Media, players say MVP, best coach are in Philly
This article was originally published in the Daily News on February 12, 2001.
John Thompson says if you're really going to know a person, you have to know more than just "sound bites of his life."
That's the former Georgetown coach's way of saying people buying tickets, reading the papers, flicking on their TVs don't really know the 76ers' Allen Iverson.
"I never saw him how other people saw him," said Thompson, who coached Iverson for two seasons in college and now works as an analyst for Turner Broadcasting. "Allen was never late for one practice at Georgetown. Allen did what he was supposed to do. When you get money, when you get exposure, you have to adapt. He's normally adapting.
"I never saw Allen the way people portrayed him. It always amazes me when, three years later, people say he's grown. We've all grown in three years; we all get better as time goes on. "
Two seasons ago, Iverson won a scoring title. Last season, he made his first NBA All-Star appearance. This season, he's the leading scorer on the team with the best record (36-14) and the best road record (21-6) at the break. Larry Brown, his Sixers coach and his coach in last night's All-Star Game, has 997 pro victories and somehow has kept his team together through a series of injuries and controversies.
The latest challenge for Iverson and Brown is to hold the fort in the absence of All-Star center Theo Ratliff, the league's leading shot blocker who will be out at least four to six weeks with a stress fracture in the scaphoid bone in his right wrist, but that's another story.
The Daily News tried to find out what people in and around the league think. To that end, we spent part of All-Star Weekend conducting a very unscientific poll, asking players, coaches and reporters to vote for the Most Valuable Player and the Coach of the Year at this point in the season.
Just three players turned up on the MVP list: Iverson, Sacramento's Chris Webber and Minnesota's Kevin Garnett. And, as he has done in most facets this season, Iverson dominated, drawing 141/2 votes to 61/2 for Webber and four for Garnett.
Brown was the runaway winner among coaches, compiling 15 votes. Sacramento's Rick Adelman had three, Minnesota's Flip Saunders and Miami's Pat Riley two each, while New York's Jeff Van Gundy and Utah's Jerry Sloan each drew one.
Neither winner surprised Thompson, who voted for Iverson and Brown.
"[Iverson] is a kid who had two more years of school to do, and now he's going through a learning process, just as he's going through a basketball process," Thompson said. "He's going through a lot of things. But Allen has never been a person who people didn't like once they were around him. I never let him feel sorry for himself, but nobody had his life scrutinized the way he did. Another person who was 20 had the luxury of making mistakes and growing up privately. Allen could not do that.
"I don't know many people more competitive. People talk about his scoring, but he could score without taking the beating he's been taking. He'll go in and rebound, try and defend; he'll go in and get hit. He takes a helluva beating because of how he has chosen to play the game. "
But as much as Thompson respects what Iverson has done, he more than equally respects what Brown has done.
"You look at that team at this point in the season, who would have picked Philly to play the way they have? " Thompson said. "No way. [Brown] pulled them together when he and Allen were going through their shenanigans, whatever that was. They've gotten together, they're playing well, they're excelling on defense. Offensively, he sold them on how he wants to do things.
"They still let Allen take his shots, the other people play their roles. But it's not over. You know that, and I know that. They get real serious after the All-Star break."