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Sunday, December 17, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM


Jerry Brewer

Here's hoping A.I. goes to a contender

Seattle Times staff columnist

The NBA, normally dormant until about the All-Star break, crackles with intrigue right now. First David Stern, the most steadfast commissioner in professional sports, relents and lets the players have their old ball back. Now Allen Iverson, the most enigmatic athlete of his generation, is being auctioned.

So trading Iverson is difficult, huh?

If you couldn't see this coming, you probably also decided against gassing up the car before the windstorm.

This isn't another Iverson lament, however. After all this time, we must either accept him or ignore him. I can't ignore him. And over his 11 years in the NBA, I'm guessing many others on the fence about him because of his countercultural habits have wound up tripping over to his side because of his amazing skills and magnetism.

So here's a wish as Philadelphia attempts to trade a talent unparalleled in basketball history: Find him a team he can make great.

Shipping Iverson to Minnesota to play with Kevin Garnett might satisfy this. Giving him to Elton Brand and the Los Angeles Clippers sounds better. Gift-wrapping him for Carmelo Anthony and Denver sounds best — unless Miami really could swing an attractive deal (doubtful).

And while we're fantasizing, maybe one of those fun-loving, championship-ready teams out West — Dallas or Phoenix — might get a little greedy and fidgety and pull off this trade. It's a silly thought, since those teams are so good and so balanced, but hey, this is a whimsy about rescuing A.I.

We need Iverson to win enough to matter again.

Mercurial yet mesmerizing, likable yet loathsome, Iverson reigns as the ultimate Rubik's Cube in sports. We twist and turn him, abandon and return to him, curse and obsess over him, but we never see him perfectly aligned. By now, we have accepted this — or we should have — but we remain strangely fascinated.

Iverson's trade drama, now in its second week, has served as a reminder of his prominence. Just when it looked as if his status had been downgraded to a great, graying player on a terrible team, just when this Anthony-LeBron James-Dwyane Wade infatuation was primed to fully take over the NBA, A.I. reverted to being the old A.I.

Rebellious. Impetuous. Angry.

The situation between Iverson and the Sixers became so nasty the only NBA franchise he has played for told him to go home. They're essentially paying him right now to balk at trade offers.

The ideal way to trade a star player is to keep everything quiet and operate with teams assuming you feel no pressure to complete a deal. Because this divorce is so public, Philly doesn't have that leverage anymore. The Sixers will be lucky to get 70 percent of Iverson's value in return, especially with general manager Billy King working on the trade.

See, here's the kind of wackiness you get whenever Iverson is involved in the news: King is reportedly consulting Larry Brown on this trade. Brown, the coach who exposed the worst in Iverson yet turned him into an MVP, left the Sixers for Detroit three years ago in a most disrespectful manner. Now he's helping with the team's biggest trade since dealing Charles Barkley?

It makes no sense, even though King and Brown share a long friendship. And it emphasizes the idea that Philadelphia's biggest problem has not been Iverson's ball-hogging and refusal to change but King's poor decisions in team-building.

Iverson shouldn't be excused for any of his mistakes. He has been flippant. He has been in jail. He remains the last star player you'd want your kids to emulate.

But there's a complexity to him that will be forever intriguing. And, generously listed at 6 feet, he's the most impactful little man ever to play the game.

There's one Iverson memory that amazes me to this day. During the 2004 Olympics, he was part of that miserable United States team, the first NBA-led U.S. team to fail to win a gold medal. Because he's neither a pure shooter nor a true point guard, Iverson represented some of the bad of that team.

But after the U.S. lost for the third time in those Olympics and were assured not to win gold, Iverson sat at a podium before the world and explained being an American as well as anyone I've ever heard. He explained what basketball had done for him and everyone on the U.S. roster and vowed he would have his team ready to win the bronze medal.

He kept his promise. During an embarrassing time, he showed character few thought he possessed.

That Iverson, I can stand. That Iverson, I want to see traded to a winner.

Jerry Brewer: 206-424-2277 or

Standing in tall company
Though Allen Iverson is listed at only 6 feet, his 28.1 career scoring average ranks third in NBA history:
No. Player Ht. Years Avg.
1. Wilt Chamberlain 7-1 1959-1973 30.1
2. Michael Jordan 6-6 1984-2003 30.1
3. Allen Iverson 6-0 1996-present 28.1
4. Elgin Baylor 6-5 1958-1972 27.4
5. Jerry West 6-3 1960-1974 27.0

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company




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