the preseason are further reasons why Smith hasn't been playing with the Sixers' regulars. Smith played the entire fourth quarter Tuesday night of the Sixers' 106-86 win over the Pistons and had seven points and three rebounds.

"It's just a process, so I'm not worried about it," he said. "As long as we get the win, it doesn't matter."

Given the potential the Sixers saw in Smith — and continue to see — it never seemed plausible that they would decline his third-year option.

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