Allen Iverson will officially retire from the NBA on Oct. 30 and when his name comes up, people love to smile and talk about practice.
Yep, he uttered the word “practice” 20 times in that now iconic news conference. For his teammates on various squads, it’s a shame he wasn’t a better practice player. On the other hand, though, you’d be hard pressed to find a player who gave more on game nights when the lights were on and fans were in the seats.
Iverson was there at the start of the change in the perception of the point guard. There were times when he scored at will—passing was only an option when it seemed he couldn’t put the ball in the bucket himself. That’s all good if your name is Iverson, but many younger, less-skilled point guards mimicked his style to the detriment of the game in some eyes. All that said, it’s tough to argue with AI’s results, and he probably gave rise to some of the exciting young players at that position currently in the NBA.
It’s somewhat fitting that Iverson landed in Philadelphia to start his career. You knew he and the city would clash. But you also knew that his leave-it-all-on-the-floor attitude would be appreciated by a group considered some of the toughest to please. Iverson had some issues before he came to Philadelphia. There was the infamous bowling-alley brawl, and he had various disagreements and brushes with the law once he got to the City of Brotherly Love. However, nobody could ever question his effort on the court.
What’s most remarkable about Iverson was his fearlessness, and how that combined with his skills put him at the top of the opposition’s scouting report every night. Not bad for a guy who is generously listed at six-feet and 165 lb. I can vouch for the fact that he is not quite six-feet tall thanks to a picture of the two of us conducting an interview on the court following a Raptors loss to the Sixers at the Air Canada Centre. I’ll give him five-foot-10—tops.
Over his fourteen-year NBA career Iverson was an 11-time all-star, voted league MVP in 2001 and led his team to the Finals that same season. He currently sits in the top 20 on the league’s all-time scoring list, although he could be surpassed by three players this season. Iverson had a prolific, exciting and entertaining tenure and will be looked at as one of the greatest little men in the history of the game. At some point, he will take the stage in Springfield and make a Hall of Fame acceptance speech.
Around the League
The season tips off Tuesday night and many burning questions will finally be answered. Let’s work our way back from last season’s finals, shall we?
- Can Miami win a third straight title? We could be asking about a fourth if not for the Dallas Mavericks in 2011… Will the Spurs be able to have the dominoes fall in their favour again to get back to the finals? My guess is no… How will the Grizzlies perform under new coach David Joerger? It says here they will miss Lionel Hollins’s old-school approach and won’t go nearly as deep in the playoffs… Have the Pacers done enough to retool the bench with the addition of C.J. Watson and Luis Scola to take the next step and reach the NBA Finals? And what becomes of Danny Granger? Can Paul George perform at an even higher level this season?… In spite of Indiana and the splash made by the Brooklyn Nets, are the Chicago Bulls with the return of Derrick Rose the true challengers to the Heat in the East?…Will the free-agent drama in New York derail Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks’ focus?….How will Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb respond for the Thunder in the absence of Russell Westbrook early in the season? Is the window suddenly closing in Oklahoma City with the renaissance of teams like Golden State, Houston and the L.A. Clippers?
- Speaking of those three squads, who replaces Jarrett Jack’s leadership and terrific fourth-quarter play in Oakland? Andre Iguodala?… Can Dwight Howard leave all the drama at the door this season and find a way to share the floor with James Harden for the Rockets to make a deep playoff run?… What impact will Doc Rivers have on the Clippers? Can they hang their own banner instead of just covering up Laker paraphernalia at the Staples Center?… And what about the Lakers? Kobe will come back and perform at a high level but what about the rest of the team. The defence was questionable last season, and this year Kobe is out early while Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace are both gone. Will there be playoffs in L.A.? For the Clippers, yes, the Lakers—I’m not so sure. Ditto in Denver. There have been too many changes in the Mile High City to make the playoffs in the West.
- Boston and Atlanta were playoff mainstays in the East in recent years. But now there are new coaches and whispers of rebuilding. Boston is paying the mortgage for its 2008 title and subsequent playoff runs. General Manager Danny Ainge has nine first-round picks over the next five years? Yep, the Celtics are rebuilding… It will be culture shock for former Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta. There is no Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili on the court and no Gregg Popovich on the bench next to him… Can Larry Drew do the same job in Milwaukee he did in Atlanta and get the Bucks back to the post-season?
- Boston’s issues have now been transferred to Brooklyn. How much do Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have left? Can rookie head coach Jason Kidd transform this group into an NBA champion? He’d better hurry because the door won’t be open for long… Is John Wall ready to lead the Wizards to the post-season? New head coach Mo Cheeks has some pieces in Detroit with Josh Smith, Chauncey Billups, Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. General Manager Joe Dumars needs them to perform, this season… The Brampton, er, Cleveland Cavaliers are young and loaded with potential under Mike Brown. What will they get out of Andrew Bynum and can they surprise to make the post-season?… Charlotte finally has a legitimate inside threat in Al Jefferson but it will only improve them marginally. And if you look in the dictionary under “rebuilding,” you might see a picture of either the Philadelphia 76ers or the Orlando Magic.
- With the addition of vets Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Devin Harris, DeJuan Blair and Samuel Dalembert, do the Dallas Mavericks have a playoff run in them?… New Orleans had a solid pre-season, Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday could be a nice backcourt pair, Tyreke Evans is a nice addition and Monty Williams is a good young coach. What kind of improvement will there be?… If the Timberwolves stay healthy with the addition of Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer are they post-season bound?… Will Damian Lillard regress in Portland?… I’m interested to see how Mike Malone does as a head coach in Sacramento. He’s a smart guy and worked hard for his chance. He’s the latest to have a shot at trying to channel DeMarcus Cousins’s energy in the right direction… Utah has lost four key vets in Jefferson, Randy Foye, Mo Williams and Paul Millsap. Who leads the charge in Utah?
- And finally what happens in Toronto with the Raptors? General Manager Masai Ujiri will let the season run its course. If things don’t go well, a rebuild can easily be concocted. Kyle Lowry is in the last year of his deal, and if team options are declined on some players, Toronto could have a little as $44 million committed to salaries for the 2014–15 season. On the other hand, if the team performs well, an ardent playoff-starved fan base will be grateful for post-season basketball and suddenly the Raptors may look appealing to potential free agents. It says here they are in the mix for a playoff spot in the East. But let’s watch some basketball and see what happens.