Wednesday, December 20, 2006

All AI All The Time

My last one until he actually, you know, plays for the Nuggs.

But, damn, Henry Abbott gets this perfectly right:
You know those glow sticks they give little kids on Halloween? With the neon goo inside? Where you and I have blood, Iverson has that glowing stuff pumping through him. He's just on fire, all the time. If you could spread that magical juice throughout your roster, you'd win the title every year--talent and size be damned.

But as it is, Allen Iverson has two gallons of it, and most people don't even have a teaspoon. There's your trouble. Hmm... it's a game won by the best team... so what do you there? Through most of his career, Allen Iverson has known what to do there: win the damn game himself. He can see how and where the fire is burning, and by comparison it's almost all in him.

Deep inside all of us, upon hearing and seeing that, there's some eighth grade basketball coach ready to tear that little punk a new one, with a lecture about teamwork, a lecture about leadership, and a lecture about lighting the fire in your teammates, instead of complaining it's not burning brightly enough and moving on.

Well, I urge you to turn off that little coach for a second. Why? That coach's point is valid, but his tactics suck in this instance. You are simply not going to convince Allen Iverson to change anything about his game with a lecture.
15 years later, it's easy to forget how much heat Sam Smith got for writing "The Jordan Rules" because it supposedly made MJ look bad (I didn't think so at the time, but then I was never under any allusions that a professional sports team was full of best buddies. Remember the old adage about the Sawx, 25 players and 25 cabs...) The parts that were so controversial were about Michael's tendency to not just denigrate, but destroy his teammates if he didn't think they were matching his intensity. Which none of them ever were or could (with the possible exception of Rodman, but that was a craftier and less volatile MJ as well). The Bulls of the late 80's were littered with players who might have turned out to be functional NBA role players had Jordan not simply ended them as basketball players. Dennis Hopson. Brad Sellers. Stacey King. Heck, Kwame Brown is just now, maybe recovering from the scars.

But here's the thing, those that could survive the heat earned his respect, and acquired some of Jordan's drive. He willed Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant into becoming star material. Or more exactly he willed them to have that desire. And at the key moments in Jordan's first title run, he had trust in his team, finding John Paxson over and over for the buckets that beat the Lakers in what would turn out to be Magic's swans song.

Up until that point, people questioned whether MJ could be enough of a 'team player.' But put the right players and personalities on that team, and of course he could be.

And until I'm proven wrong, I think the same thing about Iverson. He is desperate to be surrounded by guys who will come with him. The one time he had anything resembling a tough-minded team around him, he went to the finals with Aaron McKie, Eric Snow, Ty Hill, George Lynch and Mount Motumbo. Not a whole lot of talent in that group but they brought it every night. Snow may have been the worst jump shooting guard in the entire league. Until the Sixers needed it, then he was cash.

Is Denver that kind of team? Well first of all, that there is more talent alongside AI is abundantly clear. Secondly, the Nuggets have some tough (or at least tough-minded) bastards in Camby, Boykins and the dead hard Eddie Najera (No points for injured fake-thug Kenyon Martin though). Melo may seem laconic, but lest we forget, he's won a championship without a whole lot of help, give or take Hakeem Warrick. Whether JR Smith can handle the fire is a very open question. We shall see.

But my point is this: Iverson needs teammates he feels are both willing and able to win, and this is as close as he's going to come. And he's got to know that and adjust accordingly. I think he will. Else he's the spoiled punk everyone thought he was, and I'm eternally disappointed.


yogo said...

I hope AI comes out on top.

Icepick said...

He's just on fire, all the time.

Except at practice.