There’s a lot of hullabaloo on the Intertubes and locally about why the Sixers should sign the newly available Allen Iverson. So let's break it down.
The Case For
1.) He'd fill some seats.
The Sixers have the second lowest attendance in the NBA; only the utterly terrible Memphis Grizzlies draw fewer people. This doesn't mean that the town has soured on basketball, but you can't give away Sixers' seats right now.
Elton Brand ain't filling the stands, and while Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young have talent, no one is stopping their world to go see them.
2) He'd win some games.
Iverson is, at this point, an insulted man playing for his legacy with his back against the wall. That's usually a great combination for his value, and even in the few games that he played in Memphis before auto-ejecting, he shot a high percentage.
3) He'd be interesting.
This site hasn't spent a word on the Sixers since the start of the regular season, and it's actually getting hard to find them on the cable channels, outside of the NBA cable package.
Even if the team doesn't win with him, Iverson remains compelling if only for the fact that there probably hasn't been a more genuinely emotional player in the league during his time.
4) He's not Willie Green or Royal Ivey, and Lou Williams is out.
Right now, the Sixers start Iguodala and Jrue Holiday, the 19 (!) year old first round pick from UCLA who is shooting 34.8 percent from the floor. Before Williams' injury, Holiday hadn't played more than 15 minutes in any game and that’s for a team that's 5-11.
And, um, Green and Ivey are terrible players who should not be in the NBA. Green especially, in that he's played an unconscionable amount of minutes for this team over the years, for no good reason at all.
5) You could make the playoffs with him.
At 5-11, the Sixers are three games out of the No. 8 slot (Chicago, 6-8) and that's important to this franchise. Especially in this economy, and who knows? You could catch lighting or injuries in a bottle.
This franchise is guilty of many things, but tanking isn't one of them.
6) He's motivated.
The entire Association has washed their hands of him. No one is calling. I'm just a wee bit excited, really, at seeing what an Enormously Dissed AI is capable of.
The Case Against
1) He really wouldn't fill seats.
The history of pro hoops in Philadelphia is simple: If you have a good team, you sell tickets. If you don't, you don't.
Even 2001 AI is not getting this team to win a playoff series, and it's not as if the place was jumping in his last few days here.
We love him, but not unconditionally.
2) He probably isn't winning games.
Even at his peak, AI was a defensive problem with all of his value coming from gambling for steals. He still gets a couple a game, but you can absolutely murder him in the post, and he's not stopping anyone one-on-one.
Offensively, he gets his numbers and helps other people get to the glass, but he also dominates the ball and tends to limit the effectiveness of his teammates. It's rare that any perimeter superstar is a winner at age 34, and AI doesn't do anything to solve the Sixers' overlying problem over the last 15 years (high percentage three point shooting).
3) He's not all that interesting.
People remember the glory years of Iverson, especially in relation to the current yawn-a-thon. But the AI you are getting today looks a lot more like the 2005 and 2006 model, which didn't go to the playoffs or provide any terribly meaningful moment.
4) He'd slow, or prevent, the development of the young players.
If the Sixers are actually going to become a good team, they will only do it with remarkable development from the young players (Young, Maresse Speights, Williams, and Holiday).
Maybe these guys are bad basketball players with no real chance of developing into top-drawer talents; that's certainly the best odds, really. But those odds are still better than a high minutes, high volume speed guard leading them to glory in his mid 30s.
5) You could make the playoffs with him, and lose fast. The last time Iverson was on a team that won a playoff series? 2003. That's not changing this year, either.
6) Why would this be any different than his last three stops?
Dissing AI is not exactly a recent phenomenon, and both the Sixers and Nuggets got a lot better in the short term after getting rid of him. There is an ever-increasing amount of evidence that you just can't win with him.
As a blogger and unrepentant Iverson fan, I can't say that I'd hate the signing.
Ideally, he gives them a boost for a couple of months, gets them back to near a .500 record, and makes them better by allowing Holiday and Williams to learn how to draw contact and get to the line.
It's also hard to see how 70 more games of this would do much good.
Finally, however, I wind up on the side of a signing, for just one reason: Iverson is, for good or ill, one of the best players in the history of the franchise; he is also the favorite player in franchise history for a large portion of the fan base.
When you have a player like that, and the end of his career goes badly, it doesn't just demean his legacy. It also takes down the laundry.
One of my favorite players in the history of team was shooting guard Andrew Toney, a key part of the '83 Moses championship.
He had the quickest first step in the league, routinely devoured Danny Ainge and Celtics in ways that delivered orgasmic levels of happiness, and had a shooting style that looked like a cobra strike.
His career was cut short by foot issues and fights with the team's medical staff, and what should have been a borderline Hall of Fame career was just gone, lost in fading memories, just another set of numbers on a historical record.
AI's impact—the cultural shift, the infamous media moments, the cornrows, the jersey sales—ensures that won't happen to the same extent.
But it does happen.
An Iverson return, and maybe a false spring of wins and playoff contention, might stop that. And what it costs, given that we're talking about a year that's already looking lost, just doesn't matter that much.
I'd do the deal.
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