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The Sixers are closer than ever to bringing back Allen Iverson . Reports broke Tuesday that the team has offered A.I. a pro-rated, one-year, non-guaranteed deal to return to the place where his NBA career blossomed.

According to a source close to the negotiations, the Sixers offered Iverson the one-year contract on Tuesday for a pro-rated portion of the veteran’s minimum $1.3 million , after coach Eddie Jordan and general manager Ed Stefanski met with Iverson for two hours on Monday . The source spoke anonymously to the Associated Press , as the contract negotiations have not become official or public as of yet.

This news comes on the heels of the Sixers management being scheduled to meet today with Iverson’s agent, Leon Rose.

As early as last night, ESPN had reported that the meeting brought the Sixers closer to signing Iverson than ever , with both sides considering a deal “far more likely than not.”

In fact, ESPN even quoted one source as saying, “No doubt he’s coming back.”

The only potential stumbling block, at this point, would appear to be the “non-guaranteed” aspect of the contract, which means the Sixers could sever ties with Iverson before the end of the season.  However, Kate over at the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Deep Sixer blog , reports that Iverson has no problem with the terms of the contract.

ESPN’s reports last night suggest that the Sixers will send assistant coach Aaron McKie (a former teammate of Iverson’s) to meet Iverson in Philadelphia this week if the signing does go through, in order to get him up to playing speed as quickly as possible.

The Sixers are reportedly targeting Monday’s home game against Denver (the team who the Sixers traded Iverson to during the 2006-07 season) as a potential return date for “The Answer.”

For what it’s worth, Sixers players appear to hold Iverson in high regard, as several Sixers had positive comments about Iverson this week.

Guard Royal Ivey said, “He’s a Hall of Fame-type player. He’s a great leader. I think he’d help us if he decided to come back. He’s a great contributor. I’d like to have him as a teammate. It’s that clear and simple.”

Much to the chagrin of Phil Sheridan of the Inquirer, Jrue Holiday chimed in , “I think Lou [Williams], Willie [Green], everybody here that played with him learned something from him. I think I could learn from him, too.”  (Sheridan is skeptical, saying, “There is nothing they could possibly want Holiday or Marreese Speights or anyone else to learn from Allen Iverson.”)

And Andre Iguodala (who might need a new nickname besides “A.I.” with this impending signing) told the Philadelphia Daily News , “With the situation we’re in, we can always try to improve.  A guy like that could really help us out, you know? Just the caliber player he is, he could come in and help us.”

With the team 5-13, slumping through seven straight losses, and barely able to attract more fans per game than the Memphis Grizzlies (and keep in mind, Memphis is a city where its college basketball team has a larger fan base than its professional team), the Sixers really didn’t have much to lose when considering bringing back the future Hall of Famer, especially with the injury to Lou Williams opening up a huge hole in the starting lineup for the next eight weeks.

I firmly believe that Jrue Holiday is going to be great someday—trust me, I wrote all about it here —but the kid is a 19-year old rookie.  He’s going to get abused by professionals all season.  Brandon Jennings came firing out of the gate because he’d played in a professional league for a year, and he’s even suffering through some slowdown after battling through 20 NBA games.

Iverson gives the 76ers the best shot at winning games and remaining competitive this year. Isn’t that all that a fan base can ask for?

The Sixers’ best (only?) move was to go through with this signing, as they risked the complete and total alienation of their fan base if they balked on such an opportunity.

You think they’re having trouble drawing fans now?  What about when most of the city rallies to bring Iverson back, only to see management snub the idea and say they’re happy with the horrible team they have now?  (Here’s looking at you, New York Knicks .)

So—with all of that said—who else is ready to see No. 3 in the Sixers’ new, old-school uniforms? Say hello to the best Christmas present a 76ers fan could ask for.

Welcome back home, Allen.  We’ve missed you.

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