Questions spell end for Answer

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

They came to see Allen Iverson and Vince Carter and while they didn't see enough of either what they saw was entertaining.

Comcast-Spectacor brought their Philadelphia 76ers to the John Labatt Centre yesterday to play the Toronto Raptors in a National Basketball Association exhibition game. The 76ers won 108-103.

But most of the 7,619 fans who came to the game where more interested in watching Iverson and Carter. And why wouldn't they? Carter can provide some stunning moments when he's in the mood and Iverson is one of the most dynamic and talented players in the NBA.

Even though they only got to see Carter play 18 minutes, he gave the fans what they wanted. A pair of highlight dunks, the first a one-handed monster right in the face of Sixer Samuel Dalembert. The second came in the third quarter when he reverse jammed an alley-oop. Carter finished with seven points.

Iverson had a much shorter but colourful afternoon. He had 10 points in 11 minutes and wasn't supposed to play very much more. Good thing.

Midway through the second quarter, as Iverson sat near the bench, he reacted to a lack of a call by referee Courtney Kirkland.

"Blow your whistle, man. Blow your whistle," he yelled.

That earned him a technical, but Iverson wasn't done yet.

"Blow your godamned whistle," he said two seconds later.

Now he was done. That earned him a second technical and an ejection.

He jumped to his feet, directed another well-known, universally unflattering comment to Kirkland and headed to the dressing room.

"I don't know what it was," Iverson said after the game. "He has a bit of a short fuse. I deserved the second one but I didn't deserve the first one.

"It worked out anyway. (Coach Jim O'Brien) told me I wasn't going to play a lot anyway."

No matter. It's an exhibition game being played on a neutral site that had patrons paying as much as $85 to watch. What Iverson said to earn the first technical was hardly worth bothering about.

"I was surprised but it's early in the season for referees as well," O'Brien said. "I just think they should have a bit more respect than they gave him. He wasn't going to play a whole lot more anyway and maybe it was a blessing in disguise but that shouldn't have happened.

"It will be nice to get home though, because even though it was supposed to be a home game, the crowd was a Raptor crowd."

Comcast-Spectacor also owns Global Spectrum, the company that manages the JLC. The Sixers arrived in the building and were greeted by the sight of dressing room walls that replicated the motivational sayings inscribed in their dressing room at the Wachovia Centre in Philadelphia.

Last year, Comcast brought their Philadelphia Flyers to London for an exhibition game. Too bad they don't own the National Football League Philadelphia Eagles.

Iverson earned the biggest ovation, followed closely by Raptors second-year man Chris Bosh. Carter's ovation was comprised mostly of cheers scattered with boos. Some people are growing weary of his whining and complaining, especially since he's done little to move his team forward. While Iverson is considered a bad boy of basketball, he has performed well enough to give his team hope.

The game yesterday was a contest between teams in transition. Both have new coaches, although O'Brien coached three years with the Boston Celtics, while this is Raptor head coach Sam Mitchell's first NBA head job.

"I feel good about this year," Iverson said. "It doesn't matter if it's exhibition, it's good to win. It's good for the young guys to learn to win."

Both coaches said the tightness of the game and the atmosphere was a good preparation for the season.

"Winning is always good, especially close games," O'Brien said.

Going to a pro basketball game is much different than attending a pro hockey event. There is never a quiet moment at an NBA game. It's a complete entertainment package with whacko mascots, contests and an atmosphere that is a cross between a sporting event and rock concert. It's one reason the sport attracts so many younger fans.

Even if it's only an exhibition game.


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