Saturday, May 4
Updated: May 7, 9:05 PM ET
 
With season over, controversy just beginning

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Larry Brown plans to return to the Philadelphia 76ers. Allen Iverson's future isn't so clear.

One day after the defending Eastern Conference champions were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, Brown indicated that Iverson, last season's NBA MVP, could be traded if he doesn't change his ways.

"My problems with Allen have been the same for six years," Brown said Saturday. "I love him, his competitiveness. I'm proud of the way he tries in every game. The issues are things he has control over and he'll have a problem with me if he doesn't take care of it. He has to be at practice. He has to set an example. He knows that if he's willing to do that, he'll be a Sixer for life."

Iverson nearly was sent to Detroit after the 1999-2000 season, but the trade fell apart because former Sixer Matt Geiger, who was part of the multiple-player deal, refused to waive a no-trade kicker in his contract.

Scorned by the rumors, Iverson vowed he'd be a team player on the court and a leader off it. For the most part, he fulfilled his promise, won the MVP award and helped the Sixers reach the NBA Finals for the first time in 18 years, before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers.

But Iverson reverted to his old ways this season. He waited until the week before training camp started to have surgery on his right elbow and missed the first five games -- guard Aaron McKie waited until the same day to have surgery on his shoulder and missed the first four games.

Iverson often missed practices, sometimes using lame excuses. More than once, he didn't show up to practice because he said his son, Deuce, was sick. He sat out practice the day before Game 3 against the Celtics because of a cold.

Though he led the league in scoring for the third time, Iverson took bad shots often, and didn't always get his teammates involved in the offense.

"I don't want to look at repercussions," Brown said. "I'm looking at a kid who wants to win, and says he doesn't have a selfish bone in his body. I heard him say he wants to be the first to practice and the last to leave, so now do it."

Iverson didn't speak to reporters after clearing out his locker, but some of his teammates believe his relationship with Brown still can be worked out.

"It's been five years and it isn't any better. It isn't any worse, so they can coexist," point guard Eric Snow said. "The issue is between coach and Allen. It affects them. It doesn't affect the players as individuals."

Center Dikembe Mutombo said perhaps he will try to help Brown and Iverson solve their differences.

"We're all human," he said.

Whether Iverson stays or not, Brown and general manager Billy King have a lot of work to do to get the Sixers back atop the East.

Philadelphia's problems this season were largely due to injuries -- Iverson missed 22 games, Snow missed 21, McKie sat out 34 and forward Derrick Coleman was out for 24. The entire team didn't practice together until the playoffs.

Still, the Sixers clearly need faster, more athletic players. They also need more versatility and better shooters from the outside. The Celtics advanced because they shot 19-for-29 from 3-point range in Game 5.

"We're going to figure out a way to get better," Brown said. "We had no control over injuries. When I saw our training camp, I knew this would be an uphill battle.

"We're going to do everything we can to make it better. We're going to do everything we can to make guys do it the right way and if they're not going to do that, they're not going to be here."

Despite falling three victories short of winning a championship last year, the Sixers made major changes in the offseason, bringing back just six players.

They could make even more moves this year, starting with Iverson.

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