PHILADELPHIA -- Allen Iverson walked around Monday with the gait of a 70-year-old man.
Both hands pressed against his lower back, slightly bent over as he shuffled past a team official, he said: "What are we calling this injury?"
Officially, it's a right hip and buttocks contusion, although Iverson used language that was a little more raw.
"I'm just sore," Iverson said. "I haven't even tried to run yet."
Iverson and the rest of the bruised and battered Philadelphia 76ers will have very little time to recover from their injuries as their Eastern Conference final against the Milwaukee Bucks begins Tuesday night.
Perhaps the only redeeming aspect for the Sixers is that the Bucks, too, are coming off an emotionally draining seven-game series in the second round. Both teams barely will have enough time to catch their breath.
"Sitting in a car by myself last night, I was just trying to breath," Iverson said. "Everything that went on this year has been a hard ride, a bumpy ride. But that's Allen Iverson's life in a nutshell. It's been hard to get to this point, and it's going to be harder to get where I want to go."
The 76ers and Bucks will have one day off between each game of their best-of-seven series, which means there won't be much time to heal. Besides Iverson's injury, Eric Snow is playing on a bum right ankle, Dikembe Mutombo has a broken pinkie and Aaron McKie has an inflamed right shoulder
George Lynch (broken foot) and Matt Geiger (quadriceps pain) are not expected to play in the series.
Philadelphia finished the regular season with the best record in the Eastern Conference, but the Sixers have given away the homecourt advantage in the first two rounds by losing Game 1 against Indiana and Toronto.
Iverson said that factor was weighing heavily on his mind, and coach Larry Brown made a point of bringing it up with the team during practice.
"We can't afford to have any slip-ups with the home court, especially as short-handed as we are," Brown said. "We've got some tough matchups even if we're healthy."
The matchup that could be most troublesome for the 76ers is at small forward, where Jumaine Jones is expected to draw the defensive assignment on Glenn Robinson.
Philadelphia also won't be able to match the depth of the Bucks, who have two offensively capable reserves in Tim Thomas and Lindsey Hunter - although Hunter is shooting only 22 percent during the playoffs.
One of the areas where the Sixers would seem to have the advantage is on the front line, with Dikembe Mutombo and Tyrone Hill matching up against Ervin Johnson and Scott Williams.
"We have a chance to dominate them from the inside," said Mutombo, adding he expects the Bucks to double-team him. "They have to guard me."
It is far more likely, however, that Milwaukee will double-team Iverson and try to get the ball out of his hands. Bucks coach George Karl would much rather take his chances with Mutombo hoisting hook shots than having Iverson spot up from 18 feet.
Karl feels the 76ers might have given up too much (Theo Ratliff, Toni Kukoc and Nazr Mohammed) when they acquired Mutombo from Atlanta at the trading deadline. He also noted that Mutombo wouldn't have as great an effect against his team because the Bucks rely so much on the jump shooting of Ray Allen, Robinson, Thomas and Sam Cassell.
"I understand (acquiring) Mutombo and maybe they were looking to the West," Karl said Monday before the Bucks traveled to Philadelphia. "That's (ticking) me off a little that they were looking by the Eastern Conference and saying, 'We can't beat Shaq without Mutombo.' I thought they were disrespecting us."
The 76ers and Bucks split their four regular-season meetings, each team winning once on the road.
The teams haven't met in the postseason since 1991, although the franchises had a bit of a rivalry in the 1980s when they met six times in seven years, the 76ers winning four times.
Thomas and Williams are former teammates of Iverson's, having been dealt to the Bucks in 1999 for Hill.
Thomas was a fan favorite in Philadelphia, having played collegiately at Villanova, whereas Williams was reviled almost to the same degree that Geiger is these days.
"We just spun our wheels playing in my entire time in Philadelphia," said Williams, who spent 4 1/2 seasons with the Sixers and never averaged more than 6.4 points. "I think it's a good opportunity for me and Timmy to go back and show Philadelphia we were quality players. We were just caught in a bad situation that didn't mesh with what was going on there."
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