Posted on: December 31, 2009 1:38 pm
Tracy McGrady is a man without a team. Unless you count the Western Conference All-Star team.
When the third returns in the 2010 All-Star balloting were released Thursday, McGrady had passed Steve Nash and moved into second place among Western Conference guards behind Kobe Bryant. Paper balloting will continue until Jan. 10, while wireless and online voting concludes Jan. 18. The All-Star starters will be announced Jan. 21.
Oh, the delicious irony of McGrady starting the All-Star game in the state of Texas while he's gotten himself banished from the Rockets for complaining about playing time. As the New York Times' Jonathan Abrams needled on Twitter, is McGrady going to wear a Rockets jersey, or one from Attack Athletics, the Chicago gym where he trains with Tim Grover?
Should T-Mac somehow hold off far more deserving candidates like Nash, Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, and Brandon Roy, the best part will be this: The All-Star Game could very well be his last in a Rockets jersey. The game will be played Feb. 14 -- four days before the NBA trade deadline.
If McGrady is voted into the All-Star starting lineup in a season during which he's played all of 46 minutes, should fans be banned from casting All-Star votes? Nah, let the fans have their fun ... the All-Star Game is meant for their entertainment. However, it's worth discussing whether All-Star appearances should be dropped as an official statistic for consideration for such honors as induction to the Basketball Hall of Fame. McGrady starting for the West and Allen Iverson for the East at a time when both are running on fumes would provide plenty of proof that such accolades are meaningless.
Posted on: December 7, 2009 2:41 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2009 4:04 pm
PHILADELPHIA -- Nuggets coach George Karl sat on the scorer's table at the Wachovia Center Monday morning, perusing the box score I'd printed out and handed to him after his team's shootaround. The game in question -- the Jan. 6, 2007 game between Karl's Nuggets and the Utah Jazz -- didn't evoke any particular memories about the officiating.
"My belief has always been that refereeing in the NBA is an impossible job," Karl said. "You’re never happy."
In light of former ref Tim Donaghy's assertion Sunday night on 60 Minutes that he had conspired with two fellow crew members to officiate then-Denver star Allen Iverson unfairly in a game Donaghy had wagered on, Karl couldn't recall whether the whistle went against his team that night. But the Denver coach has very strong feelings about what the NBA and coaching community should do to combat Donaghy's allegations, which are only beginning to come to light.
The NBA, Karl said, should start fighting back.
"There’s circumstances in life that a lot of people don’t want to go into the battle, the Heat of the kitchen," Karl said. "But maybe it’s necessary right now to go in there."
Karl suggested a town-hall meeting where coaches, general managers, and league officials could address en masse Donaghy's continuing efforts to further undermine the NBA's integrity, which he damaged by betting on games -- many of which he officiated -- and passing information to gamblers. Donaghy pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges and was released from prison last month after serving nearly all of his 15-month sentence. The 60 Minutes interview was his first, with more national appearances to come with the release of his book detailing the scandal, "Personal Foul."
"It’s a tough place for me to comment and the league to comment," Karl said. "They should have a town hall meeting, and that one day we can say whatever we want to say and get it over with. Because if it has to linger around for the next six weeks, when the book comes out and when he’s on TV all the time, then we’re going to be responding to questions that the league probably doesn’t want us to respond to. But in this same sense, maybe there should be a forum. Let’s address this one time or two times and then let it go. For me that’s the way I would like it.
"Put 10 guys in the league or 20 guys -- two coaches, two GMs, a couple of guys from the league office, a couple of referees," Karl said. "Sit them down and have some forum of discussion on all the details and subjects so you have enough information so you can write whatever you want to write, rather than every day he tells another story or the book comes out and we’re responding to this over six weeks or eight weeks. I think it’ll become very tedious."
