Game 10

Game 10

 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Game 10: Madison Square Garden
Knicks 85, Sixers 79

NEW YORK — In 12 years of serious sports writing, I had never been to Madison Square Garden for work. Oh sure, I’d been there plenty of times if you count the basement of the building where Penn Station is located. But as far as working as an accredited member of the sporting press, I had never been to The Garden.

That’s weird because it’s called, “the world’s most famous arena.” It’s quite an ironic title, too, that actually might be a bit of an understatement. See, New Yorkers really like the things they have and often go so far as to tell folks in other cities how much better their stuff is than everyone else’s. Sometimes that idea is correct, but like anything else, consider the source.

Still, I like to rate an stadium or a building on how excited the performers get when they go there. For instance, with baseball players the reviews are mixed on old shrines like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. Though they are fun places to play a game, the amenities are substandard and ancient by anyone’s standards. The underbelly of Wrigley Field makes even the rattiest high school gym look like the Taj Mahal.

But Madison Square Garden is universally viewed as the place to go. No, I’m not going to list all the famous events that went down at The Garden, but just know that most athletes and performers feel as if they have made it when they get to play MSG.

In my first working role at The Garden—or newest new Garden since it is being torn apart and remodeled—I took home no souvenirs. Sure, I lingered on the hardwood and tried to soak up the views, the shimmering lights and the theatrical darkness that shrouds the seating area, while searching out celebrities and for me that was enough.

After all, I already had a souvenir from Madison Square Garden in the form of a scar on my right knee.

In 1991, my friend John and his pals from college decided to drive to NYC from Vermont to see a Grateful Dead show at The Garden. Though not the biggest of Dead fans out there, I usually was up for any type of adventure so when John asked if I wanted to meet him at The Garden, he didn’t have to ask twice.

Truth be told, it was a pretty good show. Branford Marsalis played a few numbers with the band and Bruce Hornsby played the piano for the entire gig that opened with the well-known, “Touch of Grey.” It was pretty cool even though I watched from the right side of the stage with blood streaming down my leg.

What happened was I walked into a utility pole on 34th Street. Actually, it wasn’t too far from the spot where the photo from the media room was snapped. See, while we were waiting for the doors of the arena to open up, John, his friends and I walked around The Garden just checking out the pre-gig festival. We had bought big bottles of water, bananas and sandwiches from a nearby bodega and were just doing our best to have a fun time.

But while eating a sandwich and walking all while imitating Chevy Chase in the movie Vacation when he flirts with Christie Brinkley, my knee banged into a utility pole that I never saw. Worse, it was a utility pole that looked as if it had been severed with a chain saw or a bus accident, leaving behind a gnarled mess of steel with jagged edges.

Even worse than that, the pole was severed at knee level for a 6-foot-1, 20-year-old dude goofing around with a sandwich before a Grateful Dead gig at The Garden.

There was nothing sold at the concessions that could ever last as long as the souvenir I got more than 20 years ago.

Game 6

Game 6

Friday, January 6, 2012
Game 6: Wells Fargo Center
Sixers 96, Pistons 73

PHILADELPHIA — Call it a throwback night. Or better yet, a way back night. In opening the home schedule for the 2011-12 season, the brand-new owners of the Philadelphia 76ers decided to call on some of the heroes from the franchise’s best era of extended glory.

More specifically, it was the players from the 1983 NBA Championship team that were summoned to a building that none of them ever played in. Earl Cureton, the bench player whose job was to give the MVP frontline players a break and to grab a few rebounds, was there. So too was Bobby Jones, the reed thin forward who was known for his ability to play defense and fill the lanes on the fast break.

In fact, Jones was so good a defender that he was nicknamed, “The Secretary of Defense.” In the early 1980s, the shoe company Nike put out posters of Jones that depicted him behind a big, oak desk as if he were some sort of military giant. It was an interesting look for Jones, knowing that he was (and is) a devout Christian.

