Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Sixers Cover Up Their Failures

All the initial press about Allen Iverson's trade demand was about controversy--missed practices, conflicts with Larry Brown, skipping a bowling event, not getting along with Mo Cheeks, and diddly things like that. Of course, the media has a template in which what is newsworthy about players like Iverson, Chris Webber, Shaquille O'Neill, Kevin Garnet, and Ben Rothlesberger are their controversial incidents and failures rather than their importance to an organization.

What exactly does a guy like Iverson do for an organization?

In the case of the Philadelphia 76ers, they've known for eleven years that they had a very special player in Allen Iverson. When there is an Allen Iverson on board, the problem for management is to create an environment where Iverson's special efforts have the best opportunity to produce team success. That means bringing in coaches, complementary stars, role players, trainers, and other people who can complement, play off, assist, or otherwise team up with the special players or players in order to win games and contend for championships.

The problem for ownership is to bring in a management team that can put all of these pieces together in an effective way. The Chicago Bulls of the Michael Jordan era had enormous success in bringing in coaches and players who played off, worked well with, complemented, and helped Jordan. The Dallas Mavericks and Detroit Pistons are great examples of recent success. They've put presidents and general managers in place who had a nose for the trades and draft choices that worked with their players.

The Sixers management has failed pretty miserably. Nathaniel Friedman of Slate tries to develop a case that Iverson's talents don't mesh well with other players. How would anybody know? Allen Iverson has been in Philadelphia for eleven years and the Sixers have yet to bring in a power forward or center who has any prime time left in them. Say what you will about Jerry Krauss, but he did draft, sign, or trade for Scotty Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and John Paxson while getting some good mileage out of Bill Cartwright. The Sixers have traded for long-past-their-primes Glenn Robinson and Chris Webber while making almost singularly undistinguished draft picks. Their best pick-up was Derrick Coleman while neither Kyle Korver, Andre Iguodala, nor Samuel Dalembert could start for any other team in the NBA. Iverson has grown as both an offensive and defensive player but neither ownership nor management have done their jobs well enough for the Sixers to give their Hall of Fame guard really fruitful employment.

The deep irony of the situation is that the Sixers have been so anxious to get rid of Iverson now that he's expressed a desire for a trade. They won't let him play, wouldn't let him shootaround, took his nameplate off his locker, and seemed to efface all evidence of Iverson around their facilities. Management seems to think that banishing Iverson will mean that they will no longer be reminded of their own failures. Their next losing streak will disagree.

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