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Saturday, November 28, 2009

When the Cigar Bars and Dancing Girls Won't Do: The 76ers are Contemplating Signing Allen Iverson

That's what is reporting.

Young PG Lou Williams is out two months with a broken jaw. Two years ago now-starting PG Jrue Holliday was in high school. Holliday was viewed as a solid developmental project when the 76ers took him in the draft; they didn't envision playing him 35 minutes a game about 5 weeks into his rookie season.

Which means that the 76ers have a vacuum at point guard. And reports are that they're going to try to fill it with Allen Iverson. But isn't this 34 year-old the same guy who the 76ers conceded under the coaching administration of Larry Brown was really a two guard, despite his small size? So now is the guy once called the "Answer" really the answer, not only as a starting PG (where the job description for successful PGs has passing as a priority before shooting) but as a mentor to young and impressionable point guards?

(It's also amusing to note that Brown is touting the virtues of Iverson, or at least saying nice things. Those who lived through the tumult during Brown's coaching of Iverson recall "owner" Pat Croce's getting involved to mediate between the star player and the coach and, also, Iverson's now infamous "practice" rant. Iverson frustrated Brown greatly. Brown's positive comments derive more from his training at the University of North Carolina, where loyalty to the basketball family runs pretty deep and where the 11th commandment is "though shall praise and network for former players and family members and never speak ill.").

This is a desperate move for a team that is playing to a half-empty building and that has quickly forgotten the wake that Iverson left as a legacy before he was traded to Denver. Yes, Iverson has played hard throughout his career, but he hasn't played smart all that much, has taken a lot of shots, has a tendency to go one-on-three, and has not shown leadership skills during his career. As the headline states, the 76ers have resorted to gimmickry to get young fans in the building -- cigar bars, photo opps with scantily clad dancers and the like -- and most fans, particularly serious basketball fans have seen through those tactics for what they are -- carnival-like attractions. But now the front office is one-upping itself if it brings Allen Iverson back. Big time.

Sure, they can talk about reconciliation, about the prodigal son's returning home and try to make the signing worthy of a Billy Wilder or Cecil B. DeMille movie, with GM Eddie Stefanski splitting the Schuylkill River to enable Iverson to walk across it (as with his advanced NBA age presumably he can no longer walk on it) and return to the Wachovia Center. For a day or so, everyone will say the right things, the usual fluff about how exciting the possibility to have AI again, with AI's saying that his career has come full circle and he's excited to end it where it began. Yes, they might even push the Eagles off the sports page for a day or two, and perhaps they'll sell some more tickets for a few games.

But they won't win, they're not building for the long term, and they're inking a guy who will do nothing to bring their franchise forward. Better to sign a PG from the developmental league to split time with Holliday, take their lumps, perhaps fall into the lottery, and then get a player who can help them get to the next level. Because with AI yes, they might win a few more games, but at what price?

Dignity? Hypocrisy? Good basketball? Teamwork? A good practice work ethic?

Sounds like the NBA's version of a circus is about to come back to town.

And it's not a lot of fun to watch old acrobats try one more time to show their stuff on the high wire.


Blogger Escort81 said...

Hey, let's bring back Darryl Dawkins, too. Maybe World B. Free. I bet Doc can still play pretty well. Barkley, too, if he would lose some weight. I think Luke Jackson must still be in good shape and can bang on the boards and show EB what a power forward can do. Wilt is unavaialable, having gone on to his reward (where he has undoubtedly had to reduce the, um, frequency of his female companionship.)

6:53 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks, Escort81, for the flavor. Doug Collins might be available, and I'll bet that he can still shoot from behind a screen. Fred "Mad Dog" Carter still seems intense, and I'll bet that Archie Clark still has some tread left on his headbands and that Clyde Lee might still have some oomph left in those Size 18 sneakers. Come to think of it, I'll wager that George McGinnis still looks pretty cut.

3:55 PM  

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