Instead, he was back with the 76ers for another opener. But with livelier defense and more confidence down the stretch, it seemed to Iverson as if he was with a whole new team.
"If you play great defense, you get a chance to make your offense better," Iverson said. "That's how we'll get better, by playing defense. If we can rebound the basketball, I don't think nobody can deal with us."
Maybe the Sixers didn't have to change their roster to be a better team after all.
With nearly the entire roster back from a team that missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons and had no significant additions, not much was expected this season from the Sixers.
And with the Eagles underachieving and the Flyers shaking up their personnel, there was little buzz for the Sixers opener, translating into plenty of empty seats, especially in the upper deck.
The Sixers led by as many as 23 late in the third quarter and were poised to turn this one into a blowout until the familiar problem of wasting large leads happened again.
In last season's opener, the Sixers squandered a late double-digit lead in the final minutes and lost in overtime, setting the tone for a familiar pattern the rest of the year. Not this time.
"After last year's first game, this is a step in the right direction," coach Maurice Cheeks said.
But not before the Sixers took a brief detour toward a more troubling direction.
The Hawks chipped away and pulled to 81-71 late in the fourth on Childress' jumper. The Sixers handed Atlanta more opportunities, on a shot clock violation, and missed shots by Iverson and Webber on the same possession, but the Hawks went cold down the stretch and didn't convert either of those chances.
Not surprising. They are the Hawks.
Webber then hit a 17-footer and Dalembert dunked. The lead was back to 15 and the Sixers were back on their way.
"I think we used up too much energy to get it to 10," Childress said. "It's frustrating because it was the first game of the season and we came out flat."
Defense was a training camp priority for the Sixers after pretty much blowing a playoff spot because they couldn't play any last season. The results were promising: Philadelphia held the Hawks to 33 percent shooting and outrebounded them 47-42.
"It's the first game, you know?" Webber said, his twinkle, if not his shooting (4-for-16), in midseason form. "We'll see how it goes after that."
Having an early cushion certainly helped the Sixers survive the late run.
Dalembert hit a turnaround jumper to start a 15-0 run and help the Sixers dash to a 21-4 lead. Iverson hit a 3-pointer during the spurt and Iguodala converted a rare four-point play that energized the crowd.
The Hawks went on a couple of runs here and there, but Iverson hit a jumper from the left wing in the waning seconds to give the Sixers a 49-35 halftime lead.
"We couldn't make shots early in the game, dug a hole and couldn't climb back," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said.
Iverson was back for his 11th season in Philadelphia and didn't look like he lost a step. Iverson scored 30-plus points in a game last season a whopping 49 times and might be able to top that this year now that veteran Kevin Ollie is starting with Iverson in the backcourt and assuming the true point guard role.
Iverson had a solid overall game, going 9-for-21 from the floor, 13-for-14 from the free throw line with six assists.
|Flying high with A.I.: Allen Iverson goes 9-for-21 from the field and 13-for-14 from the line. (Getty Images)|
|Philadelphia (1-0) «||29||20||24||15||88|
|ATL:J. Johnson 25 Pts
ATL:Z. Pachulia 12 Reb
ATL:J. Johnson 4 Ast
|PHI:A. Iverson 32 Pts
PHI:C. Webber 13 Reb
PHI:A. Iverson 6 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|J. Johnson, SG||46||9-23||4-4||4||4||3||25|
|Z. Pachulia, PF||42||4-9||7-8||12||1||2||15|
|J. Smith, SG||33||2-10||1-2||7||2||5||5|
|S. Claxton, PG||28||0-5||3-4||1||0||3||3|
|S. Williams, PF||16||0-2||0-0||3||0||3||0|
|J. Childress, SG||34||7-16||1-1||10||2||1||15|
|T. Lue, PG||23||4-9||3-3||1||2||5||12|
|S. Stoudamire, SG||8||0-3||0-0||2||0||2||0|
|S. Jones, PF||5||0-1||0-0||1||0||0||0|
|M. Freije, SF||3||0-0||0-0||1||0||0||0|
|C. Bozeman, SG||2||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0|
|L. Wright, C||Did Not Play|
|M. Williams, F||Did Not Play|
|R. Ivey, PG||Did Not Play|
|E. Batista, PF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|A. Iverson, PG||43||9-21||13-14||4||6||0||32|
|A. Iguodala, SG||41||4-8||5-5||4||5||2||15|
|C. Webber, PF||34||4-16||0-0||13||3||2||8|
|K. Ollie, PG||25||3-7||0-0||2||3||4||6|
|S. Dalembert, C||25||4-4||3-4||11||0||4||11|
|K. Korver, SF||28||2-8||2-2||4||1||3||6|
|S. Hunter, C||19||3-4||0-0||6||0||3||6|
|W. Green, SG||10||1-5||0-0||0||1||3||2|
|R. Carney, SF||8||1-1||0-0||1||0||0||2|
|S. Randolph, PF||7||0-0||0-0||2||0||1||0|
|A. Henderson, PF||Did Not Play|
|B. Jones, SF||Did Not Play|
|I. McFarlin, PF||Did Not Play|
|L. Williams, SG||Did Not Play|
|S. Smith, SF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|