The Philadelphia 76ers needed a spark when they signed Allen Iverson in December. Now, with the 10-time All-Star's second stint with the team over, the Sixers will have to find another way to add some life to their disappointing season.
A day after announcing Iverson will not return to the team this season, Philadelphia visits the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.
After getting waived by Memphis in November, Iverson signed a one-year, non-guaranteed contract with the 76ers on Dec. 2, bringing back the first overall pick in 1996 to the team he played for until getting traded to Denver in 2006.
Iverson, though, appeared in just 25 games for the 76ers before leaving the team last month to be with his family as they deal with an undisclosed illness of his 4-year-old daughter.
The four-time scoring champion, who is 17th all-time with 24,368 points, averaged 13.9 points and 4.1 assists for Philadelphia (22-37), which is in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
"After discussing the situation with Allen, we have come to the conclusion that he will not return to the Sixers for the remainder of the season, as he no longer wishes to be a distraction to the organization and teammates that he loves very deeply," team president Ed Stefanski said Tuesday.
"It has been very difficult for Allen and the team to maintain any consistency as he tries to balance his career with his personal life."
Iverson last played Feb. 20, and five days earlier, he said it was difficult for him to be away from his family.
"It was tough to leave her and my wife and kids," he said. "But I do have a commitment and an obligation to be with my team and to do my job. But it is rough. I think this is the only thing I do in life where for a couple hours during the game I don't think about nothing but (basketball)."
Sixers leading scorer Andre Iguodala said Iverson will be missed.
"He did a good job bringing his personality to us," Iguodala said. "On the plane, on the bus, just having a chance to laugh. He brought a huge positive side. Guys enjoyed being around him."
With Iverson gone, Philadelphia has to focus on the Hawks (38-21), who have won four of five and trail Southeast Division-leading Orlando by two games.
After getting passed over for a spot in last month's All-Star game, Josh Smith has been a crucial part of Atlanta's recent surge, averaging 21.0 points, 13.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.3 steals in the past four games.
"I'm playing with a chip on my shoulder, however, I know it's most important to win," Smith said after grabbing a season-best 18 boards in a 116-92 win at Chicago on Monday. "I am focused on winning all of them from here on out."
Smith had 20 points, six rebounds and three blocks while Jamal Crawford scored 11 of his 24 in the fourth quarter of a 100-86 victory in Philadelphia on Nov. 27.
Iguodala had 27 points, nine assists and six rebounds in the last visit to Philips Arena, a 109-94 victory Jan. 11, 2009.