I hadn't seen this anywhere else. If I duplicated, then disregard...
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MO'S NO ANSWER

By PETER VECSEY
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April 4, 2004 -- DESPITE strong denials in this space from piped-in Portland personnel, the Maurice Cheeks-to-his-dream team-76ers story won't go away.

What's even more amazing than trying to manufacture something out of concealed wishful thinking by Philadelphia's beloved former maker of pure plays is the local and national media perception that the Blazer coach's relationship with Allen Iverson automatically means he'll be able to manage him.

Fat chance! If Cheeks couldn't get Bonzi Wells or Jeff McInnis to buy into a reserve role and can't control Zach Randolph, how can any rational being believe he's capable of vaguely reigning in Iverson? Randolph verbally dissed Cheeks and his teammates after being removed from the Knick game late in the third quadrant last week, yet still played down the stretch.

Yes, as you've might've noticed, Randolph notched two big baskets at crunch time, but also compelled his coach to burn a time out when he botched a play that required instant re-education. Consequently, the Blazers had no times out left after the Knicks took a 92-91 lead with just under seven seconds to go and were forced to race up-court and improvise an air ball courtesy of Damon Stoudamire's long jumper.

Most coaches tend to discipline their disciples in some fashion for displaying such a contempt of court. The next game against Boston, Cheeks played Randolph 40 minutes.

I can't imagine Cheeks keeping Iverson in check. Especially since his license not to take no for An Answer, as well as do as he pleases, was recently renewed when team president Billy King failed to fine, suspend or promote him to coach when Iverson decided to sit out the Pistons game in a Kareem retro jersey after interim Chris Ford told him he'd be understudying that evening.

Ironically, the ignoble incident happened in front of Larry Brown, whose clashes with Iverson are classic. Afterward, Brown tried to impress upon his former antagonist how unprofessional he made himself look. Iverson was receptive to everything, didn't disagree with anything and promised to do better.

"You've been around Allen. You know he's a good kid, he just makes some bad decisions. He's all about respect," Brown underlined. "It took me a while to learn if I had something to say to him it was best to say it behind closed doors. If it got back to him that I said something negative to the media we'd have a problem. If I said it to his face we'd be fine."

Well, almost. "I got to thinking the other day that I coached Allen for roughly 600 games while in Philly. And since I took him out twice a game that meant I got 'm-f-ed' 1,200 times in six seasons. . . . He knew he was coming out and he knew he'd only be taking a brief rest. And he still 'm-f-ed' me every single time . . . I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was very disruptive and very disrespectful."


There's no question Iverson respects and trusts Cheeks. The issue is whether 76er management is prepared to part with one of its precious few assets in hopes of enticing the Blazers to amend their private position and free up the organization's most popular person, who's under contract for two more years.

Again, there's no doubt chairman Ed Snider and King are outsized fans of Cheeks. They may very well consider him their only hope to mining the most out of the franchise's mouthwatering meal ticket, on the books through 2009 (at age 34) for a total of $91 million after this season. How many other players can boast the charisma and genius to sell out an arena for a performance, much less a series of seasons?

Which is why Iverson, despite being on course to miss a career record 34 games due to injuries and ego, hasn't lost all of his charm. For the most part, the City of Brotherly Love is still feelin' him, though his individualistic behavior has earned him various detractors in the media and in the stands.

Heckling fans supposedly compared him to Matt Geiger, which is enough to drive anybody into hiding - and perhaps out of town. After the recent team photo session, Iverson discourteously discarded his jersey, I'm told, and flippantly declared, "That might be the last time this year I wear that uniform. Maybe the last time in my career."

If that's true, it might not be such a bad idea, do it now before it's too late to swap one evaporating megastar for one or two or more on the rise, if it's not too late already.

Just don't try to tell me the 76ers (11-3 when Iverson and Glenn Robinson don't play; 14-14 minus Allen, by his lonesome) are a better team without him. The reality is, they're a better team without an injured Iverson who can't accept being a secondary scorer.

Another dose of truth: Should management decide to unload its damaged demi-god before Iverson completely losses his appeal and trade value, then it virtually has to reach out for Cheeks even if the cost of compensation to the Blazers is a first round draft pick.