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Cast might take longer, but Iverson opts for security

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Allen Iverson had the option of surgery or a cast to repair a broken bone in his hand.

It was an easy decision.

"I didn't want them to cut me again," Iverson said Sunday.

Iverson, who led the NBA in minutes, steals and scoring with 31.5 points a game, is expected to get his cast Tuesday and have it changed every week until he returns, probably in the playoffs.

Surgery might have helped him get back on court quicker but Iverson said there were other factors.

"With surgery, you have to deal with infection and they'd have to cut me open, put bones in, put screws in," he said in his first public comments since breaking his nonshooting hand Friday. "I think I'd come back faster with surgery, but as you know, I don't want to be cut on anymore. I got surgery on my elbow and I think it's worse than what it was before."

The league's reigning most valuable player said he has to think long-term.

"I'm just trying to do what's right," he said. "I don't want this to carry over into next year. Hopefully I just sit out these last 14 games and be able to play in the playoffs."

On Sunday, the 76ers won without Iverson for the first time this season, beating the New York Knicks 90-82. Philadelphia is now 1-8 in 2001-02 without him.

The 76ers hold a 5½-game lead over the Washington Wizards for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

"The way I look at it, if I sit out these last 14 games, my other injuries will heal up," Iverson said. "If I come back and this injury is bothering me, then this might be the only (injury) I have to deal with, instead of a variety of injuries. ... I know how to play injured. I've been doing it a while."

Iverson broke his hand when Boston's Tony Battie swatted at him on a drive to the basket in the first quarter Friday. Iverson finished the half, scoring 22 points before going to the hospital at halftime.

"When he did it, I knew it was broke," Iverson said. "I could feel something wasn't right. I just didn't want to come out of the game. I guess I was just feuding with myself."

The Sixers moved Iverson to the injured list Sunday, replacing him with Samuel Dalembert. The rookie has been off the roster for 12 games with bursitis in his left knee. Coach Larry Brown could use Dalembert to give Derrick Coleman more rest.

The 76ers have been hobbled by injuries all season.

Aaron McKie, the NBA's defending Sixth Man of the Year, had missed 23 of the last 26 games with an ankle sprain. He announced Sunday that he was returning to the lineup, partly because of Iverson's injury and partly because he was going to return this week anyway.

"It was a decision I made," McKie said after the game. "I felt like today was the day I could go out and give it a try. It would have been a little better for me if I could have waited, but it worked out, felt good and we got a win."

Coleman has been battling a sore left knee and remains day-to-day. He first thought he had a cartilage or ligament tear, but team doctors have concluded he hyperextended it and that he needs to rest it, something that might not happen until after the season.

Iverson, who will be replaced in the starting lineup by Speedy Claxton, said he wouldn't be giving his teammates any rousing speeches.

"They know what they have to do," he said. "I always say that when someone goes down, other guys have to shine. Now it's time to put up or shut up. I got all the confidence in the world.

"Everybody thinks we're going to fold, go home early and have a good summer. But I think these guys' hearts are bigger than that."

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