By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
If you don’t know by now or unless you’ve had your cable cut off, you all know that Allen Iverson’s days in Philadelphia as a 76ers are over. Done.
Last Friday night, I was among the throng of the media hordes surrounding Sixers owner Ed Snider when he confirmed for us what general manager Billy King tried to avoid saying to us earlier in the evening.
“Allen’s been here for 11 years, he’s done a great job for this organization. He’s one of the greatest basketball players of all time and I’m not here to diss him in any shape or form,” Snider said. “It’s time for him to go his way and for us to go our way. … We’re going to trade him. At a certain point you have to come to grips with the fact that it’s not working. He wants out and we’re going to accommodate him.”
As much as I have as I loved watching A.I. over the years, it is time for him to leave this Popsicle stand of a franchise that absolutely had no hope of winning a championship.
Before all the Iverson trade rumors came out in Friday’s New York Post, I wrote a column in Tuesday’s edition of the Philadelphia Tribune, saying that Iverson should ask to be traded because there’s no way he was going to win anything with the franchise in its current configuration was going to win a championship or even make the playoffs.
I wrote that column based on the look of defeat and resignation that I saw on Iverson’s face in the Sixers locker room following Sunday night’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Wachovia Center.
As he fielded questions from a group reporters gathered around his locker, Iverson’s body language-with his arm folded and his neck trying to keep his head up had the look of “get me out of here now.” When trade rumors surfaced on previous occasions, Iverson always reiterated his desire to want to say in Philadelphia.
Seeing Iverson at his locker, he even knew deep down inside that it was time to go. When he was held out of practice and told not to come with the Sixers to Orlando, he saw the writing on the wall.
“As hard as it is to admit, a change may be the best thing for everyone. I hate admitting that because I love the guys on the team and the city of Philadelphia. I truly wanted to retire a 76er,” Iverson said in a statement released by his agent Leon Rose. “I appreciate that in my 11 years in Philadelphia, the fans have always stood by me, supported me, and gone to bat for me.”
But the sad reality that Iverson has always known is that the Philadelphia 76ers have done little to nothing to put a team good enough to make a run for a championship. But this has been the case since former general Pat Croce left the team back in 2002.
Going back to the end of the season when he and Chris Webber didn’t show up for Fan Appreciation Night at the Wachovia Center, I thought that subconsciously or maybe even consciously Iverson was voicing his displeasure with the organization. I think that was the case when he failed to show up a 76ers Christmas party for season ticket holders and corporate sponsors a couple of weeks ago.
As inexcusable as both of those incidents were, I believe the root cause of it had to come from Iverson’s disenchantment with where the franchise was going. Don’t get me wrong I certainly don’t condone Iverson’s actions in and to be sure he has his own share of mistakes he has made during his time here, but I think he has been unhappy with the team’s effort to make a legitimate run for a title.
Last summer when everyone thought Iverson’s trade was imminent, I asked Iverson at the press conference in Washington, D.C. promoting his annual softball game if the Sixers organization had done enough to bring guys in to help him win a championship.
“Obviously not because it hasn’t happened yet,” said Iverson back in July. “It just makes me feel kind of bad that I had a strong season and we didn’t make the playoffs. “If I am there, we need guys around me and Chris [Webber] that’s going to give 110 percent night in and night out.”
And that is the real source of Iverson’s anger with the Sixers organization. King and the Sixers management did nothing to make this team better in the off-season. Inexplicably, a team that desperately needed a point-guard and some depth at power forward and center drafted a Andre Igoudala clone in small forward Rodney Carney out of Memphis. This team needed guys to rebound the basketball and banked on the idea that team would get better with familiarity with each other and their coach Maurice Cheeks.
What a bunch of hogwash that was. The team stinks just as bad as it did last year and are probably a whole worse and I blame that on King’s inability to bring in players that would fit his talent.
And please don’t tell me that players don’t want to play with him and that he doesn’t make players better. Bull-shit! If you remember the 2005 All-Star game, Iverson didn’t score over 20 points but put other guys in position to score. He was the MVP of that All-Star game. And remember 2001 when he took that team to the NBA Finals. In that year, he had a solid supporting cast of guys who could actually play basketball—unlike the group he was playing with the last two years.
“Larry Brown was the Coach of the Year for the first time in 2001. Why? Because Allen Iverson had a good year. They say he doesn’t make players better. He made for money for George Lynch, Eric Snow, Tyrone Hill, Aaron McKie, etc.,” former Sixers coach and NBA analyst Fred “Mad Dog” Carter told me in a phone interview last summer. “He won the MVP for the All-Star game when he wasn’t the leading scorer.”
While Iverson would never throw his teammates under the bus and criticize them publicly, I think Iverson was not happy with the ability of some of his teammates and was frustrated that those players didn’t come to play night in and night out like he did.
Where ever Iverson goes, I hope he wins that world championship that he couldn’t win here. All the mistakes that he made off the court will be forgotten years from now and the only thing that people will remember of Iverson was that he was a warrior who came to play every night whether he was injured or not. He gave all he could to help his team win a championship. It’s a shame that the Sixers organization didn’t give the effort as Iverson did.