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Friday, December 08, 2006

A.I. Demands Trade

This story just broke today from a variety of sources -- Allen Iverson has demanded to be traded.

Whether it will be easy for the 76ers to move him and his big contract is another story. Yes, he can score points, and yes, he plays very hard, but he doesn't make his teammates better and hasn't set a great example for them.

But by demanding a trade, A.I. lets 76ers management off the hook. You see, whatever's left of the 76ers nation is probably split about Iverson. Some say they go to the games to watch him and that they won't return if he's traded, while others are pure hoops fans who will watch the hometown team (and appealing visitors) because they just love hoops. Now that A.I. has demanded a trade, the fans who love A.I. can't get mad at management for accommodating him. Perhaps this dynamic will prevent some of that subgroup from voting with their feet.

This whole episode has been long overdue. Perhaps next the 76ers will consider jettisoning their thus-far Teflon GM Billy King, who has failed to make many good moves since arriving in town with Larry Brown over 6 years ago. Clearing out A.I. will help the team start over again, and while there may be many losses in the short term, a team with A.I. wasn't going to contend beyond a first-round playoff appearance anyway. Some A.I. partisans will claim that the 76ers failed A.I. by not getting another great player to play with him (the same argument that Knicks fans made about Patrick Ewing, who did make his teammates better), but A.I. really never proved that he could share the ball or the limelight with another teammate whose talents approached his. In any event, trading A.I. will let the 76ers develop promising youngsters Willie Green, Andre Iguodala and Rodney Carney.

This will be huge news in Philadelphia. My guess is that some teams who are pressed to improve their gate will express interest in A.I. and will take him so long as they don't have to give up too much in return. The 76ers shouldn't be too greedy here, they should view this as addition by subtraction and try to rebuild their franchise by getting players who not only play very hard, but play smart and enable their teammates. I failed to see the joy in a player who could score 30 points a game by shooting 9-24 on a nightly basis (okay, perhaps 42%). Yes, he's a talent, but the 76ers haven't fared well with him as their leading player in years.

It will be interesting to see where he goes. Boston was interested in him in the off-season, proving that perhaps this once feared rival is about as well-managed now as the 76ers are. If 76ers fans are tired of Billy King, Celtics fans have to be frustrated with GM Danny Ainge.

Stay tuned on this drama. It broke today, and it will be interesting to see what trades can be worked out and where A.I. goes.

76ers' fans shouldn't be too sad. This could be a big opportunity for the hometown team.


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