IVERSON ON WAY OUT OF PHILLY
by Peter Vecsey
December 8, 2006 -- THE Allen Iverson Period in Philadelphia is rapidly dragging to an undignified conclusion.
According to two agents whose clients play for the 76ers, Iverson went to team president Billy King this past Tuesday and demanded to be traded, something he professed repeatedly over the years he'd never do.
According to two general managers King contacted yesterday, the 76ers are aggressively attempting to accommodate their forlorn franchise player, whose prohibitive salary (currently $17.1 million with $19M and $20.8M remaining) makes him a difficult sell despite a 31-point average - at least if the Sixers hope to harvest relatively equal value.
At the same time, emphasized one of those GMs: "A.I. is not the only player Billy is looking to move. His second breath is about Chris Webber." And that's not where the conversation stops.
Everybody is gladly available. Andre Iguodala or Sam Dalembert may have to be surrendered in order to move Webber ($20.7M/22.3M next season) or A.I. "But the big push is on to deal Iverson."
That's not solely because he wants out, but because his attitude leaves management no other option. If he were going along with the program, the 76ers would hide and wait for the right opening.
The night after filing for divorce, Iverson essentially put his effort on cruise control in Chicago as the Bulls exterminated the 76ers, 121-94, vaulting to a 39-16 first-quarter spread and winning the subsequent three.
Imagine how competitive it would've been had the Sixers not held a team meeting that afternoon.
A convulsive back was cited as the explanation for Iverson's 25-point (7-17) seven-assist, seven-turnover, defensively-felonious performance. Don't be foolish enough to fall for it. Or Maurice Cheeks' counterfeit contention the 76ers' spirit is "still there," players "still are trying" and "no one has given up."
Iverson, indeed, gave up. "If you know your leader doesn't care, how are we supposed to play with the guy?" steamed a teammate to his agent.
According to the same agent, Iverson told King he likes Cheeks as a person "but not as a coach." In other words, "either he goes or I go."
Despite numerous people in Philadelphia and Portland (where Cheeks coached for three seasons and 55 games) believing Maurice is overmatched on the sidelines, he has the full support of Chairman Ed Snider and King.
As yet another GM points out: "The [76ers] didn't make the playoffs last year and didn't do anything of consequence during the offseason to improve. Regardless of what you may think of Cheeks' coaching acumen, how can be his fault?"
Iverson may not blame Cheeks for the 76ers' worst record in the Atlantic Division, but there's no question they've got differences that aren't going away. One of them pertains to Iverson's lack of attention to detail, lack of respect for authority and unwillingness to practice hard.
Following a conflict at workout last week, Iverson stormed out of the building. That evening he failed to show for a mandatory team function for corporate sponsors and prime season ticket holders.
The announced reason was "after-effects of dental surgery." One of the aforementioned agents contends Iverson told teammates earlier in the day he planned to blow off the event and was simply going to take the fine. For whatever it's worth, Iverson apologized to everyone he stiffed.
Last but certainly not least, it's time to try to figure out Iverson's destination. That is, if it's humanely possible to re-route him. I have to believe there are plenty of teams that would take the plunge because they're desperate for help in the stands, as well as the standings . . . as long as the cost isn't excessive. All it takes is one.
Eliminate the Knicks from the git-go; there's not a chowder clam's chance of the 76ers taking Stephon Marbury or Steve Francis off Isiah Thomas' Dead Sea payroll.
Why wouldn't the staggering Celtics still be interested? The 76ers can do a lot worse than accept several of their young players along with, say, chronically injured Theo Ratliff, who would be allowed to retire gracefully.
The Hawks, too, possess a surplus of young talent at several positions, though the startling play of Tyronn Lue is packing them in (four sellouts in eight home games) so far.
Denver's George Karl expressed interest at one point last season. Andre Miller, Linas Kleiza and Joe Smith might pique the 76ers' interest.
Or how great would it be to see Iverson and Kevin Garnett paired in Minnesota, giving them the opportunity to win their first championship in concert. That way the 76ers could acquire Randy Foye, the object of their affections last June (in Celtics trade talk) and maybe Mike James. That way Minnesota could dump a particularly burdensome contract or two, either Marko Jaric or Troy Hudson.
The Pacers, too, are looking to do something big, reveals a league source. Larry Bird is unhappy with his team's chemistry, meaning Stephen Jackson and Jamaal Tinsley aren't fitting into Rick Carlisle's system. Another $4M-to-$5M piece would have to be included.