’s Marc Stein is reporting the widely criticized, newfangled composite basketballs will soon be history ; the league is bringing back the leather balls, effective January 1.

No word yet on how this news will be received by Leslie Alexander, Tony La Russa, Chrissie Hynde or Suzi Quatro, but at least we know Shaquille O’Neal will have one less excuse to offer when he misses half his foul shots upon returning from injury.

Earlier today, the New York Post’s Phil Mushnick all but hung the coach-killer tag on Allen Iverson, and it seems as though the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Stephen A. Smith is inclined to agree.

We’ll all ponder one day what life would be like for the Sixers right now if they had traded Iverson years ago when former coach Larry Brown insisted it was best for the franchise. We’ll wonder what would have become of the coaching careers of Randy Ayers, Chris Ford, Jim O’Brien or even Mo Cheeks if they were faced with the challenge of coaching someone else instead of Iverson.

Billy King’s imagination can capitalize on potential deals with Minnesota, Boston, Denver, Sacramento or Golden State if any of those teams are willing to play ball. His knack for politics may even position him to pull off a heist with Chicago or Dallas. Perhaps the biggest plus of all is that King and the Sixers are no longer concerned with the 6-foot guard out of Georgetown who said, “As hard as it may be to admit, a change may be the best thing for everyone.”

Said one Sixers source: “There was a time when Billy [King] cared about sending Iverson to a contender, just out of gratitude for all he’s meant to this franchise. That time has passed. He ain’t thinking about A.I. anymore. At least not on that level.”

Another former Philly icon, Charles Barkley takes a dim view of how things have degenerated between Iverson and his old team, writes the Daily News’ Phil Jasner.

“They didn’t make the playoffs last year, and they were just going to be a year older,” Barkley said. “What did they think was going to happen?… This is not rocket science. It’s very simple.”

Reminded that the Sixers had tried to make a major deal on draft night in June and during the summer, Barkley, now a TNT analyst and member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, said: “They didn’t try hard enough, because they had to do it.”

“I was in Philly all summer and I said they had to blow this up and start over,” he said. “They’re going to be paying these crazy salaries, and it’s only going to get worse.

“They should have said they were going to build around Andre Iguodala and [rookie first-rounder] Rodney Carney, and that everybody but Iguodala is available, and you never know what might happen.

“They’ve got to start over. They stink anyway, so would you rather tell the public you’re going to start over and be young, or that you’re going to be old and not very good? It doesn’t work either way, but at least if you’re young you’re building for the future.”

We’ve heard from Sir Charles and Stephen Fuckin’-A, but the day’s last word on the state of the Sixers goes to Allen’s mom.  Or, “Allen’s mom”.   From Hard Wood :

You brought in fifth-banana Chris Webber and tried to pretend he was a #2 option. That Kyle Korver is a nice respectful boy, and he peels a mean potato for Thanksgiving dinner, but you cannot honestly believe he is an NBA player. Andre What™s His Face is a whole lot of nothing. Samuel Dalembert I have found to be a surly fellow, and he™ll never reach his potential, and that potential was overrated anyhow. Who else plays for that team? You can™t remember and neither can I. And Maurice Cheeks is a nice man, and quite a hot tamale to boot, but he just isn™t a coach. I think I could design a better offense on the back of a napkin.