Posted on: February 23, 2010 12:05 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2010 5:34 pm
If Allen Iverson can't make it back to the Philadelphia 76ers by next week, a parting of ways between the iconic star and the city where he tried to resurrect his career will be inevitable, a person with close ties to the future Hall of Famer told CBSSports.com Tuesday.
"For the team's sake and his own sake, he can't keep trying to go back and forth with this," the person said. "If he can't get back by next week, it's probably not going to work."
Contrary to Iverson's often stormy history with the organization, sources described his indefinite leave of absence as "amicable" and "nothing sinister." Iverson has been in and out of the lineup in recent weeks while he tends to his ill daughter.
The Sixers tried to make it work with Iverson, getting an initial spark in attendance and excitement from his return. But Philly plays Orlando on Monday and Atlanta on Wednesday, and if Iverson can't commit to returning to the team by then, the wheels will be in motion for his release.
News of Iverson's predicament, which could well signal the end of his career, made me think back to comments from one of his friends and former teammates during All-Star weekend. Carmelo Anthony, perhaps the only star player who's ever been able to co-exist productively with Iverson, was asked what A.I.'s legacy will be -- if, in fact, this is the end for one of the greatest athletes ever to appear on an NBA court.
"His legacy is self explanatory," Anthony said. "He came into the NBA and almost changed the whole game of basketball in his own way."
The key words being "in his own way." To the end, Iverson never compromised. He lost the cornrows only briefly, sporting a haircut during All-Star weekend in Phoenix in 2009. He gave up on winning a championship when he accepted money from the Memphis Grizzlies, and then from the Philadelphia 76ers -- choosing his "happiness" over more lofty goals that have eluded him since he turned the NBA on its head as the No. 1 pick in the 1996 draft.
Now, Iverson is dealing with something no parent ever wants to even think about -- a sick child who needs him. No one will ever dispute the importance of that. It simply isn't debatable. Neither is the Sixers' right to move forward without Iverson if he can't uphold his commitment to the team.
"He’s always going to go down as one of the greatest players to ever play," Anthony said. "Whether they say 6-feet-or-under or whatever. Regardless of height, he’s going to be one of the greatest. I was fortunate enough to play with him for two years. It seems like a long time ago, but it was only two years ago when I played with him and he averaged 26, 27 points. In the last year and a half was when everything went south for him."
I shared my thoughts about Iverson before he signed with the Sixers, when it appeared that his NBA career was over. Now it seems like that career obituary was only premature by a couple of months.
Anthony called Iverson's stubborn insistence on doing this his way "a positive and a negative. When he came into the league, I don’t think anybody was expecting that type of player, that type of person to come into the league. He made fans embrace him, and they stuck with him all the way until today."
Now, the NBA is more than ready to move past Iverson's "me" generation of stars. Could Iverson have compromised? Could he have changed his game, extended his career, given himself a chance to add a championship to his resume if only he could have accepted coming off the bench for a contender? Sure. But when it comes to A.I., it's pointless to even ask such questions.
What you saw was what you got. Like a comet, Iverson was something to watch until he flamed out in spectacular fashion -- which was the only way this was ever going to end.
One more thing about Iverson: Drama walks in lock step with him wherever he goes. When it comes to The Answer, another plot twist or two isn't out of the question.
Posted on: April 27, 2009 11:51 pm
Edited on: April 28, 2009 11:45 am
I’m pretty sure the CBSSports.com writing staff could’ve lost to the Nuggets by 58.
That’s my last joke, because this is no laughing matter. When a team loses by 58 points in a playoff game, there is no need to rub it in.
Nuggets 121, Hornets 63. The depressing fact of the day is this: Not since the Minneapolis Lakers beat the St. Louis Hawks by the same margin in 1956 had an NBA team lost by that many points in a playoff game.
The Hornets kept the charade up as long as they could. Hats off to them. The extent of their precarious state was signaled to the entire league at the trade deadline, when G.M. Jeff Bower tried to unload Tyson Chandler in a rare salary dump for a team that had designs on contending for a championship this season. The trade, of course, was voided over Chandler’s failed physical. Now when the Nuggets finish off the Hornets in the next few days, the process of dismantling what was only a year ago one of the up-and-coming teams in the league will begin anew.
This isn’t about who wins this first-round series, because it is pretty clear by now who is going to do that. It is about the abysmal state of the New Orleans Hornets, who are Exhibit A in the NBA’s lineup of sad-sack franchises.
