Bucks 117, 76ers 108
-- When he opened the door of his jet-black Rolls-Royce, hip-hop music blaring from the speakers, Allen Iverson didn't exactly step out of the pages of GQ magazine, but he wasn't in violation of the league's new "business casual" dress code, either -- no matter how "fake" he thought it was.
Iverson wore a loose-fitting brown shirt with matching slacks, a brown leather jacket and tan, suede wallaby shoes as he was greeted by a crowd of about 25 people -- fans, reporters, photographers and cameramen -- waiting for his grand entrance. The mercurial guard for the Philadelphia 76ers smiled at the onlookers, pumped his fist, then flashed the peace sign.
Iverson, a lightning rod for controversy throughout his career, was placed at the center of the debate regarding the NBA's latest attempt to address its image concerns. Entering Wachovia Center alongside former 76ers great World B. Free, Iverson was no longer free to wear 'do-rags, oversize T-shirts, baseball caps or platinum medallions to his place of business. While he originally said he was willing to fight the dress code, Iverson sounded more amenable to the change after the 76ers' 117-108 overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.
"It's my job. They put in a dress code. I just have to deal with it," he said after scoring a game-high 35 points. "No need to cry about it. People think I have a big problem with it, like I can't follow a rule, but I don't have a problem with it."
Believe it or not, Iverson -- the player who once was frustrated and irritated for having to talk about practice -- was in the locker room talking about fashion before the game. He was talking about fashion. Sixers forward Lee Nailon reached into Chris Webber's locker, picked up Webber's snazzy gray suit and howled in admiration. "I'm going to wear one" today, Iverson screamed from across the room as he laced up his sneakers. "What? A suit?" Nailon asked.
"They want us to get down. I'm going to get down," Iverson said, before Webber and Nailon burst into laughter. Iverson walked away and moments later, then set about to try to dress down the Bucks.
For about 47 minutes, Iverson looked sure that he and Webber would lead the 76ers to a season-opening victory, and put to rest -- at least for one night -- concerns that the superstar duo could not play together. Iverson and Webber (32 points, 14 rebounds) scored 30 or more points each for just the second time as teammates, but neither could lift the 76ers, who blew a seven-point lead with 1 minute 7 seconds left. "We just cracked," Iverson said. "We had this game. We're not supposed to lose that one. I would rather get blown out."
The Bucks closed the game on a 22-6 run and upstaged the 76ers on a night when they welcomed new coach and former star Maurice Cheeks and honored the 1983 championship team by bringing back Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Chuck Daly, a former Sixers assistant. Iverson's pregame garb took a back seat to Bucks guard T.J. Ford's return to the league after missing the past 20 months with a spinal cord injury and the debut of the Bucks' No. 1 pick, Andrew Bogut. They both proved critical down the stretch.
The Bucks made a massive transformation in the offseason by drafting Bogut, re-signing Michael Redd, snatching free agent Bobby Simmons from the Los Angeles Clippers and trading for all-star center Jamaal Magloire last week. But Ford played as if he could be the key to a playoff resurgence.
In his first game since a collision with Minnesota forward Mark Madsen nearly ended his career on Feb. 24, 2004, Ford almost had a triple-double with 16 points, 14 assists and 9 rebounds. He absorbed a few blows, hit the deck a few times but bounced back up. "I'm still going to be aggressive," Ford said. "The only thing is, I'm a lot smarter. I know how to handle contact and I know when not to do it. Eighty-two games, I'm trying not to get pounded all day long."
With the Sixers leading, 102-99, in the closing seconds, Ford dribbled around in circles until he found Redd (30 points) open for a three-pointer to tie the game with 1.6 seconds left in regulation. Bogut had 13 points and nine rebounds and sent the Sixers fans toward the turnstiles with a three-point play that put the game out of reach in overtime. "That's not my goal, to win rookie of the year," Bogut said. "I don't care about that stuff. Individual goals. Usually, the rookie of the year doesn't make it to the playoffs. I'd rather make it to the playoffs."
Webber, the former Washington Wizard, was given a standing ovation in the first half during a strong start but couldn't get his shot to fall in the fourth quarter or overtime.
At least he and Iverson left the arena looking nice.