Posted on by Dal
Daily News columnist Phil Jasner wonders if Sixers GM Billy King is read to play the "bad guy" and trade Allen Iverson. Minnesota, Atlanta and Memphis are being mentioned as possible landing spots for the former MVP.
Iverson for Garnett?
Phil Jasner | Dealing Iverson isn't King's only option
Posted on Tue, May. 02, 2006
This is so sad ...
No, wait. I established that a month ago.
Sorry about the false start. Maybe it's because I'm just getting back to the surface from the bottom of wherever it was that the 76ers were at the end of the season.
But I've listened and heard and read just like everyone else, and I feel the need to clarify some points, most specifically the notion that Billy King's only choice right now is to trade Allen Iverson.
If King had only one choice, he would have long since made it, and in the coming months, he would act on it, take a deep breath and go forward on the latest hopeful, bright, new path.
The truth is, the Sixers' president/general manager has a whole series of choices before he decides whether to trade his four-time scoring champion, former MVP and career enigma.
The situation is already delicate: This, despite the ongoing support of chairman Ed Snider, could be King's last chance, if for no reason other than the nature of the profession. Teams change coaches and players. They change general managers, too.
The situation is already delicate for another reason: Does Iverson, despite the dozens of times he has expressed his desire to stay, want to be traded? And, if that is the case, does he want King to make the decision, leaving him to play the role of the hurt, disappointed star?
I'm tired of hearing what Iverson "really feels" through friends, colleagues and confidantes. I'm tired of all the plans about how better to surround him with talent, or even that he should suggest the talent. He basically plays, full throttle, one way, regardless of who is around him, regardless of who is coaching, regardless of whether he is designated as the point guard or the shooting guard.
I'm also tired of hearing that the Sixers will do whatever is necessary, that no one on the roster is untouchable, because I've heard that for too many years.
King's first decision is simply whether - because Iverson will enter his 11th season, or because this season's 38-44 record starkly defines what the Sixers have become - it is simply time.
If it is, is King ready to be the "bad guy," the executive stripping the team - and much of the area's basketball constituency - of its shining star? Iverson likes to say a million people out there love him, and a million hate him. If King pulled the trigger, he would, among other things, get an accurate reading of how close to the truth that might be.
Next, is King ready, if necessary, to start over? Much of what he has learned about running a basketball operation has come from Indiana's Donnie Walsh, one of the best in the business. One of Walsh's key attributes has been an ability to change eras without falling too far and to remain in position to jump back up quickly. He had a solid nucleus in place when Reggie Miller retired. He had the security and willingness to trade Ron Artest when the situation became unworkable. He found the manpower to stay competitive in the face of a dizzying sequence of suspensions and injuries.
Next, which pieces can King acquire for Iverson? History says that when a team trades a star for several pieces, those pieces don't necessarily improve the team. And in today's cap- and luxury-tax-driven world, he might have to take back at least one player he doesn't really want in order to add, say, two who he feels can make a difference.
I've gotten a bunch of e-mails from fans insisting that the answer would be to trade Iverson to Minnesota for Kevin Garnett. They don't want to hear Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor say he has no interest in trading Garnett. Many of those same e-mailers say they are ready to live with a plan similar to Chicago's, building from the ground up, even if it means another 4 to 6 years in the lottery. I contend that this ticket-buying public is not nearly as patient as the Bulls fans have been; those folks still could bask in the glow of six championships.
I used to think a franchise struggling at the box office - perhaps Atlanta or Memphis - would jump at the chance to add Iverson, even if for only a year or two, to create interest and cash flow. That is essentially what the Detroit Pistons had in mind in the summer of 2000 when they signed off on a four-way deal in which they were to acquire Iverson and Matt Geiger. That whole scenario, basically put together by King, collapsed when the Pistons could not fit Geiger's trade kicker within its cap constraints and Geiger refused to waive it. Now? The various financial constraints have made it more and more difficult to finalize deals of consequence.
King must decide whether the debacle of Fan Appreciation Night, when Iverson and Chris Webber waltzed in on their own schedules, was finally the breaking point, or whether that was merely his own fault for allowing the lines of communication and the specific consequences for rule-breaking to become so muddled.
So many decisions, so little time before another season starts. I can't even begin to imagine a marketing slogan for the first team in 11 seasons without Iverson. All I do know is, this particular team didn't exude a whole lot of pride or passion.
Iverson has given Philadelphia one of the longest-running, most entertaining shows in the NBA. The cynics will say that it is not possible to win a title with a team built around a 6-foot guard; they will say that he dominates the ball too much, that he shoots too much, that he is selfish, that he is not a good on-the-ball defender, that he gambles too much, that he has too much control.
All I know is, more of you will miss him when he is gone.
And Billy King, alone with his thoughts and plans and blueprints, must decide not only whether he can pull the trigger.
He must decide whether he can make it work.