Team says Iverson, Webber will be fined for tardiness

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Allen Iverson and Chris Webber were probably hurt, definitely late, nowhere to be seen and left with a whole lot of explaining to do to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The fans were upset, team president Billy King was irate and coach Maurice Cheeks looked like a fool.

So much for veteran leadership.

Iverson and Webber did not play because of injuries, did not show up in the locker room until tipoff, did not join their teammates on the bench and missed the 76ers' 91-88 win over the New Jersey Nets on Tuesday night.

"The organization does not condone anything like that," Cheeks said.

The 76ers will fine Iverson and Webber for not being at the arena 90 minutes before the game against the Nets, leaving King to hold three news conference to explain their absence.

Then again, that was hard to do since neither King nor Cheeks ever talked to their stars to get an answer. Neither player spoke to the media.

"It makes me look like I'm not in control, which I am, but it makes me look like that," Cheeks said. "I feel bad, not only for myself, but for our organization. It will be addressed and it will not happen again."

Cheeks had just finished calling Iverson the ultimate gamer when he was informed by a reporter about 55 minutes before tip that Philadelphia's franchise player was not yet at the game, and neither was Webber.

So Cheeks left for the locker room, saw for himself the jerseys hanging in the locker, and returned to tell reporters the duo were "not going to play tonight."

Cheeks apologized after the game about not being more clear about their playing status. However, he would not say when he knew the pair weren't going to play. King said he knew at Tuesday morning's shootaround that Iverson and Webber would not play in the team's final home game.

Cheeks said he'd probably been "lax" this season in enforcing the time players needed to show up and that would be "cleaned up" next season. He also apologized to the fans.

"It's unacceptable that they got here a little late," Cheeks said.

Iverson was to miss the game with an ankle injury, and Webber had a sore back.

"I'd like them to be here, hell yeah," an agitated King said on the court about 45 minutes before tip. "They're not and I'm going to take care of it."

With reporters staked out awaiting the duo's arrival, King walked by the horde minutes before tip and let loose with a profanity-laced rant when pressed again about their absence.

The normally mild-mannered King, who has promised some major changes with his underachieving roster, said this was one major distraction he did not need with the season nearly over. He became irate talking about his disappointment that the duo seemingly didn't care enough about showing up on time.

King said if the Sixers were still in the playoff race, Webber and Iverson would have played.

One fan said he saw Webber drive up to the players' parking lot around 6:55 p.m.

"I was very disappointed him and Allen weren't playing tonight on fan appreciation day," Keith Simmons said.

King also apologized to the fans for the two missing Fan Appreciation Night.

"Next year, unless a player is not able to sit on the bench due to injury, if they're not going to sit on the bench they will be fined, and if they do it more than once they will be suspended," he said.

Iverson and Webber weren't the only big names sitting this one out. With the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs already secured, the Atlantic Division champion Nets rested Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson.

Andre Iguodala had 27 points for the Sixers, Willie Green had 14 and Steven Hunter 10.

Lamond Murray scored 19 points, Vince Carter had 16 and Jacque Vaughn added 13 assists. Carter set New Jersey's single-season scoring with 1,911 points to pass Bernard King's 1,909 in 1977-78.

"It's a great accomplishment. I just didn't want to put too much emphasis on it tonight," Carter said. "My goal tonight was just to bring energy."

The Sixers pulled ahead late in the fourth, getting one last fantastic Iguodala alley-oop for the home crowd and 3-pointers from Green and Kyle Korver to go up 83-75.

Murray sank two free throws that pulled the Nets to 87-84 with 2 minutes left. Iguodala, though, came out of a timeout and hit a 3-pointer. Bostjan Nachbar's layup with 3.1 seconds left made it a one-point game, but again Iguodala delivered, this time with two free throws to seal the win.

"We're just trying to get through healthy and ready to roll so that whoever our first-round opponent is, we're ready," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said.

Iverson is second in the league in scoring (33.0 points per game), and averaging 7.6 assists. Webber's averaging 20.2 points. The Sixers started Green, and Hunter in their place.

The Sixers were eliminated from the Eastern Conference playoff race Sunday. Cheeks said Iverson and Webber would make the trip to Charlotte but probably wouldn't play against the Bobcats.

Cheeks never said Iverson or Webber was not going to play for the 20 minutes he talked to reporters before he was told they had not arrived at the Wachovia Center. He looked dejected when he returned and slumped in his seat, looking much like he did 11 days ago when he remained at the postgame press conference podium, ice bottle on his head, with the lights turned out.

When asked if he was disappointed in the duo, Cheeks said, "I'm done, man."

Game notes
The Nets signed G Derrick Zimmerman and C John Thomas for the remainder of the season. ... The Villanova Wildcats, who went 3-0 at the Wachovia Center this season, were honored for making the NCAA Tournament regional final. ... The Sixers finished 23-18 at home.

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