Allen Iverson

LeBron James carrying Cavaliers to NBA Finals like Allen Iverson did with Sixers

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AP Images

LeBron James carrying Cavaliers to NBA Finals like Allen Iverson did with Sixers

Allen Iverson, for all his flaws, is a god in the City of Philadelphia.

His most memorable season was his MVP year in 2000-01. That season, Iverson carried a team of misfits all the way to the NBA Finals. Sound familiar? Like maybe something exactly like that is happening right now?

LeBron James, for as much hate as he got for “The Decision,” is Cleveland’s prodigal son. 

This season is one of his most memorable, playing all 82 games for the first time, leading the NBA in minutes per game and scoring 27.5 points a game – his highest mark in almost a decade. James has now carried a team of misfits to the NBA Finals. Like déjà vu all over again.

As Game 1 approaches of Round 4 of Cavs-Warriors, it’s amazing to see the parallels between what A.I. did and what LeBron is doing.

They eerily played the same opponents in the first two rounds: The Pacers in Round 1 and the Raptors in Round 2. Both teams had two of their three playoff series go to seven games, including both Eastern Conference Finals.

And they both took on dynasties in the Finals. Iverson had to deal with the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant Lakers at their peak. L.A. was going for its second of what turned out to be three straight titles. LeBron is taking on the star-studded Warriors for the fourth straight season. The Warriors have won two out of the three previous matchups.

Iverson scored 723 total points during his run, third-most in playoff history. James has 612 points already this postseason and is averaging 34 points per game. If he continues at this rate, even a sweep would put LeBron at 746 points, which would be second only to Michael Jordan in 1991-92 (759). Offensively, these are two of the most dominant runs in NBA postseason history.

It’s amazing the disparity in scoring numbers both players had compared to their supporting casts. Aaron McKie was the second-leading scorer for the Sixers (336) while Mutombo was third (319). That’s a 387-point difference from McKie and a 404-point difference from Mutombo. Kevin Love’s 237 points are second to James and Kyle Korver’s 176, are third. That’s a 375-point and 436-point differential. 

For some perspective, Shaq (487) and Kobe’s (471) differential was 16. Kevin Durant (493) and Klay Thompson’s (348) is 145 – factoring in that Stephen Curry missed the first six games of the playoffs with a knee injury. 

Can James pull off what Iverson couldn’t and beat a juggernaut with little help? The odds aren’t great. 

The Warriors are listed at -12 for Game 1. That’s the biggest NBA Finals Game 1 spread since – you guessed it – A.I. and company went into Staples Center and took the first game. Golden State is at -900 to win the series (That number rose as high as -1200 at one point). James has been the underdog in seven of his nine trips to the Finals. 

There is one big difference between the situation surrounding Iverson and James: LeBron might not be back in Cleveland. Iverson was just hitting his prime and was beloved in Philadelphia. James is 33 – though still performing as if he’s at his peak – and will enter free agency. 

If LeBron decides to leave the Cavs and sign with A.I.’s former team, don’t expect him to carry this big of a load.

Ben Simmons still high on confidence after worst game of career

Ben Simmons still high on confidence after worst game of career

CAMDEN, N.J. — After the worst performance of his rookie season, Ben Simmons insisted he’s not short on confidence. Friday, he talked with one of the more confident players to ever wear a Sixers uniform.

“I spoke to A.I. before I came in here today,” Simmons said after practice. “He just told me, play the game I know how to play. And that’s just second nature to me.”

Simmons said Allen Iverson wanted to talk with him after his dismal, one-point effort in Game 2 against the Celtics. The rookie has said he admired Iverson growing up and had a poster of the Sixers’ legend in his room, while Iverson has raved about Simmons and hasn’t been shy about sharing advice with his “little dudes.”

As Simmons sees it, the keys to bouncing back are pretty simple — it’s all about him playing his game and not overthinking, which he mentioned was a problem Thursday night (see story).

“I think just thinking too much about everything, every play on the floor,” Simmons said. “I think I’m looking at it with too much detail and not just playing.”

So, what caused Simmons to overthink in Game 2? Was it the Celtics’ defensive speed?

“No,” Simmons said.

Did Boston’s physicality bother him?

“No,” he said again, this time with a smile and a shake of the head.

According to Simmons, the Celtics are “just loading the paint, which means somebody’s gotta be open. So we need to move the ball quicker.”

Coach Brett Brown also said the Celtics aren’t doing anything exotic, just executing the standard strategy of sagging off Simmons at a high level.

“What they are doing is taking what the league did all year, but just doing it really well,” Brown said. “They’re a disciplined team. … They really have individual defensive pieces that are exceptional. We’re seeing a wall. Early in [LeBron James'] days, that was all he saw. You’re going to live with a pull-up, not a layup, and you’re going to see five jerseys and five sets of numbers. And I think that the Celtics are doing a really good job in that regard.”

One edge the Celtics have over most teams defensively when guarding Simmons is their ability to cross-match effectively in transition. Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford — whoever the Celtics throw on Simmons is capable of defending him and stymying any fast-break opportunities. The first two games of this series have been played at a 97.12 pace, well below both the Sixers’ 102.2 regular-season average and their 102.99 average during the first round against Miami.

“I think they’ve really been locked into me going to the boards and getting out early, so I think I just need to be a little quicker, kick the ball ahead maybe or be the first one down the floor and get somebody to throw the ball to me,” Simmons said. “However it is, we've just got to get it done tomorrow, and take it day by day.”

Allen Iverson raves about Ben Simmons playing beyond his years

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Allen Iverson raves about Ben Simmons playing beyond his years

The voice of the Sixers, Marc Zumoff, hooked up with perhaps the most famous Sixer of all-time, Allen Iverson, to talk about Brett Brown's team that is poised to take Philly to the playoffs for the first time in years.

Iverson was a guest on Zoo's Views podcast this week and spoke about "his little dudes," his loving name for the current Sixers squad.

Ben Simmons is a guy who sticks out for not looking like a rookie.

"I see someone who is a great player far beyond his age," Iverson said. "You don't usually see a player with that mindset. The athletic ability, you see it all the time, but his mindset, he plays the game the right way."

"At times out there he looks like he's been in this league for years and he's a rookie. That's very unique for a guy to come in and be so unselfish, caring about the team, and having every aspect of his game getting better. You can tell he gets better all the time. You can see when people tries to take things from him, he still gets it done."

As for The Answer's advice for today's Sixers, it's all about sticking together.

"I think the sky is the limit for this team. We should want it now but if not my message to them would be to not get frustrated in the process. Understand that there will be some learning experiences. There will be some ups and downs. Stick together, believe in each other night in and night out. Win together, lose together, laugh together, and cry together. I'm looking forward to these coming playoffs. Win four games and we on to the next."

You can listen to the full conversation between Zoo and A.I. below or download and subscribe to Zoo's Views right here.

2:00 — Iverson’s thoughts on this year’s team?
3:00 — Big fan of Brett Brown ... Reminds him of Popovich ... And Larry Brown
5:00 — Ben Simmons plays like a veteran
8:00 — Embiid is great for Sixers and the NBA as a whole
9:30 — Would he have been big on social media if it existed during his career?
10:30 — How would a 30-year-old Allen Iverson fit in with this Sixers team?
12:00 — He would’ve been a better player with this roster
12:20 — Advice for this team