In the 60 Minutes interview, Donaghy said he bet on the Jazz that night because he had conspired with the other two officials -- Bernie Fryer and Gary Zielinski -- to punish Iverson with their whistles. A day earlier, Iverson had been fined $25,000 by the league for criticizing referee Steve Javie, a punishment Donaghy said the referees felt was too lenient. CBSSports.com reviewed the play-by-play and video clips of key plays Iverson was involved in and found that the Nuggets' star didn't get an unfavorable whistle. Iverson committed two fouls and drew nine in the game, attempting more free throws than any other player that night; he made 11 of 12. Also, on Iverson's 12 drives to the basket, he made two driving layups, missed four, lost the ball once, and drew five fouls.
While Karl didn't remember the officiating nuances in the game, he did point out several factors that might've compelled even the most casual gambler to pick the Jazz: Denver played without Carmelo Anthony (suspended) and Marcus Camby (hand injury). J.R. Smith also didn't play, though that was a coaching decision and wouldn't have been known prior to the game.
"There seemed to have been a lot of things that were not good for us in that game," Karl said.
The NBA has declined to make Fryer, Zielinski, or any other league official available for an interview to address Donaghy's latest allegations. Stern issued a statement after the 60 Minutes program aired dismissing Donaghy's assertions and saying that any allegations about officiating improprieties would be forwarded to former federal prosecutor Lawrence Pedowitz for review.
Posted on: December 2, 2009 11:21 am
With Ron Artest admitting in the Sporting News that he used to drink Hennessy at halftime, I'm having a hard time focusing my thoughts on Allen Iverson signing with the Sixers. But here goes.
This was a bad idea, clearly driven by business interests, not basketball sense. I think I made that pretty clear in this column.
If it has to be done, this is the way to do it. By offering Iverson a non-guaranteed deal, the Sixers take away the hammer that A.I. wielded for a decade in Philadelphia. They put the control where it belongs -- in the hands of head coach Eddie Jordan -- and take it away from Iverson. Well played by team president Ed Stefanski.
If Iverson steps out of line, tries to exert his influence on the coach, barks about playing time, or disrupts the culture Jordan is trying to build in any way, he's gone -- with no further financial obligation to the team.
The ball is in A.I.'s court, and not in the way it used to be.
With no other teams expressing interest in taking the plunge with Iverson, the Sixers forced his hand. They forced him to live up to all the promises he made in their two-hour meeting Monday. Now, for the first time in his career, he has to walk the walk. If he really doesn't care about the money or the control, the Sixers have told him to go ahead and prove it.
This part, I like -- as stated here with Lauren Shehadi.
Does Iverson still have enough left in the tank to make a difference for the 5-13 Sixers? That will be the fun part to watch. What will be even more interesting to see is whether Iverson can recognize that he can't be the dominant, 40-plus-minute force that he was in his prime. And if that's the case, how will he respond?
Given the circumstances, there's only one right Answer. Let the drama begin.
Posted on: December 1, 2009 8:56 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2009 9:17 pm
Allen Iverson's answer to the 76ers' offer of a one-year contract is expected as soon as Wednesday, with early indications that his desire to return to Philadelphia and prove his critics wrong will outweigh any hard feelings over the non-guaranteed offer.
A non-guaranteed deal, prorated at the veteran's minimum for the balance of the season, is the best Iverson, 34, is likely to do. But even with a chance to return to the city that he transcended for a decade, it's possible that Iverson will be offended by an offer that isn't guaranteed. As a Hall of Fame-caliber player who gave the organization maximum effort when he was on the court, the lack of commitment could rankle him. The word "disrespect" comes to mind.
"Tomorrow is D-Day," one person familiar with the discussions told CBSSports.com.
But based on the mood in Monday's meeting between Iverson and the Sixers' brass in Dallas, there were no indications that Iverson would turn down a non-guaranteed deal -- only that he badly wanted to return to Philly and show his critics that he can still perform at a high level. Regardless of Iverson's view of the past, future, and his own value, a non-guaranteed contract is the only way the Sixers can protect themselves against the strong possibility that Iverson once again would exert his outsized influence. If Iverson refuses to accept a demotion to the bench once Lou Williams returns from injury, or if he causes problems of any kind that disrupt coach Eddie Jordan's control of the team, the Sixers can waive him with no financial consequences.
