76ers

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

iverson-mckie-slide-ap.jpg

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.

Four main issues to consider for Sixers with Ben Simmons to undergo knee surgery

Four main issues to consider for Sixers with Ben Simmons to undergo knee surgery

A rational response to the news Saturday that Ben Simmons will have surgery to remove a loose body from his left knee is that it’s time to recalibrate expectations for the Sixers. 

The notion of a championship run naturally dims with the loss of an All-Star. With four seeding games to go before the playoffs, the Sixers will have to address the myriad of concerns raised by Simmons’ absence.

Let’s dissect four main issues: 

Guarding stars 

When games this season have been on the line, Simmons has often helped the Sixers seize control with excellent defense on the opponent’s best playmaker. His versatility has also enabled the Sixers to give other players favorable matchups.

Who takes on the job of defending top scoring threats late in games? It will presumably be dictated by matchups — for instance, you’d think Joel Embiid and Al Horford would guard Giannis Antetokounmpo, while Josh Richardson and Matisse Thybulle would split time on Jayson Tatum. There’s no default answer anymore, and it’ll be a bigger challenge to “hide” players like Furkan Korkmaz.

Horford in the spotlight 

The instinctive reaction when a team loses a player of Simmons’ caliber is that everyone else needs to "step up." That’s fair enough, and yet much of the attention will shift specifically to Horford.

He started in Simmons’ place on Friday and played well, scoring 21 points and grabbing nine rebounds. His much-scrutinized pairing with Embiid is the only Sixers duo with at least 300 minutes together this year to have a negative net rating. In 60 Horford-Embiid minutes at Disney World, though, the Sixers have a plus-9.2 net rating. 

Notably, the presence of Simmons has had a negative effect on the Horford-Embiid pairing, at least offensively. The team has a 98.7 offensive rating when Horford, Embiid and Simmons have played together, by far the worst of any three-man group. Perhaps removing Simmons from the equation and losing another player whose preferred territory is near the rim in the process will help Horford-Embiid lineups score efficiently. 

When Brett Brown was asked what he found out about his team Friday night with Simmons sidelined, Horford was the first name that came to his mind. 

“You can’t help but feel an emerging Al Horford,” he said. “It’s clear that he understands we need him more than we ever have needed him.” 

Post-ups and 3s 

During the eight-game stretch in late February and early March when Simmons was out with a nerve impingement in his back, the Sixers fired up 35.8 three-point attempts per game and converted 42.3 percent. They’ve posted up far more than any other team and have the league’s best high-volume post player in Embiid. Without Simmons, a blend of Embiid post touches and more three-point attempts from players such as Richardson and Tobias Harris would make sense. 

Brown has requested throughout the year that Harris and Richardson “hunt threes." The Sixers, however, are 20th in three-point attempts per game out of the 22 teams in Florida. There has to be a collective willingness to shoot from beyond the arc, and a reduction in the low-efficiency plays where an open three turns into a contested two. 

Embiid’s averages at Disney World are 30 points, 13.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists. He’s attempted 11.4 free throws per game and facilitated for teammates well when powering through a double team isn’t the smart play.

“(He has) the willingness and unselfishness, born with the confidence of ‘I know where my teammates are coming,’ under a backdrop of a poise and a patience — it’s ball to chin, tuck it in stuff you’d teach young players — and he’s figuring stuff out quite quickly — like real quickly,” Brown said before Friday’s game.

“All of those things, when you add them all up, equal a team offense. Arguably the best play that J-Rich can have or Tobias can have is throw the ball into Jo and they’re probably going to double, and then it’s coming back out.” 

Creativity required 

The Sixers’ unofficial mantra this year has been “built for the playoffs.” They maintained faith that talent, size and defense would prevail in the postseason. 

Being down a star should change that. Against the Celtics, Bucks or Raptors, Brown may need to adopt unorthodox strategies if feeding Embiid, relying on the big man to protect the rim and asking Thybulle and Richardson to shut down perimeter scorers is ineffective. 

That could look like blitzing the pick-and-roll if Kemba Walker is giving Richardson trouble. It could mean calling some double drag actions with Embiid and Horford if the defense is denying the Cameroonian and Horford is knocking down jumpers and distributing sharply as a pick-and-pop guy.

Perhaps Brown could ask for spurts of full-court pressure with Thybulle on the floor in an effort to force turnovers, spark transition offense and boost the rookie’s disruptive abilities. If Alec Burks is hot and Milton is making poised, intelligent decisions, Brown could play the two ball handlers together, as he did Friday at the start of the fourth quarter.

Philosophically, Brown likes letting his players figure things out for themselves and setting them up in “environments” over calling a ton of plays. He may now have to embrace greater proactivity and innovation. 

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: 
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons to undergo surgery for loose body in left knee

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons to undergo surgery for loose body in left knee

Ben Simmons will undergo surgery to remove a loose body in his left knee, a source confirmed Saturday to NBC Sports Philadelphia. Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium first reported the news. 

He'd been diagnosed with a left patella subluxation, an injury he sustained in the Sixers' win over the Wizards on Wednesday. A source told NBC Sports Philadelphia the loose body resulted from the subluxation, and that surgery was decided as the best option after consultation with the Sixers' medical staff and several specialists. Simmons will leave the NBA's campus at Disney World and further updates will be provided after the procedure. 

This news clearly makes things much more difficult for the Sixers, who are sixth in the Eastern Conference with four seeding games remaining. Simmons made his second All-Star team this year and has immense value as an ultra-versatile defender, passer and transition playmaker. 

Without him Friday night, Al Horford started and had 21 points and nine rebounds in a win over the Magic. Guard Alec Burks also had a strong game with 22 points. They're two of the players who will be asked to elevate their games in Simmons' absence, while an even heavier burden will fall on Joel Embiid. 

We reviewed several of the big questions posed by the 24-year-old's injury here while he was evaluating his treatment options. 

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: 
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.