PHILADELPHIA (AP) The Philadelphia 76ers are still unable to shed Allen Iverson and a wretched losing streak. The Sixers would love to be rid of both, and soon.
But Iverson was still a Sixer on Tuesday, five days after chairman Ed Snider said they were seeking to deal the seven-time All-Star and former MVP. Instead, it was another day full of unfounded rumors and speculation, but no new home for Iverson and his 31.2 points per game.
Players have grown weary of the daily Iverson interrogations, and insisted after Tuesday's practice the only thing they cared about was ending their longest losing streak in nine years.
``I don't really let (rumors) affect me,'' Sixers center Samuel Dalembert said. ``I've been hearing it for six years, on and off. This time, I think it's a little bit more serious, but other than that, we've got to play through it.''
For all the scoring he brought to the Sixers, not even Iverson could make a difference for a franchise sliding toward another draft lottery. The Sixers were stuck in last place when he was placed on in the inactive list Friday, and they're still there after Monday's loss to Portland.
The Sixers take an eight-game losing streak into Wednesday night's game against Boston, their worst skid since April 1997. The Sixers (5-15) have lost 15 of 17 and are tied with Charlotte for the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
Never mind the trade rumors. Nothing is taking a toll on the Sixers quite like the losing. Coach Maurice Cheeks said he's preaching to the Sixers how much he still believes in them.
Perhaps he should raise his voice.
``The last couple of games that we've had, we've had very good games although the outcome hasn't been what we've wanted,'' he said. ``The effort has been very strong. Our play on the defensive end has been strong, passing the ball and utilizing the talents that we have. The guys believe that it's going to turn around. It is going to turn around.''
The Sixers, though, play seven of their next 10 on the road where they are a conference-worst 2-10. Maybe they'll run into their ol' pal Iverson. Three of those road games are against Boston, Golden State and Sacramento, three of the most heavily rumored Iverson destinations.
Charlotte could be involved in a possible multi-team trade, though it's unlikely the Bobcats will end up with Iverson. A person with knowledge of possible deals told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Iverson did not squash a trade to the Bobcats.
Also, Bobcats coach and general manager Bernie Bickerstaff denied a report in Tuesday's Philadelphia Inquirer that Iverson had ``indicated his displeasure with being sent to the Bobcats,'' and killed a trade to Charlotte.
``No. That's the biggest crap I've ever seen,'' Bickerstaff said Tuesday to Charlotte.com.
The Charlotte Observer quoted Bickerstaff as saying the team was never close to a deal to acquire Iverson, and that the Bobcats only offered salary-cap room as an aid to the Sixers. Basically, they'd be working as a third team to make a trade work.
While the Sixers desperately need salary cap relief and/or draft picks in any trade, guard Andre Iguodala wanted some talented players (like Shaun Livingston? Baron Davis?) coming back to Philadelphia.
``I definitely just want to see some guys come in who work hard and love the game and enjoy playing it and just want to come in and help us get better,'' Iguodala said.
No doubt, the A.I. era is over in Philadelphia. Nearly all traces of Iverson were removed from the Wachovia Center on Monday night, including the nameplate above his empty locker and his highlights from a pregame video.
All that's missing is a trade for Iverson to be completely gone.