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The Iverson Effect: Can Sixers Sustain Buzz?

12/8/2009

By Chris Sheridan

PHILADELPHIA - 76ers general manager Ed Stefanski was a man of mixed emotions Tuesday.

His Philadelphia 76ers were the talk of the town again for the first time in a long time, but for all the positive vibes that Allen Iverson's comeback game produced, the 76ers lost for the 10th straight time.

Next up is Wednesday night's home game against the Detroit Pistons, the first test of whether the Iverson buzz will sustain itself after the Sixers drew their first regular-season sellout crowd since April 10 against Cleveland -- which also happened to be the 76ers' only home sellout all of last season (excluding the one game they played at the Spectrum).

Monday's sellout bumped the Sixers from 29th to 28th in the league attendance standings, upping their average from 11,966 to 12,932. Only the Memphis Grizzlies (11,592) and Sacramento Kings (12,146) are drawing fewer fans.

"Last night was an interesting night. I’ve never witnessed anything like it for a guy returning," Stefanski told ESPN.com after practice Tuesday. "There’s no question there’s a mutual love affair, he loves the fans and they love him, and that was so evident last night. Every time he touched the ball they were cheering."

Iverson's return was plastered across both the front and back pages of the local tabloid, the Philadelphia Daily News (Front page headline: "Not The Answer Yet." Back page headline: "From Fast To Gassed"), and remained a focal point on the local all-sports radio station.

What remained uncertain was how much of a carryover effect the Iverson buzz would have Wednesday night, and beyond. The Sixers would release no information on ticket sales Tuesday other than to say seats in all price ranges remained available for Wednesday's game against the Pistons and Friday against Houston.

"With the Eagles, this has always been a pro football town, and the Flyers have their faithful who have always been great for the Flyers, and I think the Phillies and the Sixers have fought for those other fans," Stefanski said. "Now, the Phillies have gotten it together very nicely and have been to the World Series two years in a row, and it’s us fighting for that other spot. And you’re always working on it. We made the playoffs two years in a row but got knocked out in the first round both times, so it’s hard to get that buzz going. Last night we had it, but in order for us to sustain any kind of a buzz we’re going to have to start winning some basketball games.

"When we signed him, I said we did it because Lou Williams was out 30 games, and I said if the byproduct is selling some tickets, so be it. That’d be great. And we got the bump, but in order to sustain anything we’re going to have to win."