Iverson also may want to consider that he's playing with house money, given that he walked away from Memphis with about $400,000 of the $3.1 million, one-year deal he signed after appearing in only three games. With a non-guaranteed deal, Iverson must follow through on all the right things he said to Memphis management, and now Sixers management, or his career will effectively be over.
If this reunion must occur, this is the only sensible way to do it. Everyone is held accountable, which right from the tip will be something new given Iverson's history with the Sixers. And it gives Iverson the chance to thumb his nose at the critics one last time, putting his non-guarantee where his mouth is and proving that he only cares about playing the game. That's the challenge, if he's willing to accept it.
Posted on: November 30, 2009 4:04 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2009 5:03 pm
Free agent Allen Iverson met for two hours in Dallas on Monday with 76ers president Ed Stefanski and coach Eddie Jordan, the first step in a possible reunion between the controversial star and the team that launched his career.
Posted on: November 28, 2009 11:51 am
Edited on: November 28, 2009 5:18 pm
Allen Iverson has reached out to the Philadelphia 76ers about a possible reunion with the team that launched his iconic and controversial career, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to CBSSports.com on Saturday.
The person, who is familiar with the Sixers’ plans but not authorized to comment on them, said Iverson’s name is one of several that has been under internal consideration since starting point guard Lou Williams suffered a broken jaw that will keep him out about eight weeks. But a decision about whether to accept Iverson’s offer to shelve his retirement plans and return to Philly is complicated and will likely take several days to unfold. The person familiar with the team’s plans estimated the chances of Iverson returning to Philly at “50-50.”
UPDATE: A second source with knowledge of the team's internal discussions said Iverson's name came up in organizational meetings Friday, but only after it was learned that Williams would miss up to two months. No meetings with Iverson or his representatives have been scheduled, the person said.
While some members of the organization recognize that Iverson’s play-making ability could be an asset for a team that is 21st in the league with a 96.9 scoring average, others recall the ugliness of Iverson’s departure when he demanded – and received – a trade in December 2006. Since then, Iverson’s resume consists of a mostly positive experience in Denver and two stormy exits – from Detroit, where he was not willing to accept a bench role, and from Memphis, where he played only three games before leaving the team amid persistent rants about his role. Iverson’s contentious departure from Philly, his history with the team, his desire to dominate the ball, and how his role would be defined will all factor into the team’s decision, the source said.
Iverson’s camp felt an offer from the Knicks was a “done deal” last week, according to another source, which contributed to his willingness to leave Memphis with only about $400,000 of the $3.1 million contract he signed over the summer. But the Knicks had an 11th-hour change of heart, deciding on Nov. 20 that Iverson’s dominant personality was not the answer for a rebuilding team.
So on Wednesday, Iverson, 34, announced his intentions to retire from the NBA in a statement published on Stephen A. Smith’s personal web site. On Saturday, Smith wrote on his own site and for FOXSports.com that the Sixers had all but decided to re-sign the future Hall of Famer. The Sixers were leaving Saturday for San Antonio, where they begin a four-game road trip Sunday against the Spurs. If coach Eddie Jordan and team president Ed Stefanski decide to pursue Iverson, it is believed that Jordan will meet with the 2000-01 league MVP to discuss his potential role.
In his retirement statement, Iverson made a point of saying he still had "tremendous love for the game, the desire to play, and a whole lot left in my tank. I feel strongly that I can still compete at the highest level." His rapid about-face on stepping away from the game to "spend quality time with my wife and kids" has NBA front office officials just as dubious about his intention to return as they were about his plans to retire.
Iverson and the Sixers getting back together makes sense only in the way that remarrying a divorced spouse makes sense. You know each other all too well -- the good, the bad, and the ugly. And it would appear that the Sixers are Iverson's only chance to continue his career, barring the desperation factor that could emerge with major backcourt injuries elsewhere. When Iverson was shopping his services during the summer, only the Grizzlies showed serious interest. Once that situation flamed out in spectacular fashion, not even the dysfunctional Knicks were willing to take the plunge.
