An Answer to December’s First Dime
AI’s brotherly-lovin’ return and Phoenix’s impossible week.
by Doobie Okon
1 ) Nuggets at 76ers: Mon, 12/7, 7:00 (ET) National TV: NBA TV
Am I dreaming? I’m pinching my arm repeatedly but the headline still reads: AI returns to the Sixers.
Ok, well this all went down recently, so I apologize if I’m still in shock over here. I’m trying to gauge my feelings, but still can’t fathom this reality. Ever since falling out with the Sixers three years ago, I’ve always secretly hoped Allen would come full circle at one point and return to my beloved city near the end of his career. But that was surely a pipe dream, a far reach to recapture the glory that feels too far in the past already. And I put it out of mind and heart. Even when suggesting that Allen sign with Larry Brown and the Bobcats, I recognized that AI coming back would be pointless and unrealistic.
But here we are, December 5th, 2009—only three months after that AI-watch finally ended in Memphis, and a mere three years since Allen departed to Denver on horrible terms with Philadelphia. And now the term “full circle” is an understatement. I once thought Iverson might play for one team his entire career, and amazingly he’s now returning to the Sixers after stints with three other franchises. And you’re telling me that his first game is at home against those same Denver Nuggets? Again—total understatement.
It’s no secret that Allen didn’t fit in well with the Sixers during the end of his stay with them. Hell, he averaged 33 points in 05-06 and Philly still traded him the next year after AI constantly disrespected his coach, Maurice Cheeks. It’s no secret Allen didn’t fit in well with the Nuggets. He had one of his most complete years in his second season with Denver, and the Nuggets still traded him to Detroit. It’s no secret Allen didn’t fit in well with the Pistons—cause we now know that Allen ain’t coming off the bench—no way, no how. And finally, after only playing three games with the Grizzlies, it’s clear that signing Allen Iverson poses a huge risk for any team.
But from a financial and ‘risk-taking’ standpoint, this makes total sense. Allen’s making chump change and the 76ers hold the right to cut him at any point and would owe him minimal money—although that would be an even uglier end to this saga then what happened in 2006. Allen will fill seats in a stadium which ranks 29th in attendance. Lou Williams, the Sixers’ starting point guard, is out for two months. All signs point to this deal being a good move…but one can’t ignore the possible cons. Hopefully Allen has been humbled by his tumultuous road through the NBA the last four years because this reunion could turn sour if drama ensues early. Also, there will be detractors that say Allen Iverson alone will win the Sixers enough games to take them out of the running for a high draft pick. And there’s truth to all of those scenarios.
But here’s the bottom line: I cannot wait to watch the Sixers again. Iverson’s ability to bring passion out of Philly fans was always his best attribute, and the mere sight of him in a Sixers uniform will draw the masses to their feet. Memories will be rehashed. Fans will reminisce. The 76ers will have a buzz again. And if nothing else, while the team may suffer in mediocrity, maybe an NBA legend will get the appropriate and respectable end to his career that he deserves.
Note to self: Get tickets now.
Prediction: Nuggs will probably win, but the Sixers are well under .500 and have lost eight straight going into today, so who cares? I just can’t wait to hear, “and finalllllly….a six-foot guard from Georgetown….”
The Futility Bowl: Not much to say about this one. If the Nets lose to the Bobcats, they will go into New York with a 0-19 mark. And for some reason, I think they break their wretched streak at the Knicks’ expense.
Prediction: It’s sad that three out of the four worst records in the league belong to the Atlantic division–the Celtics have already won this division in early December. Kudos to the Knicks for blowing out the Suns, but I still think the Nets notch their first victory here. New Jersey by 6.
3 ) Cavaliers at Bucks: Sun, 12/6, 3:00 (ET)
The Cavs would be enjoying a similar cushion as the Celtics if it wasn’t for those pesky Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee hit its first wall last week, losing five of six as Jennings struggled mightily, but is still keeping pace at 3.5 games behind the first-place Cavaliers. If the Bucks really want to be a playoff team, they need to halt this skid fast before they fall into the quicksand of the NBA’s bottom-dwellers. So even though the Cavs will eventually pull away in the division, the Bucks early success has made this Central ‘showdown’ quite relevant. Plus it will be fun to see BJ and LBJ on the same court for the first time.
Prediction: Cavs prove their dominance. Cleveland by 12.
4 ) Spurs at Jazz: Mon, 12/7, 9:00 (ET), National TV: NBA TV
Welcome back, boys. Sloan and Popovich finally have their squads headed in the right direction.
As I said two weeks ago, Utah was bound to turn their season around with their roster. Now they have won six out of seven, with their last three games being blowouts over Chicago, Portland and Memphis. Carlos Boozer is playing beastly basketball, averaging over 25 points in his last five games and holding down the fort defensively. As long as Deron is at the helm and Boozer is the anchor, Utah will continue to climb up the Western standings.
