Thursday , Apr , 01 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Will Iverson become a former Sixer?

(Sports Network) – Philadelphia 76ers president and general manager Billy
King announced Tuesday that All-Star guard Allen Iverson will miss the
remainder of the regular season due to persistent pain and inflammation in the
right knee.

“Allen saw Dr. Warren in New York yesterday (Monday), who concurs with the
diagnosis and treatment of Allen’s ailing right knee,” 76ers team physician
Dr. Jack McPhilemy said on Tuesday. “Allen has been bothered by recurrent
swelling in the right knee going back six weeks, and diagnostic studies have
indicated some wear of the cartilage under the kneecap. Dr. Warren believes
that this condition is likely to improve with rest and rehabilitation.”

The 28-year-old Iverson has been sidelined a career-high 27 games this season
due to various injuries and will have missed 34 contests when Philadelphia’s
season comes to an end on April 14th at Orlando.

In 48 games this season, Iverson averaged 26.4 points and 6.8 rebounds in 42
minutes of action per game. The Georgetown product shot a career-low 38.7
percent from the field and averaged 4.35 turnovers, which is the most since
his rookie campaign in 1996-97.

Here is the big question. Has Iverson,who signed a lucrative, multi-year
contract extension with the Sixers in September 2003, played his last game in
a 76ers’ uniform?

The 76ers, who are 13-14 without Iverson this season, have been able to see
what the younger players on their roster are capable of doing on the court.
Rookies Willie Green and Kyle Korver have shown that they have a future in the
league, while center Samuel Dalembert and second-year forward John Salmons
have also been solid performers.

Philadelphia, which will most likely miss the playoffs for the first time
since the 1997-98 season, has been a different team without Iverson, who takes
about 24 shots per game. The shots are being distributed amongst more of the
players and there seems to be a better flow to the offense. The Sixers have
become more of a team then a one-man show.

Another big positive in the absence of Iverson has been the play of 26-year-
old forward Kenny Thomas, who is averaging 13.1 points and 10.2 rebounds in 67
games this season. Thomas, who was traded by the Houston Rockets to the 76ers
in a three-way deal in December 2002, has averaged 17.6 points and 11.4 boards
in his last 20 contests.

Interim head coach Chris Ford, who took over when first-year head coach Randy
Ayers was fired 52 games into the season, has had problems getting along with
Iverson. However, this will not factor into the decision of whether the All-
Star guard will be traded in the offseason. Ford, who has also been the
general for Boston, Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Clippers, will most likely
not be retained by King.

There will be many things that factor into the decision of whether Iverson
will be playing for another team next season. Can King get value for
Philadelphia’s biggest asset?

Selected by Philadelphia in the first round (first pick overall) of the 1996
NBA Draft, Iverson follows his own rules and has the reputation of being a
difficult player to coach. Did King have to settle on Ayers when Larry Brown
left for Detroit, because none of the available big name coaches wanted to
deal with the Georgetown product on a daily basis? This question raises
another, are there teams in the league that are willing to deal with the
excess baggage that comes along with the talented guard?

Can King deal veterans Eric Snow, Aaron McKie, Glenn Robinson and Derrick
Coleman? If the Sixers president and general manager decides to ship Iverson
to another team, then he might as well get rid of the players who he has used
to build his team around Iverson.

Can Thomas be the go-to guy if King cannot get equal value for Iverson? It is
extremely difficult to trade a player with Iverson’s contract because of the
salary cap. Teams might not be willing to give top-flight players for Iverson,
which could leave Thomas as Philadelphia’s No. 1 option if it takes marginal
players just to rid itself of the Georgetown product.

Are Thomas, Dalembert, Green, Korver and Salmons players that a roster can be
structured around? Even though these players have stepped up and played well,
I do not think there is a coach out there that wants to call one of their
numbers for the final shot in a tied game. However, they can be part of the
puzzle.

It is time to start fresh in Philadelphia. But, once King decides to trade
Iverson then there will be a domino effect. The entire roster will have to be
rebuilt, as this is a team has been designed around the special skills of one
player.

Philadelphia’s president and general manager needs to think about what the
consequences could be if he trades one of the biggest attractions in the NBA.
King will not make a hasty decision, as he will think long and hard as to how
he wants to go into the 1994-95 season. Finding a new head coach with an
impressive track record could be a tough task if Iverson is still on the
roster. However, finding a team that wants to acquire the exciting shooting
guard could be even more difficult.

PHI