The Case Against Iverson

Free Agency Basketball
''Everything is about Allen, and it can't all be about Allen at this point in his career. He's no longer that intimidating figure who can just blow by everybody," ex-76ers GM Billy King said. (Paul Sancya/AP file photo)

The messages filtered in for most of the summer, sometimes several a week. The basic premise was generally the same: If the 76ers were facing a transitional season, if they seemed to have a thin guard line, if they weren't going to win a whole lot of games, why not bring back Allen Iverson?

That troubled me, because I've always believed the basketball constituency in this area really understood and appreciated the game, especially backcourt players. But now there was a segment of fans who simply wanted a show. They wanted to recreate Iverson's performances that led him to four scoring titles and an MVP during his decade-plus here. They weren't accepting that Lou Williams, Willie Green, Royal Ivey, rookie Jrue Holiday and, at times, Andre Iguodala could be sufficiently effective, even in new coach Eddie Jordan's pass-and-cut Princeton offense.

They might be right about that part, but--and I should have said this in Sixerville much earlier--they were wrong about bringing back Iverson.

He might turn up in Memphis, or possibly in Charlotte, and he might sell some tickets and create some marketing benefits in those markets, but there would be no reason for him to turn up as a re-born Sixer. The evidence shows in his post-Sixers career in Denver and Detroit: The Nuggets improved dramatically when they acquired Chauncey Billups in a trade for Iverson; the Pistons became so disenchanted with Iverson's rebellion against coming off the bench that they sent him home.

So, each time an emailer broached the subject of bringing him back to the Sixers, I patiently tried to explain:

He's not the player he was during the Sixers' spectacular run to the NBA Finals in 2000-01. You can't live on memories.


Should the Sixers bring back Iverson?

He insists on playing major minutes, and that would mean holding back the development of Williams and Holiday. Williams has played four full seasons and has never started a game; it's time to find out whether he can be the3 backcourt leader. Holiday might not play much at the start, but--unless you're challenging for a championship--why give even those minutes to an aging star? That was part of the thinking in allowing Andre Miller to leave in free agency.

Iverson has never been one to make the players around him better. Even during '00-01, the opposite was true. Eric Snow, Aaron McKie, George Lynch, Tyrone Hill, Theo Ratliff and Dikembe Mutombo took care of the defense, rebounding, scratching and clawing, allowing Iverson to provide the offense. When word surfaced that Iverson could be joining the Bobcats, the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell turned to former Sixers president/general manager Billy King for perspective. Among other things, King said "Allen never made the people around him better in the first place, because it's always about Allen.''

King also told the Observer ''Everything is about Allen, and it can't all be about Allen at this point in his career. He's no longer that intimidating figure who can just blow by everybody. So he's got to do other things, and I'm not sure he will.''

And: "When Allen plays the point, nobody else touches the ball.''

That's not the type of player I would want mentoring my young guards.

I understand the deep loyalty of Iverson's fans. They sincerely love their guy. They will revel in someday seeing his jersey retired in the Wachovia Center. They miss the show. In a way, I do, too. He was a phenomenon, filling the arena the way no player ever had. I don't know why this particular memory has stayed with me, but I remember a night when the Daily News was celebrating the retirement of editor Zach Stallberg. I missed the arly portion of the party in town because I covered the Sixers game first. I paid my respects to Stallberg by laughingly saying ''In honor of you, Allen just dropped 60.''

Allen could do things like that.

The show, at some level, will go on, in Memphis or Charlotte or somewhere.

But not here. That time has come and gone.