Allow me to shed a silver lining of optimism on the Allen Iverson doomsday parade. If it’s true that the Iverson/Memphis relationship is deteriorating fast with no reunion in sight, there is one sensible solution that can take place as soon as A.I. is eligible for a trade in mid-December.
There is one trade that can work, one fan base that would accept Iverson with (somewhat) open arms, one team that could slide him right into the starting lineup AND win some games in the process, one place where Iverson can work to rebuild his reputation and maybe even have a future beyond this season.
Iverson should go back to the Sixers. Here’s the scenario:
* Philadelphia gets: Allen Iverson, Marko Jaric, Sergio Rodriguez
* Memphis gets: Willie Green, Kenny Thomas
* Sacramento gets: Sam Dalembert
The financial part works out. (Why else would Jaric and Thomas be involved?) The rebuilding Grizzlies get Thomas’ $8.7 million expiring contract going into a big free-agent summer, a backup two-guard (Green) to O.J. Mayo who actually doesn’t mind being a backup, and they rid themselves of the Iverson soap opera.
The Kings bolster their soft interior defense with Dalembert, adding height to a roster where Sean May is currently the second-string center. Sammy’s $12M salary is pretty expensive for a backup to Spencer Hawes, and he might get a little A.I.-ish after having been a starter most of his career, but it’s not like he’s leaving a great situation in Philly, where his playing time is dwindling and he doesn’t fit into Eddie Jordan‘s system anyway. As long as he feels appreciated (“You’re our defensive lynchpin, Sammy!”) and gets around 20-25 minutes a night, he’ll be fine.
Now the biggest question: Why would the Sixers want Iverson? Unlike Mike Conley in Memphis, nobody is saying Lou Williams is “the future” in Philly; he’s a 6th/7th man masquerading as a starter and he’s playing out of position at point guard. Iverson can start at the one next to Andre Iguodala at the two (who’s already accustomed to playing with Iverson), Thaddeus Young at the three, Elton Brand at the four and Jason Smith or Marreese Speights at the five. If Dalembert’s rudimentary offensive game didn’t fit in Jordan’s system, the ability of Smith/Speights to shoot, run the floor and play the high post while Brand occupies the middle is the exact opposite.
Jordan has experience working with shoot-first PG’s with a superstar complex: He guided Gilbert Arenas and the Wizards to the playoffs multiple times. Jordan also has experience working with potentially caustic locker rooms: Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison all needed their shots in Washington, and besides that, did you see some of the clowns the Wizards saddled Jordan with?
And it’s not like Iverson was a ball-hog when he was on the court with Memphis; he was a willing passer and didn’t appear to cramp Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph or O.J.’s style, so I doubt Young, Brand and Iguodala would have a problem. And with Iverson around to take off some of the scoring load, Brand can concentrate on some of the rebounding/defense holes left vacant by Dalembert.
But, just like with the Michael Vick situation, a big factor in any team acquiring Iverson will be the public-relations/media/fan reaction element. If there’s any city that understands Iverson, it’s Philly. The fans there still love him, and a lot of them want to see A.I. retire in a Sixers uniform someday. And if he can help them win — which I think he will — it’s about as perfect a marriage as you can get out of this relationship drama.