Their limitations since returning to Katrina-ravaged New Orleans have been well documented. They get by with CYO facilities and a skeleton staff. They put a good basketball product on the floor this season, increased tickets sold by 30 percent over last season, and still are bleeding money like a stuck pig. The basketball and other people working for the Hornets have done amazing things, considering. There just aren’t enough of them. Just aren’t enough dollars in New Orleans to justify the lofty goals this franchise had when it returned from its one-year hiatus in Oklahoma City.
Owner George Shinn is reported to be experiencing financial woes, and he put his disappearing money where his mouth is this week when he told the New Orleans Times-Picayune he’d be “very disappointed” if his team lost in the first round. His answer was about more than competitive juices. It was about dollars. In this economy, the bottom line for small-market teams like the Hornets can be made or broken with lucrative home playoff dates. Get a lot of them, and you can refill the till. Get only the minimum, and it’s a long, soul-searching offseason.
“I will always be disappointed at this stage in my career and my life unless we get a championship,” Shinn said in the Times-Picayune interview. “That's what we're trying to do every year, and we'll continue to try to improve. We've got to do that this summer. We've got to have a very busy summer. We'll look at every avenue to improve. We've invested in this team over the years. Even before we had the ticket support we have today, we were still being aggressive and trying to build this club.”
Shinn opened the checkbook for free agent James Posey last summer, convinced that he was the piece the team was missing to challenge the Lakers in the West. But his aggressiveness will not, and cannot, include paying luxury tax. That was part of the thinking behind the aborted Chandler trade. Put Chandler at the top of the list of players most likely to be traded before next February’s deadline.
We could dissect the carcass of Game 4 in New Orleans – Chris Paul’s miserable 2-for-7 night with four points and six assists – but why bother? This is about something bigger. This is about how one of the teams we thought we’d be watching well into May is on life support, in more ways than one.
I will leave you with this about the game. I know J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza are bench players. But they’re important bench players. What in the name of George Karl were they doing on the floor in the fourth quarter of this catastrophe? Were Steven Hunter and Sonny Weems using comp time? Isiah Thomas had famously accused Karl of running up the score after the melee at Madison Square Garden three seasons ago. Karl is going to have a hard time defending this one. I like Karl as a coach very much; that’s why I gave him my third-place vote for coach of the year. He is a champion of coaches, always coming to their defense when they get fired or mistreated. Someone should ask Byron Scott what Karl was trying to be a champion of in the fourth quarter Monday night.
UPDATE: It has been correctly pointed out that Hunter and Weems were in street clothes. This I did not see on the fuzzy, non-HD feed from NBA-TV. My bad. But I still don't think Smith and Kleiza should have been on the floor that late in a 60-point blowout -- especially considering Karl's history of accusing others of running up the score. When I make a mistake, I admit it. And thanks for reading to the end of the post. :)
Posted on: April 3, 2009 5:04 pm
Edited on: April 3, 2009 5:48 pm
Allen Iverson doesn't need to worry about coming off the bench anymore. The four-time scoring champion and disgruntled bench warmer will miss the rest of the season due to what the Pistons described as ongoing back discomfort. But the discomfort for both sides clearly originates from an area a bit lower on the body.
Iverson in Detroit has been nothing but a pain in the ___ for both parties. Now, their brief and stormy marriage is over.
Britney Spears has had relationships longer than this.
It's come to a merciful end for A.I. and the Pistons, who never found any sort of common ground after Iverson was acquired from Denver in the Chauncey Billups trade.
UPDATE: Despite the wording of a Pistons news release that blames the decision to shut Iverson down on his back injury, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com that the decision also was related to Iverson's escalating rants about playing time and being removed from the starting lineup. And given Iverson's obvious dissatisfaction -- "I'm not happy. At all," he said recently -- the decision can obviously be described as mutual.
The Iverson trade has been an unmitigated disaster, at least in the short term. Iverson couldn't play with Richard Hamilton or Rodney Stuckey, and he couldn't stomach coming off the bench after he returned from a back injury last week. He went so far as to unleash an impressive tirade after the Pistons lost to the Nets Wednesday night, saying he'd retire before he ever played a reserve role again.
Iverson's contract is up after the season, providing the Pistons with about $20 million in cap space. He turns 34 in June, three weeks before the start of free agency, and clearly won't be re-signing with the Pistons. Perhaps the only surer thing in NBA history was that Latrell Sprewell would never play for P.J. Carlesimo again.
Now, given Iverson's guarantee that he'll won't play again unless he's starting -- "That's 100 percent fact," he said -- you have to wonder whether A.I.'s wonderful, combustible, eventful career has come to an end after 13 seasons.
Here's the sanitized version from Pistons president Joe Dumars:
“After talking with Allen and our medical staff, we feel that resting Allen for the remainder of the season is the best course of action at this time,” Dumars said in a news release. “While he has played in our last three games, he is still feeling some discomfort and getting him physically ready to compete at the level he is accustomed to playing this late in the season does not seem possible at this point.”
