The big news of the week is that the Philadelphia 76ers and Allen Iverson are set to part ways once and for all.
There are many columnists (I suggest here, here and here) who can sum up the history far better than me, but this seemed inevitable for a long time.
The last hurrah for A.I. and the Sixers was the Chris Webber trade in February of 2005. At the time, it was believed that the two superstars would be tailor-made for one another, and Philly would be set to make a deep run in the postseason. Instead, Webber turned out to be a shell of his former self, and it was Iverson who was once again left to lead the team alone.
So, here we are. He’s going to be moved. Philadelphia is not going to get nearly enough for him, and, if you believe rumors, Minnesota has suddenly gone from selling Kevin Garnett to buying Allen Iverson.
It makes sense.
Garnett doesn’t want to leave. He’s happy to let Iverson do his thing without worrying how it will affect his numbers. The combination would give Minnesota a legitimate shot at making a championship run on paper.
The only problem is what this does to the Sixers. They can get Randy Foye, a player who has Philly ties (having gone to Villanova), and they’ll take back some collection of second tier players like Ricky Davis, Eddie Griffin and Troy Hudson to make the salaries work. What else can you do when you very publically state that you’re trading your superstar?
What if Minnesota doesn’t work out? Who else is out there to deal with? Honestly, I have no idea. I can’t imagine the Sixers would hand Iverson to Boston and watch him light them up for years in the same division.
There was an interesting rumor about Dallas, with Devin Harris being the centerpiece of a package, but that doesn’t make sense to me. Dallas is good enough without Iverson to make a serious run at the title. I wouldn’t roll the dice on that one.
Regardless of where Iverson goes, the one certainty here is that the Sixers are toast for the season.
David Aldridge wrote a very interesting column today in the Philadelphia Inquirer. His basic point is that if you were going to start over, this would be the year to do it since experts are projecting this to be one of the best drafts in years.
They should have traded Iverson years ago, but at least they’re finally going to move on. In my opinion, it’s been long overdue.
THE PISTONS TAKE BACK THEIR THRONE
Did you notice the Eastern Conference preview on Friday night? Still to early for you? Fine.
The Pistons and Magic met at the newly named Amway Arena. Although Orlando has the best record in the Conference, the Pistons reminded them they are the true beasts in the East.
It was a competitive game. Dwight Howard gave Detroit fits inside. However, when the game was on the line, it was Rip Hamilton who could not be stopped. He ran circles around Grant Hill coming off screens and hit two wide-open shots to give the Pistons the lead for good.
Also, Chauncey Billups torched Carlos Arroyo and Jameer Nelson all night, finishing with a game-high 31 points. After the game, Billups summed up the main difference between these two teams right now.
“We’ve been in a million games like this, where it comes down to the last four or five minutes,” said Billups. “We just stay poised out there.”
It was an odd week for the Pistons. They had their eight-game winning streak snapped by Charlotte, and then they lost at home to the Blazers.
However, Detroit pulled themselves together with a huge win on the road in Dallas and the win in Orlando the next night.
Maybe the Pistons need some motivation to get themselves going for regular season games after four straight deep postseason runs, but one thing seems clear—those who wrote this team off when discussing who is the best in the East made a mistake.
Detroit sure looks like the team to beat to me.
THE SUNS ARE SCORCHING AGAIN
When I got home Thursday night and checked the ticker to find out who won the Suns/Nets game, I was convinced there was an error.
Phoenix won 161-157? Someone typed the wrong numbers.
Nope, that’s just the Phoenix Suns for you.
The next night, I made it a point to see how Phoenix played at Boston. They had to be tired after a double overtime game the night before. I didn’t think there was any way they could pull out a victory, especially against a young Celtics team with very fresh legs and a decent offense.
What happened? Phoenix outlasted Boston in the final quarter for a 116-111 victory.
This team is like the Energizer Bunny. They can’t be stopped.
Phoenix has won nine in a row. What should frighten opponents is how Phoenix can win games even when they’re not playing well, as they did on this night in Boston.
In the fourth quarter, Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire worked the pick-and-roll to perfection. It was so great that I’m not sure there’s a team in the NBA that could have stopped them. They used it on two consecutive possessions. The first time, Nash was double teamed off of the switch and dished to Stoudemire for an easy, driving dunk. The next possession, the defenders went with Stoudemire, and Nash calmly pulled up and drained a 17-footer. On the next trip, Phoenix worked the ball around, and Nash found Shawn Marion for a backbreaking 20-footer from the corner to ice the victory.
They were tired and sloppy for most of the night, and their weaknesses were again exposed as the Celtics dominated on the glass, but the bottom line for Phoenix is that they’ve won nine straight games, and they’re doing it by playing their style of basketball.
-How about the year Luke Walton is having? He was supposed to be a bench player after the Lakers signed Vladimir Radmanovic in the off-season, but Walton is earning his time as a starter. He’s shooting an astounding 56% from 3-point range, and he set a new career high Friday night when he dropped 25 on Atlanta to lead the Kobe-less Lakers to a victory.
-Speaking of the Lakers, we’re about to find out how good they are. They host San Antonio tonight, then head to Texas for games with Houston and Dallas before they return home for another game with the Rockets. Not an easy week with or without #24.
-New Orleans knew the gamble they were taking by bringing in Peja Stojakovic and Bobby Jackson due to their injury histories, so it isn’t surprising to see both players in street clothes and the team struggling without them.
-If you missed ESPN.com’s Weekend Dime, then you missed this doozy of a quote from Rasheed Wallace on the new ball:
“The new ball sucks. Dictator just went on and threw it out there [without] asking guys and testing it. That ball sucks. They had some Spalding guy create quote-unquote microfiber and all that. You got guys who never played the game before who want to change the ball.”
Dictator? How much will Sheed get fined for that blast on David Stern? I hope he doesn’t because that is one awesome quote.
-Congratulations to the Clippers for finding a way to win on the road in Memphis. There may be no stopping them now.
-Shocking to see Stephon Jackson in the middle of a tiff with Rick Carlisle. You have to love the Pacers.