The Circus, I Mean Allen Iverson is Coming Back to Philly
by Jimmy Shapiro
P.T. Barnum’s legendary line was “There’s a sucker born every minute”. Well consider me a sucker. As a lifelong Sixers fan and former intern (in 92, the season after Barkley was traded and Doug Moe was the coach, yuk!), I’ve been outspoken many times on this site about how I feel about Iverson. In a nutshell, I think he’s a selfish basketball player who has been unwilling to adapt to the players around him and what the team needed from him. His act wore thin with me back in 2003. I think he typically says the right thing, hence Eddie Jordan talking about how “charming” he was in their meeting in Dallas before the Sixers re-signed Iverson. And I think it’s a move that reeks of desperation for the Sixers to become relevant once again in Philly.
All that said and getting back to me being a sucker, I’ve already set the DVR to record the Nuggets/Sixers game on Monday night. It’s like turning around to see a car crash while you’re driving on the highway. It’s impossible not to. Truth is, the Sixers don’t care if you agree with the move or not, they just want you to buy tickets or tune in to watch the human car crash himself, Allen Iverson. I will take the bait, hook, line, and sinker! I personally think it is a bad move for the future of the franchise and the growth of the young players on the Sixers. With or without Iverson, I don’t think this team is making the playoffs and if they do it will be one and done for the third year in a row. You have to be really bad for awhile or get extremely lucky in the draft to get out of the NBA doldrums or even worse, mediocrity. As a Sixers fan, of course I hope Iverson changes and plays within the confines of a team game, but even though I’m sucker, I’m still a realist.
Iverson, polarizing as ever, has been the talk of the Philadelphia sports scene all week. Ah, the Sixers marketing and PR staff are smiling. One person that isn’t happy with the signing is legendary Philadelphia sports radio host, Howard Eskin of WIP(known as “The King” in Philly). I listen to interviews all day from around the country and you can count on one hand the number of radio hosts with the balls to pepper a guest with tough questions like Eskin did in this interview with Sixers GM Ed Stefanski. In the interview they talk about the decision to bring back AI, if he believes Iverson has changed after 14 years, on the physical shape he’s in, and if there’s a no tolerance policy for the Answer. The transcription is good, but it truly doesn’t do this interview justice. Although professionally done by Eskin, there’s just a tenseness in the interview that is fascinating and Stefanski often sounds defensive. I urge you to listen to the whole interview (see below).
On the decision to bring back Allen Iverson:
“Well I will say this. Where he is in his life and what we have to offer him, and the risks that we have, is not a major risk. And he wants to come back to Philadelphia in the worst way. That is an overriding theme that I went through in the meeting. The overriding theme is he wanted to desperately get back to Philadelphia.”
On whether or not he believes Allen Iverson has changed after 14 years:
“I’m hoping he is a player that is apart of our family now. He’s back in the organization. It’s a clean slate and we go from there.”
On the current physical shape of Allen Iverson:
“I don’t think he is in great basketball shape. I don’t know if this guy ever is in great basketball shape. I think Iverson is the type of guy who steps on the court and wants to play games. He wants to get out there and play. So, I know the last few days he has been getting some workouts in Atlanta. He’ll get more workouts when he gets here.
On the immediate roll of Allen Iverson for the 76ers:
“We never guaranteed him that he is going to start. We never guaranteed him “X” number of minutes. But believe me when I tell you, we didn’t bring him in for depth. We didn’t bring him in for a practice player. We brought him in to play.”
On the future status of Allen Iverson when Louis Williams returns from injury:
“We brought Allen in to play basketball. Okay? And, so we have to make a decision when “Lou” comes back and that is a coaches decision on if both of them play together. You have to think of how you would do it defensively but then on the offensive side, how would people match up with us… That’s something that’s going to have to happen down the road. But if Lou Williams does not get hurt and is not out 30 plus games, we are not having this conversation.”
On whether or not there is a “no tolerance” policy with Allen Iverson:
“I will handle him the same way I handle any player in the place. There’s a lot of ways to reprimand or to get something done from a player. And if there is s situation that I feel warranted, I’ll warrant it and I will penalize the person on that. But it’s a case by case base.”
On how disappointing it is to see such low attendance:
“Its disappointing. The fans that come are great. They are into it and excited. We are trying to put the young kids out there. Were trying to play at a pace that the people will like. We do get up and down the floor. But people want to see wins.”
Listen to Allen Iverson on WIP in Philadelphia with Howard Eskin.