Moses Malone and Julius Erving made it back, too. Frankly, the Sixers can’t reasonably have a reunion of former players without the inclusion of Moses and Doc. What would be the point? Not only were they the catalysts behind the championship team, but unarguably the two most popular players, too.

Certainly there isn’t very much we can add here to further the legends of Moses and Doc.

No, the real legend in the building that night chose not to participate in the public celebration of the championship, though he was shown on the video board above the arena.

Indeed, Andrew Toney had finally returned to the basketball arena in South Philly.

Reportedly back at a Sixers game for the first time since his playing career ended prematurely because of a foot injury, Toney seemingly has buried the decades long grudge against the organization that was spurred on by the poor treatment he reportedly received from former owner Harold Katz.

Toney had it all. He was a shooting guard, but built like a forward. He played with a mean streak and was fearless with the basketball in his hands. It didn’t matter who was guarding him because Toney wasn’t going to back down.

To the folks who were too young to see Toney play, I described him as Allen Iverson with a jumper and the ability to play in a team structure. He could pass it almost as well as he could shoot it…

And boy could he shoot it.

In his first five seasons with the Sixers, Toney averaged more than 20 points per game, made two all-star teams, got to the Eastern Conference Finals three times and the NBA Finals twice. He was rewarded with a big contract (for the time) before his sixth season because it would have been stupid not to keep him in town. Not only was Toney good, but also he was popular. Ask any kid born in the early 1970s who their favorite Sixers player was and undoubtedly the answer would be Andrew Toney.

I know he was my favorite Sixers player ever. Living so close to Franklin & Marshall College where the team held its preseason training camp, I was lucky enough to see Toney play from close up. Better yet, as the resident gym rat of F&M’s Mayser Center, I often rebounded shots for Toney when he remained after practice to shoot jumpers. The farther he went out on the court, the softer the ball seemed to float as it would nestle itself into the net only to be returned and fired up there again.

Truth is I saw Toney’s shooting technique so much from so close that his method became mine. Going up against the competition in the CYO league, my jumper started with a half step of my right foot before rising up to let it fly.

Believe it or not, the result didn’t change all that much from idol to fan.

For those lucky enough to have seen Toney in his prime, they know that he was The Truth. Called the Boston Strangler for the way he wrecked the Celtics during the postseason as well as the Silent Assassin, Toney was on the way to a Hall of Fame career until the injuries came. He was the second-leading scorer on the Sixers the year they won the championship, but the most-feared player on the team.

Larry Bird said Toney was the best clutch player he had ever seen and Charles Barkley claimed he was the best teammate he ever had.

Malone doesn’t disagree, either.

“Andrew was tough, man,” Moses said. “He had a way to get it done. He played with a lot of heart and he loved the game. If you’re like that you’ll be the best.”

But Toney’s career ended abruptly and with controversy that no man should endure. After he got that big contract, Toney appeared in just six games during the 1985-86 season because of stress fractures in his foot. The problem never got much better and Toney played two more abbreviated seasons before he packed it in at age 30.

Before that he was derided and belittled by the owner Katz, who aside from being cheap when it came to running his ballclub, didn’t believe Toney was really injured. Katz forced Toney to take drug tests and questioned his fortitude in public because he couldn’t take the floor. Reportedly, Katz even went so far as to hire private investigators to find out if his well-paid but injured All-Star had a nefarious side.

So when his playing days in Philadelphia ended, Toney never looked back and never stepped foot at another Sixers’ game…

Until Friday night home opener.

Toney did not take part in the brief, pregame ceremony, nor did he show up for the media availability with his old teammates, either. But Toney, who these days works as an elementary school teacher in suburban Atlanta, was introduced to the crowd during the second quarter of the game.

Obviously, the crowd went crazy.

“Andrew finally made his mind that he had to come back and see the fans,” Malone said. “He knows they love him.”

And the elusive great one finally returned, too. If you blinked, though, you missed it…

Kind of like Andrew Toney’s entire career. 