A.I.'s first tour of duty with the Sixers included a little bit of everything -- four scoring titles, two All-Star MVPs, a Finals appearance, and countless clashes with coaches, many of whom wound up getting fired at Iverson's behest. Now, the organization that Iverson defined and overshadowed for so many years is at a crossroads. What's more important? Ticket sales and a short-term boost in excitement? Or the long-term plan to rebuild the right way under Stefanski and Jordan?
One way or another, the Sixers still can't seem to emerge from Iverson's shadow.
Posted on: November 25, 2009 6:59 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2009 8:38 am
When Allen Iverson looked me right in the eye last season and vowed to retire if he ever had to come off the bench for another team, I believed him. I’d known him for almost a dozen years, so I had no reason not to. That seemed about right to me.
We were in the visiting locker room at the IZOD Center, another dinosaur that will be gone soon. There were a few reporters around A.I.’s locker that night, after a game between Iverson’s Pistons (talk about an oxymoron) and the Nets. I asked him to repeat it, just to make sure he was sure. And he was. “That’s a fact,” he said. “I won’t do this again in my career.” That’s who A.I. is. Or was. His loud, fascinating, bullet-train ride through the NBA is apparently over.
That news came Wednesday – first, from Iverson himself in a statement released on the personal web site of Stephen A. Smith , who covered Iverson in Philadelphia, and then from Iverson’s personal manager, Gary Moore, in a Twitter update from Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears. The statement attributed to Iverson said he was announcing his retirement, despite the fact that he still has “a tremendous love for the game, the desire to play, and a whole lot left in my tank. I feel strongly that I can still compete at the highest level.”
Note that the statement did not come from Iverson’s agent, Leon Rose, whose task of finding Iverson one more NBA job just went from improbable to impossible with this news. Until Iverson actually files his retirement papers with the league, he can always go back and change his mind. But I think he’s made himself perfectly clear, as have the 29 teams that have decided his day in the NBA has come and gone.
He doesn’t have it in him to admit that his skills have declined or accept any role other than one at the center of attention. That’s his prerogative – a sad one, but his nonetheless.
“To Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley and Larry Bird, you guys gave me the vision to play the game that will be forever in my heart,” Iverson said in the statement.
Call me crazy, but I’ll remember him fondly. For one thing, I didn’t have to coach him or play with him. For another, I enjoyed watching him play. I enjoyed the 50-point games, the telling-authority-to-shove-it mentality when the NBA invoked a dress code, in part, in response to his, um, urban attire.
I enjoyed watching a 160-pound man attack the basket without regard for what would happen to his body when it collided with the 7-foot oak trees that were waiting for him. I enjoyed watching him hit the floor and get up, every single time.
It’s interesting that this decision comes a day after I spent time on the phone with Bucks rookie Brandon Jennings, who grew up idolizing Iverson. Like me, Jennings liked the underdog – the little guy. He wasn’t as mystified by Michael Jordan as the rest of us were. He much preferred the young gun, the villain. Jennings told the story of the first time he saw Iverson play, the night he famously crossed-up Jordan at the foul line during his rookie season. I remember that, too. The fact that Jennings does is impressive; he was only 7 years old.
In his whirlwind ride through the first month of his NBA career, including a 55-point game against Golden State, Jennings has reminded some observers – including this one – of his idol. The only regret or emptiness he expressed when we spoke Tuesday was the fact that he hadn’t gotten a chance to play against him . The Bucks played Memphis last week, and Iverson was already in his self-imposed exile.
“I was looking forward to going up against him,” Jennings said. “Hopefully he does get another shot. That would be something I’d never forget, and I could one day tell my kids that I got to play against a guy that was my idol.”
That’s not going to happen. The torch that was handed to Iverson and Kobe Bryant 13 years ago – with much trepidation, I might add – has now been passed to the 7-year-old who became a fan of that killer crossover way back when.
Iverson’s game didn’t change much over the years. He was hard to play with, an impossible fit for teams with any semblance of structure or a pecking order that was longer than one star. But to say that he never evolved isn’t accurate. When we’ve spoken over the years, it was clear that he was proudest of the fan support he’d managed to acquire, despite his rough image and off-court transgressions.
