Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's True: Iverson Not Championship-Worthy

They've said it about some of the greatest players in team sports. Sometimes it's been whispered, other times it's been blared, in bullhorn fashion. The accusation, fair or not, has dogged some of the biggest names in sporting history.

(Insert name here) cannot win.

It was used against Wilt Chamberlain in his head-to-head battles with Bill Russell. Though Wilt did win a championship. But not nearly enough of them to silence the critics. So Chamberlain, forever, was banished to being less of a player than Russell.

They said it about John Elway, until Elway filled their mouths with dirt and turf in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII. They said it about Danny Marino.

Locally, it was even said about Steve Yzerman -- if you can imagine such a thing now.

The Pistons are finding out now, in the only way possible -- that being the hard way -- that what they've long said about Allen Iverson is, unfortunately, true.

Allen Iverson cannot win. Thus, you cannot win with Allen Iverson.

I'm afraid to report that it's true. It really is. I was a proponent of the Chauncey Billups-for-Iverson trade, when it happened in November. I thought that it was about damn time that the Pistons have a ball-hogging, take-the-big-shot guy on their roster. I wrote that the old way of doing things in Pistons-land -- the way that says there is no true superstar -- was proven to be the wrong and futile way. So I pumped the Iverson trade as not only coming around to the reality of the NBA, but doing so in one of the grandest ways possible -- with Iverson, a sure-fire Hall of Famer who was hungry for his first ring.

I was wrong. And all those folks who warned against acquiring a famously selfish player -- and selfish isn't always a bad thing in the NBA, by the way -- like Iverson, who said that you cannot win with AI, were absolutely, spot-on correct.

You really cannot win with Allen Iverson, after all.

Actually, AI, it's been "thumbs down" on your Pistons Era

There are many culpable folks whose hands are bloody during this God-awful Pistons season -- one that appears to careening out of control at the speed of sound. But I'm sorry -- it comes down to the moment Iverson arrived in Detroit.

The Pistons were 4-0, don't forget, when Iverson joined the Pistons. They are 23-28 since.

Instead of Iverson being the spark plug, being the missing ingredient, being, ahem, "The Answer", he instead was the first domino whose fall knocked down a bunch of other dominoes. Which led to the Pistons' freefall.

Iverson's arrival changed the way the Pistons played, but that was hardly a surprise. But in addition, it changed the way rookie coach Michael Curry substituted, strategized, and ultimately, his starting lineup and his bench people. And none of it for the good, really.

You cannot win with Allen Iverson. It's official.

Iverson came to Detroit beaming, telling everyone that this was the most talented roster he's ever played with, and that a championship was all that was left to, in his mind, validate his career. He couldn't wait to get started.

Oh, he got started alright. Iverson slowly, methodically, soiled the Pistons with the very things that I had exulted about him: his ball-hogging, his out-of-control way of providing offense, and, to my chagrin, his failing to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to sacrificing in order to win a title. That was a good one, a real knee slapper.

You cannot win with Allen Iverson. Spread the word. It's true.

The only way I can see Iverson hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy over his head is if he does so as an aging, journeyman benchwarmer whose playing time was incidental, his contribution minimal and in spurts. The announcers will say, "Well, AI finally got his ring," but it will be in an almost charitable way.

The Pistons have a decision to make on Iverson. He's in the last year of his fat contract -- a nice, juicy, fat contract that will come off the Pistons' books this summer, should they choose to part ways with him. I have a feeling that that decision has already been made.

You cannot win with Allen Iverson. Pass it on.

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