No messing this one up

Bradley Go ahead and admit it—you know you want to. As soon as it turned out that the 76ers would get the No. 2 pick in next month’s NBA Draft, your first thought was, “Great… how are they going to mess this up?”

Hey, I thought the same thing. I even asked around to some folks who are wise in the way of the NBA and the players headed into the draft. Needless to say the answers I received were uniform and succinct.

“They can’t,” was the response in how the Sixers could screw up the No. 2 pick.

But there is always an addendum tacked on at the end after that two-word answer.

“They can’t… unless they draft Shawn Bradley.”

Remember that one? Remember how the Sixers had the No. 2 pick in the 1993 draft and took a 7-foot-6 center with just one year at Brigham Young under his untested belt? Even with Anfernee Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn, Isaiah Rider, Vin Baker, Alan Houston and Sam Cassell sitting there on the board, the Sixers gobbled up the lean and lanky center that at his very best was labeled a project.

Two-and-a-half years later they finally traded away Bradley for Derrick Coleman… maybe the one instance where Coleman was the preferred alternative.

Here’s how bad the pick for Bradley was… for five seasons after the Sixers used the No. 2 overall pick on him, they were still in the lottery for five straight seasons afterwards. That’s how they were able to get Jerry Stackhouse, Allen Iverson, Larry Hughes, not to mention trading away the No. 2 pick in the ’97 draft for Jim Jackson, Eric Montross, Anthony Parker and Tim Thomas.

Quite obviously, not many of those picks worked out too well, either.

This year there is no such worry, though, mostly because there is no Shawn Bradley-type available in the 2010 Draft. It’s not a crop that is seen as particularly deep with the picks beyond the top three a guess. After Kentucky guard John Wall goes to Washington with the top pick, the Sixers are expected to take Ohio State guard Evan Turner. Essentially, Washington has the top pick while the Sixers have No. 1A.

It really is a can’t miss. In fact, last night La Salle grad and former NBA player, Tim Legler, told viewers on ESPN that Turner was the true star of the draft. Legler declared that 10 years from now we will be talking about Turner as a Hall of Famer.

That’s a pretty bold comment considering how uncertain the draft can be. For every Iverson, Charles Barkley and possibly Evan Turner, the Sixers have shown us Bradley, Sharone Wright, Charles Smith, Keith Van Horn, Marvin “Bad News” Barnes and whatever the hell that was in 1986.

Indeed, June hasn’t been the kindest month for the Sixers.

Which is why we want to know if they can mess it up? Is there a Sam Bowie to take ahead of Michael Jordan? A Kwame Brown-type poised to turn heads at the draft workouts or an Adam Morrison set to be labeled the next Larry Bird?

Can it really be this easy?

“It gives us a lot of options which is what we really need,” general manager Ed Stefanski said. “We are ecstatic. When you are at six and you move up to two it is phenomenal. We are happy campers. I just got a text from (Comcast-Spectacor COO) Peter Luukko and a text from (Comcast-Spectacor Chairman) Ed Snider; they are watching the hockey game but they were watching this too.”

Yes, apparently this is a slam dunk. If the Sixers were to take Turner, a 6-foot-7 guard with a seven-footer’s wingspan, a knack for making clutch plays, as well as what his draft media guide bio says is, “a student of the game who studies past greats and appears to have a great understanding [of the game].”

What it means for the Sixers is that Turner can pair with Jrue Holiday in the backcourt, while Andre Iguodala can move to a more natural forward spot where we won’t have to watch him brick up three-pointers on a routine basis. Turner’s addition could also make Thaddeus Young a potential draft-day trade bait, though not the type of deal that would free up cap space for a bigger move.

In other words, all the Sixers have to do is take Evan Turner. It really is that easy.

What, Gilbert worry?

Gilbert_arenas
Gilbert Arenas heard the shouts long before Tuesday night’s game started at the Wachovia Center. In town with the Washington Wizards (nee Bullets) to take on the Sixers in a matchup of struggling teams, Arenas took some of the friendly advice offered by the Philly fans literally.

“Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”

So Arenas dished out a season-high 14 assists and came one short of tying his career record.

Don’t shoot? Don’t give him any ideas.

Arenas, the loquacious and sometimes controversial All-Star for the Wizards, showed up in Philadelphia for Tuesday night’s game a day after he met with law enforcement officials regarding the incident in the team locker room where Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton allegedly drew guns on one another.

You know, just a couple of guys horsing around with glocks.

But the word out of Washington is that a grand jury is about to convene and a possible season-long suspension from NBA commissioner David Stern could be levied. Needless to say, Arenas (and Crittenton) probably broke all sorts of rules and laws simply by keeping a gun (or guns) in the workplace. Moreover, if Arenas is convicted of a crime the Wizards could void the remainder of his contract.

That’s four years and $90 million wiped out for a little goofing off.

 “I wanna say sorry if I pissed anybody off by us havin’ fun,” Arenas Tweeted after talking to the press following the Wizards victory over the Sixers. “I'm sorry for anything u need to blame me for right now.”

Certainly if Arenas is worried about going to jail, losing his job and a potential $90 million, he didn’t show it on Tuesday night. Along with his 14 assists, Arenas did shoot (the ball, that is) a bit, filling it up for 19 points on 6-for-15 shooting from the floor. He played especially well during the Wizards’ run in the second half where the team overcame an 18-point deficit to win going away.

What, Gilbert worry?

“It’s been easy for me,” he said. “If I believed all the stories, of course it would be hard. That’s why we’re so upbeat, because we know what’s out there is way far from the truth.”

Upbeat? How about giddy? After the pregame introductions, the Wizards’ circled around Arenas while he pretended to pick them off with his fingers mimicking six-shooters. He said his teammates asked him to do it.

After the game he apologized for that, too.

When asked if he had learned anything from the controversy, Arenas said that he had and that he doesn’t, “have any guns anymore.”

Arenas “I feel bad for the situation where I’ve taken them out of my house to get away from my kids, but I bring them to my locker and put all my teammates at risk, even though they weren’t loaded,” Arenas said. “That’s somebody’s kids, too. So I’m sorry for all the parents of my teammates.”

Another apology.

Nevertheless, while it might be fun and games for Arenas—at least externally—the Wizards’ star has been expected to contribute on the court. Just because his antics could lead to a grand jury hearing and a year-long suspension doesn’t mean that Arenas can just coast along on the court while his life is in disarray. And all this a day before his 28th birthday, too.

In fact, when coach Flip Saunders felt that Arenas was being too passive on offense he called a timeout and chewed him out.

“I thought he was very passive early in the first half,” Saunders said. “I called a quick timeout in the third quarter and told him I was sick and tired of looking at three-point shots off the dribble on transition. He apologized to the team and didn’t do it anymore.”

Again with the apology.

Though he looked like he was having fun with his teammates, the Philly fans and the media in Philly on Tuesday night, and has no worries about his interview with the police on Monday, Arenas is more than a little pensive about his upcoming showdown with Stern.

“He’s mean,” Arenas said, noting that the NBA’s commissioner is likely feeling pressure to hand out a suspension.

Oh, there are meaner people out there than David Stern. Arenas could meet a few of some real meanies if the grand jury decides his case should go to trial.

Mean and nasty. Like those Philly fans that heckled him all night.

Or maybe even his former coach. When asked about the mess that Arenas is in, former Wizards and current Sixers coach Eddie Jordan talked only about basketball.

"The impression I have him is he’s a heckuva three-point shooter, he drives to the basket and he hurt us a lot down there the last time we played them, and he’s an assassin on the floor—he’s a really good player and that’s what we have to prepare for," Jordan said.

As he walked away, Jordan thought for a quick second and said to no one in particular.

"I probably should have used another word than 'assassin.'

Tuning in for the re-runs with A.I.

