Posted Dec 1 2009 10:40AM
Philly or bust. We ran that headline Monday to accompany a bleak David Aldridge report, based on team executive sentiments, that said Allen Iverson's options are down to one team -- the Sixers.
I know Iverson isn't going to work for a lot of teams. Most teams can present legitimate arguments for steering clear of what could be (maybe even would be) an Iverson Headache. The whole league, though? I'm not buying that. Some of these other teams need to stop fronting like they can afford to dismiss the idea of adding Iverson with, as D.A. wrote, "vehement 'no ways.'"
I've taken a look at team rosters and spent an inordinate amount of time lately weighing whether or not Iverson could work with any of them. Were there minutes available? Were there shots available? Do they have a big point guard that would allow A.I. to play off the ball, but then check the opposing point guard on defense? Is the two-guard a playmaker?
Do any teams need Iverson's specific skill set? Would he be interrupting a legitimate rebuilding process? If he didn't start, would there be -- as Eric Snow alluded to on NBA TV last week -- sound, logical reasons to warrant him coming off the bench?
All these questions spring from what is now clear about post-prime Iverson. He still really wants to start. He still wants to play off the ball. He's not the greatest leader. And he's no longer capable of carrying a good team.
Might make you wonder, "Who should want that guy?" Well, I say about seven squads.
Here's how I arrived at the seven teams, including Philly ...
Detroit, Memphis and Denver are automatically out. New York already passed. Boston tacitly declined, with Paul Pierce hitting us a with a "no comment" response when asked about Iverson as a Celtic. The Clippers thought about it nice and hard this summer and eventually didn't bother to make an offer. Charlotte is out because Larry Brown has been doing everything in his power to get A.I. a job -- except actually offer him one with the Bobcats.
I ruled out five teams because of chemistry/rebuilding issues. Milwaukee already has the next Allen Iverson in Brandon Jennings. Minnesota's situation is similar to Memphis in that they have two legitimate prospects at guard (Jonny Flynn and Corey Brewer) and can look their fans in the eye and talk "rebuilding" with a straight face. The Thunder are right on the precipice of forming a true identity, something that eludes all but the best teams. No need to bring a domineering ingredient like Iverson's personality into that mix. Golden State has had problem after problem. You don't ship Stephen Jackson and try to tend to what appears to be the fragile psyches of Monta Ellis and Anthony Rudolph by bringing in A.I.
The personnel doesn't jive in Phoenix and New Orleans. Steve Nash and A.I. would make up the worst defensive backcourt in recent memory. Iverson and Chris Paul would be the first time that I can remember two sub-six-foot guys playing extended minutes together in the same backcourt.
Then there are the teams -- Cleveland, San Antonio, Orlando (specifically when Jameer Nelson returns), Atlanta, Utah, Washington, Sacramento (when Kevin Martin returns), Portland, Dallas and the Lakers -- that either just flat-out don't have the available minutes and/or shots or the essential need for Iverson and his skills.
So, aside from Philly, that leaves us with Toronto, New Jersey, Indiana, Houston and, my personal faves, Chicago and Miami. Bearing in mind that contracts and cap-space would call for ingenuity for most of these squads, allow me to make a brief case for each ...
Toronto: There's definitely 30 mpg available in Toronto. With Jose Calderon and Hedo Turkoglu, Iverson would have little-to-zero facilitating responsibilities and could focus strictly on scoring. And, although a Calderon/Iverson backcourt is about as bad defensively as Nash/Iverson, what Iverson would bring with him is more important. The Raptors have been soft and essentially swag-less since Charles Oakley bounced and Vince Carter gave up. What you have now is fairly talented team with a lot of potential, but missing a strut in their steps. If nothing else, Iverson gives the Raptors some machismo. And the hoops-crazed fans in Ontario would love him. In terms of effort, he's the anti-VC.
New Jersey: The Knicks offered the allure of playing at the Garden for coach Mike D'Antoni. The Nets can't offer anything close to that. But why not go get a mercernary for the rest of the season? Iverson and Devin Harris could actually wreak some havoc. Don't try to run any "We're-trying-to-develop-our-young-guys" rhetoric, here. Chris Douglas-Roberts can develop coming off the bench.
Indiana: This isn't exactly the best place for him to land, but what's stopping the Pacers from exploring this idea? T.J. Ford? Dahntay Jones? Brandon Rush? Much like Toronto, this squad is just floating around in the ether, pedestrian and middling. The Pacers could use a shot in the arm. Call A.I.
Houston: Tracy McGrady is still injured and, supposedly, his Houston days are numbered anyway. Yao Ming is most likely out for the season. Why not bring in A.I.? Aaron Brooks isn't a Brandon Jennings or Rajon Rondo. If his minutes drop to, say, 20 per game, is it going to upset the organization's 10-year plan? Rick Adelman is a veteran coach that could help integrate Iverson. I mean seriously, we're talking a commitment of less than one season for about the same money that Kyle Lowry clocks. Take a chance.
Chicago: Chicago averages 91 ppg. That's deplorable. They miss Ben Gordon. Well, there's a possible remedy for that. Chicago can bring in Iverson for pennies and he'll play the combo-guard, elite scorer, "Ben Gordon position." The minutes are there. This seems like a better fit than Philly. Chicago is a playoff team that is missing exactly what A.I. offers. John Salmons and Kirk Hinrich are very solid players, but they can have a seat and make room for a legend.
Miami: Mario Chalmers could use a little more time to study. So Iverson's bench hang-up shouldn't be a problem. In the meantime, you have A.I. in the same backcourt as Wade. Iverson co-existed with Carmelo Anthony, I'm assuming he could play off D-Wade just fine, especially when considering that Wade is as good of a playmaker as 90 percent of the point guards in the league. Pat Riley decided against adding Iverson this summer, but that was for luxury tax reasons. Iverson doesn't carry a $5 million price-tag, anymore. So come on, Riles. Pursue this. Maybe it might coax more than 10,000 fans to show up to the arena.
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