UPDATE: Not only has the trade bombed for the Pistons, but Billups has been the key factor in elevating the Nuggets from their previous status as an inconsistent, immature pretender into a solid contender. Denver has a one-game lead on San Antonio and a 1 1-2 game lead on Houston for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Iverson finished the season averaging 17.5 points, by far the lowest of his career. The previous low came in his second season in the league, when he averaged 22.0 for Philadelphia in 1997-98. When Iverson's contract comes off the books, along with possibly Rasheed Wallace's $13.7 million, the Pistons will have more than $30 million in cap space to be allocated over the next two summers if they choose.
Aside from winning four scoring titles and leading the 76ers to the 2001 NBA Finals (where they lost 4-1 to the Lakers), Iverson (6-feet) became the shortest player to attain two of the biggest individual accomplishments in the sport -- lead the league in scoring and win MVP. But as much as Iverson redefined the guard position with his explosiveness and durability, his individual accomplishments overshadowed team performance for much of his career. He clashed with numerous coaches -- most notable Larry Brown in Philly -- and his need to dominate the ball made it difficult to find complementary talent to pair with him. He enjoyed moderate success with Carmelo Anthony in Denver, but the closest he ever came to coexisting with a running mate was when he played with Toni Kukoc in Philadelphia. That didn't end well, either, as the Sixers eventually saw no recourse but to deactivate Iverson in December 2006 and trade him to the Nuggets along with throw-in Ivan McFarlin for Andre Miller, Joe Smith, and two first-round picks.
Ironically, Miller is leading the Sixers to their second straight playoff appearance without Iverson. The Pistons' announcement Friday that Iverson will miss the rest of the season came a little more than 24 hours before Iverson would've suffered the indignity of sitting on the bench in the arena he used to own; the Pistons are at Philly Saturday and face another must-win game at home Sunday against Charlotte, which is threatening to knock them out of the playoff picture. Smith is part of a Cleveland team that is a strong championship contender. And Billups, of course, appears to be orchestrating a long postseason run in Denver.
Iverson also will go down as the player who personified the introduction of hip-hop culture to the mainstream of the NBA. His tattoos, corn rows, and do-rags were a mainstay for more than a decade. Iverson, more than anybody, was the target of commissioner David Stern's decision to institute a dress code for players on league business in 2005. Iverson also drew Stern's ire for some distasteful rap lyrics, among other things.
Times have changed. Now the vast majority of players willingly wear suits on road trips, and even Iverson acquiesced recently when he shaved his trademark braids just before All-Star weekend. There's no telling whether he'll keep the new look when -- or if -- he ever surfaces again.
"I'm happy with my career and the things that I've done in my career," Iverson said this week. "If I hung 'em up today, I'm blessed."
Posted on: January 16, 2009 7:04 pm
When the NBA decided to fine Mark Cuban $25,000 and not discipline J.R. Smith from Tuesday night's festivities(see link), you knew there had to be a reaction forthcoming from Cubes. So when I contacted him to ask for one and he replied, "C my blog," I knew it was going to be good.
It is. Check it out.
Posted on: January 15, 2009 5:32 pm
A week wouldn't be complete without Mark Cuban hitting the headlines. Welcome back to the news, Cubes. Congrats on the rare on-court, off-court, in-court trifecta. Not many guys in this league can do that.
On the court, Cuban is the subject of a league investigation stemming from a verbal confrontation he had with the Nuggets' J.R. Smith Tuesday night. Cuban was none too pleased with Smith's liberal use of elbows during the Nuggets' 99-97 victory over Cuban's Mavs. Cuban also was seen mouthing obscenities after Denver's Chauncey Billups made the deciding free throws with 2.2 seconds left following a questionable call against Dallas' Jason Terry. In the interest of fairness, evidently there is some question as to whether Cuban's expletives were directed at the officials -- as if there's any doubt.
Your humble bloghost interrupts this post to ask the following question: What, obcenities aren't allowed in the NBA anymore? Rasheed Wallace would've been banned from the league years ago ...
OK, I'm back. No story about an in-game screed by Cuban would be complete without video.
As for the off-court/in-court portion of Cuban's accomplishments, the billionaire owner's attorneys filed a motion to dismiss insider trading charges against him. The lawyers plan to argue that Cuban had no fiduciary responsibility to shareholders in the Canadian internet search company Mamma.com, in which he sold his ownership stake after learning that it would be diluted by a discounted public offering.
Read Cuban's thoughts on why he isn't buying the Cubs, why newspapers are irrelevant, the federal banking bailout, and maybe even basketball here.