Alleyi Every night on several channels on the dial, one can watch repeats of Seinfeld and The Simpsons or any other TV show that reached its glory in the 1990s. It’s a wonderful thing, and it works for everyone involved.

For the broadcaster, the old standbys are not only ratings winners, but very attractive to the advertisers. The advertisers, of course, spend the money that makes the world go round and keeps those repeats of Everybody Loves Raymond coming. Meanwhile, the folks at home know that if they need a little chuckle or a chance to unwind with some mindless humor/background noise, just dial it up.

In fact, shows in syndication are so popular that sometimes even the start times of live events like baseball playoffs are pushed back a bit in order to air that one sold episode of Friends.

See, it’s a win-win for everyone.

But according to the 76ers’ general manager Ed Stefanski, his team is not airing this latest repeat for the money or the ratings. Oh sure, the show aspect of it is compelling enough, and when one looks at the attendance numbers for the Sixers this season—the team is next-to-last in average attendance—it’s obvious that something is missing. Whether it’s the bad economy and the holidays approaching or the hangover from back-to-back World Series trips by the Phillies and playoff runs by the Eagles and Flyers, folks haven’t connected with the Sixers.

Of course the current seven-game losing streak and spate of key injuries don’t help either.

So rather than dig up some old I Love Lucy episode to play on the Fan-a-vision above the arena, Stefanski and the Sixers opted to sign Allen Iverson to a non-guaranteed contract. That means if the team doesn’t think it’s working out with Iverson, they can just let him go. You know, kind of like what the Memphis Grizzlies did last week.

Buh-by, A.I.

And like any other re-run we all know how it’s going to end with Iverson. We’ve all seen this show before. In 2006 when Iverson was still with the Sixers, we walked out on the team and coach Maurice Cheeks, failed to show up for practice (Practice?!), and was suspended until the team could find a place to trade him.

Iverson ended up first in Denver where he and Carmelo Anthony couldn’t figure out a way to share the ball. When Detroit came calling with Chauncey Billups offered, it was a too good of a deal for Denver to pass up.

You know how it goes from here. Iverson was relegated to bench duty, a tantrum followed, and then he quit on Detroit and Memphis. No, as far as ungraceful exits go it’s not quite Willie Mays tripping in the outfield with the New York Mets or Johnny Unitas wearing that gaudy San Diego Chargers uniform, but it was perfectly clichéd nonetheless.

If there is earth to be scorched or bridges to burn, Iverson is your man.

But that’s not why the Sixers dialed up Iverson. That would be way too easy for even the most cynical of us to scoff at. No, this time the non-guaranteed contract and the relative bottom-basement $650,000 salary if the team chooses to keep Iverson for the rest of the season is way too convenient to pass up.

“We made a basketball decision here when we found out that Lou Williams will be out close to eight weeks, which is 30-plus games,” Stefanski said.

“Allen was the best free agent out there for what we need right now.”

Ai In other words, chances are the Sixers wouldn’t even give Iverson a second look had Williams not been hurt. Sure, Iverson still puts the fannies in the seats (in this town) and as far as soap operas go there has never been anything like him in the history of Philly sports. So when thinking about this move look no further than at the Phillies and their mid-season signing of Pedro Martinez last summer. In need of a dependable, No. 5 starter, the general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. took a flier on the three-time Cy Young Award winner and one of the best right-handed pitchers in a generation with the caveat that if it didn’t work out, the team could waive him.

No fuss, no muss.

As it turned out, Pedro ended up pitching a couple of gems during the regular season and one in the NLCS before taking two starts in the World Series. Obviously, that move worked out.

Don’t expect the Sixers to get to the NBA Finals (or even the playoffs) just because they signed Iverson. After all, he couldn’t start for the lowly Memphis Grizzlies and even the New York Knicks didn’t want any part of Iverson. But as a stop-gap, ahem answer, Iverson might just be good enough.

Nope, this is the perfect scenario for Iverson and the Sixers. This is a repeat with some DVD extras in that it can be sold as a farewell tour of sorts. It can be billed as the extended swan song of a career that, statistically-speaking, is more than Hall-of-Fame worthy.

