Commentary: Sixers don’t have the right team around Iverson

Last week I claimed the that Sixers had to trade Allen Iverson in order for them to be competitive not only now but in the future. Blasphemy? Nearly. Disloyalty at its finest? Absolutely. Beneficial? Definitely. Before you crucify me and sentence me to a fate worse than that of Ben Affleck’s career post-“Gigli,” hear me out.

I love Iverson. I love watching him. I love how he gives his all every night on the hardwood and I love how he values winning above all else. He’s the only Philly athlete that fans have never booed and there’s a reason for it – he’s unbelievably loyal. The problem is Iverson’s style of play. As dominating as it can be, it just does not fit well with the rest of the Sixers team.

When the Sixers made the NBA Finals in 2001, they did it with Iverson as their star and scorer and Larry Brown as their head coach, but what about the rest of the squad? They were role players. The 2001 76ers were filled to the brim with role players, because that’s the best way to complement Iverson’s game. Let him do the majority of the scoring, take as many shots as he wants and let all the other players do the dirty work. Iverson isn’t selfish; that’s just his style of play and how he performs best. The role players never grumbled or complained about not getting shots, because they didn’t have star egos.

Look at the current Sixers roster – Kyle Korver, Andre Iguodala, Chris Webber, Samuel Dalembert. Which one of these doesn’t belong? Not only is Webber past his prime and ridiculously overpaid ($20 million a year, which is, by the way, more than Iverson makes), but he’s already whining in the clubhouse like a pregnant woman in her third trimester.

After the 76ers got blown out by the Wizards a few weeks ago, Webber reportedly went off in the clubhouse afterward, yelling at the coaches and players alike, essentially about not getting the ball enough. Shortly after, Iverson sat before the media, questioning his role on the team, clearly demoralized by Webber’s antics. Iverson has already said this is the most frustrating season of his career, but questioning his role on the team? I can’t ever remember that happening.

Webber and Iverson aren’t winning consistently, so what happens when you sprinkle in a further breakdown of team chemistry between the squad’s two star players? I think Eagles fans got plenty of that this season. Well, what about money? The argument used to be that Iverson sold tickets and put butts in the seats. I’m sure he still does, but so does winning. Also, have you seen a home Sixers game as of late? The place isn’t exactly packed. People are losing interest and something needs to be done about it. Mediocrity does not sell tickets.

This is like a bad high school science class – we’ve identified the problem and found the error in the formula, but how do we correct it? Why not just unload Webber if he’s causing problems with the team’s champion? Yeah, have a good time with that. You’ll have as much trouble trying to unload Webber for something valuable as Isiah Thomas would have being somewhat competent as an NBA GM.

Like I said earlier, not only is Webber well past his prime, but he has a monster contract that won’t expire until 2008, when he’ll be making $22 million. If 76ers GM Billy King managed to somehow pull the wool over his eyes and get rid of Webber and his contract (you never know, the Knicks and Hawks didn’t get this bad purely by chance), they’d still have to get someone equally or more valuable to be a true contender, and even then it’d be a stretch. If, in that unlikely scenario, that were to happen, you’d still have the problem of Iverson playing with other scorers such as Korver and John Salmons, the former of which couldn’t guard an NBA forward with a crowbar. The defensive problems would still go unsolved and Iverson’s play would still not be maximized.

This is where I came to the dead end. This is where you have to trade Philadelphia icon Allen Iverson in order to be competitive not only now, but especially down the stretch. Iverson carries an incredible reputation around the NBA and could get great market value in return, as well as freeing up a lot of cap space. If they trade Iverson now, while they could get someone great in return, they could grab a high profile, young point guard in return and a solid additional player or two.

If the Sixers could trade Iverson for a guard and a forward like Chris Paul and David West of the New Orleans Hornets, they would then be in a position to build a team for the future around Iguodala, as well as the other young players on the team, like Dalembert, Salmons and Korver. Iguodala, at 21-years-old, is an absolute physical freak. He’s fantastic defensively and has tremendous potential. If he develops his midrange jump shot as he gets older, he could be a devastatingly special player. Iguodala really reminds me of a top-tier player, almost like a Tracy McGrady, before he put it all together and figured it out, minus the ego problem and stupid adidas commercials. If you don’t trade Iverson and ride the season out, he gets another year older, Webber gets more frustrated and the team wastes another year of retooling possibilities.

As a fan, I don’t want to get rid of Iverson. I think he’s the heart and soul of the team, leaves it all out on the floor every night and is one of the elite players in NBA history. I don’t think we’ll ever see anyone quite like him again. Unfortunately, the heart and soul can’t function without the body doing all the other things – something the team just doesn’t have right now.