So many interested parties got together in Dallas on Monday that you would've thought Allen Iverson had overstayed his welcome in Philadelphia again and was having his buyout negotiated. But no, that comes later.
This was a meeting of basketball minds that, once again, was arranged for non-basketball reasons. Though the Sixers emerged from their Q&A with The Answer and issued a statement about both sides being "non-committal," there is only one answer that makes sense here. It is a word to which Iverson has never responded well, one whose meaning he may never fully grasp.
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But that's not the word Sixers president Ed Stefanski and coach Eddie Jordan used Tuesday, when a source said they offered Iverson a one-year, non-guaranteed contract to return to Philadelphia. The offer came 24 hours after Iverson met with Stefanski, Jordan, assistant GM Tony DiLeo and assistant coach Aaron McKie in Dallas. The fateful gathering was followed by a statement from Sixers chairman Ed Snider, who said, "Ed Stefanski is the president of the Philadelphia 76ers and I support him and his basketball decisions."
That didn't strike me as a green light so much as an order.
"If he isn't behind it," one NBA front office source said Monday of Snider, "how could it get this far?"
Indeed. It isn't that Snider forgets the turmoil that led to Iverson's scorched-Earth departure from Philly in 2006. Who could forget Iverson skipping a team function and two practices in the span of a week, then demanding to be traded? Who could forget the coaches Iverson sent to the guillotine over the years -- one of whom, Randy Ayers, is currently a member of the coaching staff? Who could forget Iverson's last game as a Sixer, an embarrassing 121-94 loss in Chicago, a debacle that helped seal his fate?
Only a hopeless suit averting his eyes from history in favor of the bottom line -- the gate receipts and merchandise sales being generated in his buzz-less, lifeless building -- could give the orders for this.
"I think the owner wants it," a rival executive said. "There's no way the basketball people do. So it will happen."
|The Sixers seek a reunion with Allen Iverson, but it won't be the same as before. (Getty Images)|
And Iverson, 34, did retire -- or announced he was planning to -- when the last bastion of desperation, the Knicks, thought better of infecting their franchise with his karma. So now, if the Sixers follow through on "seriously considering" Iverson, in the words of a rival front office executive, he will un-announce his retirement and join the only team that will have him -- a team that knows exactly what that will entail.
"People always say, 'Come on, how bad could it be?'" said a person who has dealt with Iverson on a daily basis in the past. "And it's really that bad."
As is usually the case, there are more questions than Iverson has field-goal attempts on a given night. You won't need any detective work to research the last instance when a team let dollar signs trump basketball logic, because it only happened two months ago in Memphis. Clearly, Iverson would start from the get-go for a team that, like Memphis, is one of the worst offensive incarnations in the league. There would be no question about that with starting point guard Lou Williams missing about two months with a broken jaw.
But what happens when Williams comes back? Unless Jordan makes the same mistake Lionel Hollins made, Iverson will stay in the starting lineup, play his customary 40-plus minutes, take all the important shots, and transform the Princeton offense into the only kind of offense he has ever played: his own.
Iverson was not spotted in the stands at the Sixers' game in Dallas Monday night, but if he was watching on TV, he must've been smiling as another A.I. -- Andre Iguodala -- took Philly's last three shots of the game in a thrilling finish. Iguodala made one and missed two, which added up to three more last-minute shots than he will get once the old A.I. comes back, and Philly lost 104-102. The Sixers dropped to 5-13, one loss worse than their record after Iverson's last game with them in Chicago. That was when Snider said the team was "a long way from winning a championship, even with Allen."
That statement, at least, still rings true.
My negative vibe about this is new for me; I've made no secret of the fact that I'm one of the few who liked Iverson. I still do. I liked covering him when our paths crossed in Philly, and at his first All-Star weekend, and I am on record saying that I thought Iverson in New York would've been a good fit.
But you can't go home again; not after being kicked out of the house. There would've been no history for Iverson to contend with in New York -- just a bad team and a chance to play a lot, play with as much freedom as any coach allows in the league, and score a lot of points. The Sixers will not win with Iverson any more than they were winning without him, and frankly it's insulting to Philly fans when someone assumes they want to see a show. They've already seen this show. There's a reason the only Seinfeld reunion was a made-up event on HBO. Its time on the networks has passed, and so has Iverson's in Philly.
It was amazing. It was awful at times. But it's over. Leave it alone.
Philly fans don't want a show. They want a winner, and that's not what they'd be getting with an A.I. reunion. Call the E! Network and see if the time slot after the Kardashians is available. These people love basketball, and they know basketball. Don't bother them with this.
The basketball argument? Jordan's system calls for constant motion and doesn't require a strong lead guard because the ball is supposed to move away from the pressure to get a better shot. For Iverson, there is no better shot than the one he's about to launch. But don't even make your head hurt figuring out how Iverson's game would fit Jordan's offense, because Jordan's offense would be no more.
If money and the desire for some kind of show trump basketball again, I'll head down the Turnpike to watch. I'll walk into the building at Broad and Pattison, the one Iverson used to own and where I used to work. It'll be fun to write about, because Iverson always has been. But if I were one of the 20,000 people who paid money, I'd want it back. Here's the irony: The suits who keep enabling Iverson, who keep lining their pockets in the process, are far worse than he ever was.