San Antonio has also forgotten their shaky start after a five-game win streak. What’s most impressive about the streak is that no game was ever in question in the fourth quarter, and the Spurs are doing it their own way–with defense and Duncan. Like the Jazz, as long as Tony Parker is running the show and TD continues his hall of fame career, the Spurs will be a force.
Prediction: Should be a good one between two Western elites on the rise again. I’ll give the nod to Utah for the home factor. Jazz by 5.
5 ) Mavs at Heat: Fri, 12/11, 7:30 (ET)
A nice little 2006 Finals rematch. Miami’s gone 4-6 since their scintillating 6-1 start to the season, and they aren’t as good as the Magic or Hawks. But I still like the makeup of the Heat and we probably will have more of an idea about what kind of team Miami is after the new year. A win over Dallas would start off a much needed six game stretch at home on a great note.
The Mavs continue to play well, but the Spurs are now on their heels, so they will need to win games like these on the road if they want to control the Southwest. Jason Kidd continues to astound–at age 36, he still is leading his team to victories despite an extreme lack of scoring.
Prediction: Miami catches a huge break with four days off before this game after a tough road trip in Denver, L.A. and Sacramento. Heat steal this game on their home floor. Miami by 6.
6 ) Blazers at Cavaliers: Fri, 12/11, 8:00 (ET), National TV: ESPN
Well, the Blazers are following the same common theme among many of these top teams–they’re just too inconsistent to infer anything yet. Portland is 12-8, but is currently riding a three game losing streak. And before that, they were 10-2 but only one of those victories came against a .500 team or better, San Antonio on November 6th. So you just don’t know. I think for such a young team, they’re on the right track but have got to put together some strong wins over NBA’s best. Injury to Travis Outlaw is killer loss and Aldridge’s knee is an issue, but Portland still has enough talent to stay strong until March when Outlaw and Batum return.
On another note: Isn’t the prospect of a four-way race in the Northwest division fantastic? I really like all four teams and could see this staying close. The wild card, of course, is Oklahoma City, so hopefully they keep their impressive season going.
Prediction: Cavs are looking strong right now. They’ll handle the visiting Blazers by double digits. I hope Portland pulls it off though in a great ESPN game.
Impossible Week Section
Phoenix Suns: I normally like to spread the wealth among as many teams as possible on the Dime, but when I checked out the Suns’ schedule this week, I realized they needed a little more airtime. Seriously–take your pick. Four games against four division leaders:
7 ) Suns at Lakers: Sun, 12/6, 9:30 (ET)
8 ) Suns at Mavericks: Tues, 12/8, 8:30 (ET)
9 ) Magic at Suns: Fri, 12/11, 10:30 (ET), National TV: ESPN
10) Suns at Nuggets: Sat, 12/12, 9:00 (ET)
Damn. Now, the Suns are struggling a bit, but I’m not worried about blowout losses to the Knicks and Cavs, another division leader. After a home game against Sacramento, Phoenix embarks on this epic week. Four division leaders. Three of them road games. Basically, it’s an impossible week, unless the Suns muscle up and prove they belong at the summit.
Suns at Lakers: Lakers are responsible for one of the Suns’ losses after spanking Phoenix at the Staples Center, 121-102. The Lakers are currently riding a seven-game winning stretch. Granted, they defeated Detroit, Chicago, Oklahoma City, New York, Golden State, New Jersey and New Orleans. However, they won every single game by huge margins, so they’re doing what they’re supposed to do against the league’s weaker squads.
The Suns will be amped up but will run out of steam against the Lakers. I still feel like the Lakers haven’t even started playing well yet against the stronger teams and they still hold the best record in the NBA. Bynum is starting to shape into the dominant center we were all told he could be. At 22 years old and 35 minutes, 18 points and 10 boards a game, the Lakers should be loving their big men for years to come. Lakers by 9.
Suns at Mavs: Suns by 4.
Magic at Suns: You gotta be impressed with Orlando’s start, especially in a division where the Hawks and Heat play. Rashard Lewis played his best basketball of the season in the home and home sweep against the Knicks, and Superman is averaging 15.1 boards in his last seven. I think the close division might benefit Orlando all season as a constant motivation to stay atop the Southeast.
Suns have a two day break before returning home here while Orlando will be on the end of back to back games. Phoenix will reward their home crowd–Suns by 2.
Suns at Denver: A trap game for the Suns, as they go right back on the road to the Pepsi Center the next night. Aside from a loss to the T-wolves at home, the Nuggets are beating the inferior teams as they should and when Denver wins, they usually win big. Carmelo gets my early vote for MVP. Nuggets by 8.