- The Washington Times - Friday, May 3, 2002

Allen Iverson is a pathological shooter who could not coexist with Jerry Stackhouse and Larry Hughes.

Iverson barely forged a peace with Larry Brown, the professorial coach who makes the most of the mishmash 76ers in the talent-challenged Eastern Conference.

The latter enables Iverson to be who he is, without recriminations or suggestions that there could be a better way.

If Iverson and the 76ers were stuck in the Western Conference, they already would be finished, and analysts around the NBA would be saying that you can't be successful with one guy taking so many unimaginable shots each game.

Kobe Bryant is sometimes criticized because of his proclivity to take the occasional circus shot. Iverson rarely allows two or three minutes to pass in a game before he is double-pumping in heavy traffic and throwing up something that vaguely resembles a shot attempt.

It is fashionable to say that Iverson has no choice but to shoot as often as he does because of the limitations of his teammates.

It seems Iverson's teammates do not have it in their capacity to miss as he often does. Whenever Eric Snow or Matt Harpring shoots the ball, you see, it winds up in the expensive seats. At least when Iverson shoots the ball, there is a reasonable expectation that it will bounce off the rim and possibly into the hands of Dikembe Mutombo.

This is considered good offense with the 76ers. It does not require much thinking on Brown's part during timeouts, or much cohesiveness from the players after they return to the court.

Iverson is the master of the dribble-dribble, sleep-inducing maneuver. He then dribbles some more, often between his legs, before faking one way and going the other way and then twisting, turning and wedging his body between a couple of defenders as he releases the ball.

Sometimes he draws a whistle and two free throw attempts. Other times, if no whistle is sounded, he looks at the referee in disgust, as if the referee just missed the colonscopy performed on him.

Iverson is not a good shooter from the perimeter. That is the funny part. He is a scorer. He throws up so much stuff that some of it is bound to drop through the net on occasion.

He has a lot of 9-for-26 shooting nights. He had one in Game 4 of the 76ers-Celtics series, which resulted in 28 points. He scored eight points in the last 1:16, the 76ers won by two points, and so all was right with the world along Broad Street.

Iverson led the 76ers to victory, and what a victory it was. It was an ugly, artless, abysmal exercise, as games involving Iverson and the 76ers usually are. They don't play basketball as much as they try to tolerate it.

Not that Iverson minds. He gets to take a zillion shots a game, his teammates don't object in public, and he and the 76ers can pretend to be in the championship hunt because of the mediocre opposition.

Iverson and the 76ers advanced to the NBA Finals last season, and possibly could go there again, if it matters. The Eastern Conference has been the junior varsity circuit of the NBA since Michael Jordan and the Bulls concluded their business in 1998.

The Knicks, as the eighth seed, advanced to the NBA Finals in 1999, the Pacers barely survived their first-round date with the Bucks the next year, and the 76ers were only a Vince Carter jump shot away from being eliminated in the conference semifinals last year.

This is how topsy-turvy and modest the East has been since Jordan was on top.

Iverson is regarded as one of the leading players in the NBA, plus fearless because of his itty-bitty size. The two notions merit an asterisk. He is essentially a one-trick player who strains the boundaries of the game, and the trick would not look nearly as impressive in the West.

Iverson and the 76ers would not even have qualified for the playoffs in the West this season. They just would have been a footnote, a team with a big scorer who would be under pressure to adjust his attitude, ego and soloist style.

Iverson and the 76ers have great geography.

Give them that.

They are a symbol of just how anemic the East is.


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