- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The teams interested in securing Allen Iverson are functioning in the darkness of desperation.

Otherwise, the facts against Iverson are basic enough, and none of it has a thing to do with his tattoos, hip-hop image and occasional communication issues with coaches and management.

So let’s drop that tired notion. It is so last century, when a tattoo actually was considered edgy. Now a tattoo is almost a rite of passage in professional sports.

If an athlete can help an organization win games, it has been shown repeatedly that an organization will tolerate almost anything, and a tattoo is the least of it.

Organizations are proficient in explaining away the criminal actions of their athletes. What then is so hard about embracing an athlete who is covered in tattoos and wears pants that droop to his ankles?

Here is the problem with Iverson: He is just not an efficient player. It is that simple.

He is averaging nearly 24.4 shots a game this season, which is fairly standard for him.

And it is not merely that he shoots the ball a lot and lacks the shooting percentage to support it. He kills the rhythm and flow of a team’s offense with his dribble-happy bent.

A typical offensive set of the 76ers’ involved Iverson dribbling away the 24-second shot clock, while his teammates waited around for two outcomes: a shot by him or a pass after he broke down the defense.

This style of play hardly maximizes the abilities of his teammates, however limited those abilities may be.

Iverson never has been able to expand and polish his game through experience. He is, in many ways, the same player he was in his first few seasons in the NBA.

He is a soloist in a team sport, a contradiction that he never has been able to resolve.

And it is doubtful he ever will make peace with it, considering he is 31 years old.

Worse, his compensation package is way out of proportion to his real value.

Iverson is carrying a franchise-killing contract: $17.2 million this season, followed by $19.1 million next season and $21.1 million the season after that.

The team that lands him will be lugging around the ball and chain of a contract in the hope that he has the capacity to uplift those around him and possibly orchestrate a strong push in the playoffs.

But he is not that guy, not now, and certainly not in the robust Western Conference, if he lands there.

He couldn’t even make the 76ers vaguely competitive in the parity-stuffed Eastern Conference. What could he possibly do for the Kings and Timberwolves, two teams said to be interested in him?

He will put extra fannies in the seats. He will create extra jersey sales. And he will get his numbers. He always gets those. But will he actually give a fair return on his contract, which he can do only if his new team has a worthwhile playoff run?

That proposition is highly unlikely.

It is just not in his power, barring a change in the way he plays the game.

Iverson is remindful of the smallest child playing king of the hill at the playground. He always gets tossed off the hill before trudging back up it to wrestle anew.

His basketball game is like that, and darn the modest shooting percentage and the cost to others.

He is determined to finish with 30-plus points, seven assists and a couple of steals in each game.

But his is too often a Pyrrhic victory. He makes his mark in defeat.

They are calling it the end of an era in Philadelphia, which just goes to show you that eras are not what they once were.

The Iverson era in 10-plus seasons with the 76ers comes out to one trip to the NBA Finals, six playoff berths and a 396-402 overall record in the regular season.

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