So break out the old “Practice” video and the dizzying step-over on Tyronn Lue because Iverson is back. No, he’s no longer the answer, but he sure is a lot more entertaining than anything else that’s on.

Brand’s injury conjures (bad) memories

Twenty years ago it was a foot and not a shoulder that spoiled a Sixers’ big man and gave reams of fodder to sporting press in Philadelphia.

Though the team had Charles Barkley rumbling into his prime and Julius Erving in his final season, the 1986-87 season ended with barely a whimper in the first round of the playoffs. Those Sixers were a doughnut team that was moving into a transitional period. There were a few decent seasons left and some short-lived playoff runs, but for the most part the glory days were gone.

Maybe it all started with one bad step.

Whatever it was, Jeff Ruland’s brittle foot was in the middle of it.

Ruland, of course, had the misfortune of getting injured before joining a team in Philadelphia. As a result, the fans and media didn’t get a chance to see what he could do. In some sense, the same could be said for Danny Tartabull and Freddy Garcia in following years.

To be fair, it wasn’t Ruland’s fault. A first-round pick out of Iona in 1980, Ruland was hulking presence in the middle for the post-Wes Unseld/Elvin Hayes Washington Bullets. In his first four seasons with the Bullets, Ruland, now a coach with the Sixers, led the league in minutes once and rated in the top 10 in foul shots, rebounds and field-goal percentage. He went to an All-Star Game and had it not been for Buck Williams and Isiah Thomas, he might have been the NBA’s Rookie-of-the-Year in 1981.

But midway through his fourth season with the Bullets, Ruland broke his foot and played in just 37 games. The next season (1985-86), lingering foot and knee trouble limited Ruland to just 30 games for the Bullets before the big trade.

On draft day in June of 1986, the 76ers traded away the No. 1 overall pick in the draft (which was five-time All-Star Brad Daugherty) to Cleveland for Roy Hinson and then shipped away Moses Malone and Terry Catledge for Cliff Robinson and Ruland.

Actually, the Sixers got just Cliff Robinson in the Malone/Catledge trade because Ruland played just five games during the 1986-87 season before the injuries forced him to retire. Just like that and the bruising big man was washed up at 28.

Four years later Ruland attempted a comeback with the Sixers, but that lasted just 13 games before a bizarre Achilles injury outside the Boston Garden involving a luggage cart and a Celtics’ employee ended his return.

Apparently, Ruland just wasn’t meant to play for the Sixers.

Could history be repeating itself two decades later?

Man, the Sixers hope not.

“It’s a huge blow to the team,” coach Tony DiLeo understated.

Certainly the circumstances are different with All-Star Elton Brand than they were with Ruland. Brand will miss the rest of the 2008-09 season after getting through a bunch more games (29) than Ruland did two decades ago. Plus, Brand injured his shoulder with a hard fall to the hardwood. This is just the latest in injuries for Brand who missed nearly all of last season after having Achilles surgery.

Nevertheless, Brand and Ruland can get together to commiserate.

“It’s the most disappointed I’ve ever been in my career,” Brand said. “This was supposed to be special. This was supposed to be winning. This was supposed to be fun. I’m still not going to let them down. I know what it takes. I still have it inside me to do it.”

But ultimately, losing Brand is a bigger hit to the team than it was when Ruland went out. For one thing, Ruland wasn’t expected to be the main piece of the team when he arrived to replace Moses. Plus, Ruland played in a different era of the NBA where the economics weren’t as restricting. For his five games, Ruland got $860,000 – not a small chunk of change, but mere tip money in the modern NBA.

Meanwhile, Brand is not only the centerpiece of the revamped Sixers’ roster filled with up-and-comers, but he’s also an anchor on the Sixers’ salary cap for the next five seasons whether or not he plays again. That’s $13.7 million this season followed by steady raises to 2013 when Brand will be 34 for a cool, $80 million.

