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Feb. 23–SAN FRANCISCO — With 5 minutes, 5 seconds left in the third quarter of Saturday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls, guard Allen Iverson hit a non-spectacular jump shot, cutting the Bulls’ lead to 77-58.

It was career points 24,367 and 24,368 for Iverson, and might have well been the last of his sure-to-be Hall of Fame career.

The Sixers announced yesterday that Iverson will not be with the team for the remaining three games on its West Coast swing and that he will be away from the team indefinitely after that for personal reasons.

A source familiar with the situations of Iverson and the Sixers said that, in this case, “indefinitely,” could mean the remainder of the season.

”The team is concerned about the distraction this could bring, but everyone understands it’s most important for Allen to take care of his family,” the source said.

Iverson’s 4-year daughter, Messiah, is suffering from an undisclosed illness that kept Iverson away from the team for five games before the All-Star break. Iverson returned for three games following the hiatus, but informed the team after Saturday’s loss in Chicago that he was leaving to again be with his family.

Iverson has said that doctors in Atlanta, where his wife and five children live, couldn’t find answers as to what ails Messiah, only that many tests that were taken had all come back negative. Last week, Iverson said he was bringing his daughter to Philadelphia so that she could be examined by doctors at Children’s Hospital. He informed his coaches of his decision Sunday.

”He notified me before we got on the bus to fly here 1/8to San Francisco3/8, before we left the hotel, that he needed to go back home and tend to family matters, so we excused him,” coach Eddie Jordan said after the team practiced yesterday at the Olympic Club in downtown San Francisco in preparation for tonight’s game against the Golden State Warriors. “I’m not going to speculate 1/8about a return3/8. For this trip, he definitely will not return. When we get back home, we’ll see where things are.”

After missing the five games, Iverson returned to practice last Monday and acknowledged thinking about life after basketball.

”I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it, because just the fact that her being so young and them not knowing what it is, obviously you’re going to think about that,” he said when he returned to the team. “It’s tough for me to come back. Having to say goodbye, telling her ‘Later,’ that was tough on me. But my heart is right here with this team.”

Few will dispute that, especially the teammates who have watched him play each game as if it were his last.


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