One night, after a game at Madison Square Garden, I asked him if he ever thought the fans – a lot of them little kids – would embrace him like this considering where it all started. And he knew what I meant by that phrase, where it all started. Because it all started for Iverson at the rookie game at the ’97 All-Star weekend in Cleveland, when Iverson was booed mercilessly after being named MVP for the East rookies over his smoother, cleaner-cut classmate, Bryant.
“Not in other arenas,” he said. “It’s a good feeling. It’s one of the surprising things in the league, for me to come to another arena and be cheered.”
He goes out on a bad note, a sad note, with no cheers. But it’s not like we couldn’t see this coming. He certainly did.
“Obviously I have a lot of fan support, and that’s something that I cherish,” he said last season. “And that’s something that I’ll take with me when this thing’s over.”
That time has come, as you knew it would when Iverson said the following after a game against Cleveland last season, when the Pistons were struggling mightily to adapt to A.I. -- and vice versa. I was in the locker room when he said it, and I saved the quote for a time like this.
"I would love to be a focal point on the offensive end," Iverson said. "That’s what I've been my whole career. And that’s why I play the game."
Sure is. Sure was.
You can remember the debacle in Detroit and the flameout in Memphis, if you want. I’ll remember the last night of the ’98-’99 regular season, when I watched Iverson clinch the first of his four scoring titles at a T.G.I. Friday’s on City Line Avenue in Philadelphia. True story. Iverson had played that night, and he was trying to hold off Shaquille O’Neal by a few numbers to the right of the decimal point. Shaq had a late game on the West Coast, so Iverson and his entourage when to his favorite post-game spot to see what would happen.
Shaq fell short, and Iverson had his scoring title. Now at the end of the ride, those are all he can bring with him. Those and the memories.
“The true, diehard Allen Iverson fans want to see me fill that big hole in my resume as far as winning a championship,” he said during another one of our interviews last season. “They feel it and they want it for me. You want it for yourself so bad, but the people that cheer you on, night in and night out, you want it for those people, too. You want them to share the moment with you.”
There always comes a time when there are no moments left, and only one Answer that makes sense.
Posted on: November 21, 2009 7:07 pm
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Mike D'Antoni provided some more insight Saturday into why the team decided not to offer four-time scoring champion Allen Iverson a contract. And while the Knicks' coach said he's "really comfortable" with the decision, he didn't sound convinced.
"Talk to me 30 games from now," D'Antoni said before the Knicks beat the Nets 98-91. "Maybe we should’ve done it, I don’t know."
The process never got to the point where D'Antoni felt compelled to meet face-to-face with Iverson, who is a free agent after getting waived by the Grizzlies in another ugly parting of ways for the future Hall of Famer. D'Antoni said he didn't need to meet with Iverson to understand what kind of role he would've expected in New York.
"You guys have written enough about him," D'Antoni told a small group of reporters. "I think everybody pretty much knows the deal. He’s been pretty open about the deal. You have to play a certain away (with Iverson). Now, he’s good enough to command that and that’s fine. With Eddy (Curry), with our young guys, that’s not the way we wanted to go. Nothing against Allen."
Asked if he would've been sold on the idea if Iverson were capable of accepting a secondary role, D'Antoni said, "That’s not Allen. You know that, and it’s not even fair to ask him to do that."
D'Antoni then compared Iverson's situation to that of Stephon Marbury -- reluctantly, he said. D'Antoni benched Marbury at the start of last season and ultimately banished him from the team.
"It’s a little bit like Stephon," D'Antoni said. "That’s not right. That’s not right to him. Either you're giving him the keys to the car, or you’re not."
Miami and Charlotte have been mentioned as potential destinations for Iverson, but NBA front office executives expect him to be on the market for a while -- perhaps becoming a contingency option for a team that suffers backcourt injuries. Iverson's agent, Leon Rose, attended Saturday's game between the Knicks and Nets but said there were no developments warranting a comment.