“I just wish I could do it right away,” Brand said of his upcoming shoulder surgery. “The fans, they still haven’t seen me play healthy yet, so it is disappointing.”

It’s too early to know if Brand’s time as a Sixer will mirror Ruland’s. Besides, sports medicine, training and rehabilitation has advanced light years since Ruland broke his foot in the mid-1980s.

“I’ve heard some people say, ‘Is he injury prone?’ Well, I guess I have to get the dictionary out,” general manager Ed Stefanski said. “From the replay, I don’t see. I’m prejudiced obviously, but for a guy to bring down an NBA player full force on his shoulder is not injury prone.”

Yes, that’s true. A hard fall in the heat of an NBA game doesn’t necessarily make a guy a perennial injury risk and it’s very unlikely that Brand’s career is anywhere close to being over.

But none of that helps the Sixers this year.

Powder, man… we’re talkin’ ‘bout packed powder

Vacation time. It’s use-the-days-or-lose-them time. It’s also recover from a 16-hour day that was Tuesday when Allen Iverson was finally traded away from the 76ers. Needless to say, there is a bunch of server space that has been impeded upon in the name of delving into the intricacies of the trade.

I’d say trees were killed, too, but we all know that newspapers, in their hardcopy form, are irrelevant.

Apparently, Iverson said he never asked to be traded, which is a unique spin after being inactive for the 76ers for six games. Unless Iverson lives in a cocoon or cave he surely heard the stories saying that he did, indeed, ask for a trade. It’s a wonder he didn’t say anything sooner.

Meanwhile, as a regular traveler to Colorado and parts of the Denver metro area, I’m going to make an easy prediction in saying that Allen Iverson will take over the sporting landscape of that area unlike any other athlete, excluding John Elway, Dan Issel and Frank Shorter. Iverson immediately makes the Nuggets viable in Colorado, which is something. Afterall, the big events out there are Broncos games, track or cycling Olympic Trials when half of Boulder empties out, and the annual Colorado vs. Colorado St. game.

The hard part, as everyone has been writing, will be to get shots for Iverson and leading-scorer Carmelo Anthony. Who knows, perhaps the new dynamic duo will just start playing one-on-one against each other in the middle of games.

Another concern is getting Iverson to practice in the medium altitude in Denver. Then again, he likely won’t have the same distractions in Colorado that he had in Philadelphia. Atlantic City won’t be 45-minutes away, though there are the low-stakes gambling halls in Central City and Blackhawk.

Better yet, forget about Friday’s and Dave & Busters. Just try to keep Iverson off the slopes in Aspen, Vail, Crested Butte or Telluride.

Powder, man… we’re talkin’ ‘bout packed powder.

Of course he can always go up to Boulder and play hacky sack on the Pearl Street Mall, too. Who cares that the team is now being re-nicknamed from Nugs to Thugs… personally, I prefer Carmelo and the Super Sucker (punchers), but that’s me.

So with Iverson gone what are the 76ers going to do to remain in the news? How about an encore for Larry Brown? That’s definitely a unique one. Has Brown ever returned to any of the 274 teams he’s been with during his career? I don’t think so.

Other stuff
Apparently there is a big football game on Monday night. What intrigues me the most about the game – other than the fact that it could determine whether the Lancaster Crackers are the PSFL champion or merely the runner-up – is what if it were to be played in Philadelphia like the NFL originally wanted?

Elsewhere, I enjoyed reading Todd Zolecki’s Q&A with patron saint Bill James. I suppose it’s fair to label Todd as a “sabergeek.”

Goofin’ off
So what does a vacation mean around here? Well, yesterday it meant a 20-mile run that beat me up a little bit. To recover I ate a half gallon of mint chocolate cookie frozen yogurt on top of a chili sauce and tofu with rice dish my wife makes.

Tonight I plan on a modest recovery run since I struggled to run 6:45 pace during the 20-miler, followed by a trip to the haircuttery with our 2-year-old boy and dinner at one of the Japanese restaurants here in town.

Yeah, it’s pretty wild around here.

Later in the week some traveling, movie-viewing and other domesticated tomfoolery is on the agenda. Plus, since a lot of my friends work at home or in offices nearby, I might stop in and bother them.

See, told you it’s going to be wild.

Wrong Answer?

Years from now we will be still debating Allen Iverson’s legacy with the 76ers and as a Philadelphia professional athlete. Certainly, it’s hard to rate Iverson on par with Wilt, Julius, Barkley or Moses Malone. Aside from reaching the top of the NBA as members of the Sixers, there is just something about those guys that illicit wistful reminiscences from people who think on those things.

That’s not to say Iverson didn’t accomplish a lot during his time with the 76ers. After all, his 2001 season is up there with one the all-timers and there was a stretch where watching Iverson was just as exciting as it was during the era that featured Doc, Bird, Magic and Jordan.

By now, of course, most folks who follow these types of things have heard the news regarding Allen Iverson’s desire to be traded from Philadelphia, and his boss’s desire to accommodate his request. Nevertheless, unlike everything else that occurred during Iverson’s past decade with the 76ers, the upcoming ending to his time is not at all unpredictable. Everyone saw it heading this way years, and years ago.

Then again, if it didn’t end badly it would never end.

Iverson was a rarity in the post-Jordan NBA in that he was a player that was actually worth the steep price of admission. Throw in the fact that he is built more like a middle-distance runner than an NBA MVP and it made Iverson even more intriguing.

But intriguing is pretty much all Iverson was during his soon-to-be completed career as a 76er. He was never the self-proclaimed “Answer” despite carrying the team on his narrow shoulders to five games of the NBA Finals in that magical 2001 season. Oh sure, Iverson made his teams competitive, interesting and a threat, but he never made them better.

He never made them a contender.

With the 76ers, Iverson was a lot like a middle-distance runner on a track team or a collegiate wrestler. In those competitions the focus is on the individual result with the team a secondary thought. With Iverson the only way to discuss his game was to talk about the numbers.

For instance, Iverson was a lazy team defensive player but always seemed to poach enough steals to make the league-leader lists and even crack the All-Defensive charts a few times. Meanwhile, Iverson averaged 28.1 points per game during his career on nearly 24 shots per game. Compare that to Doc (24.2 points/18.8 shots), Bird (24.3/19.3), Jordan (30/23), or Barkley (22.1/14.5) and it’s clear that Iverson is the perfect NBA player for the video game age.

For a historical context, perhaps the best comparisons are notorious gunners Bernard King, Alex English, Dominique Wilkins or George Gervin… without the finger roll.

Or the ring.

That last part is hardly Iverson’s fault. Actually, Iverson was always adamant about winning being his top priority. It’s just that winning is more than playing hard in the regular-season games scattered on those nights between November and April. Winning is an everyday thing. It’s a summertime time. A weight room thing. A get-to-bed-early-so-you-can-recover-for-the-next-one thing.

Winning also takes a commitment from the front office, too, and oftentimes it appeared as if the Sixers weren’t putting team together with the correct pieces. Whether that’s a by-product of having Iverson on the team or the state of the modern NBA is for smarter people to figure out, the point is that if Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Julius Erving or Magic Johnson needed the right teammates, Allen Iverson certainly needed them, too.

Let’s not pile on the criticisms of Iverson and the 76ers because that’s not totally fair. Surely Iverson was an inspired player and tons of fun to watch. Like it was stated previously here, those traits are hard to find in the current NBA. But it’s hard to wonder if there was something more with Iverson. Did he get the most out of his ability and talents or was some of it wasted? Make no mistake about it; Iverson gave us everything in games and in interviews when he chose to do them. But it’s hard not to wonder if there was some more left.

Could there have been more for the Sixers and Iverson during the past decade or are we just being greedy?

You know, greedy like Iverson dribbling the ball with the shot clock winding down.