- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The 76ers are hardly the losers in the Allen Iverson trade, contrary to the instant analysis.

If anything, the 76ers are poised to have the last laugh in the seasons ahead, assuming their marginal roster plays down to expectations and the team winds up with a quality lottery pick in June.

In a best-case scenario, that pick would be Greg Oden, who is on layover in Columbus, Ohio, at the moment.

The 76ers secured what figure to be two late first-round picks in the trade in what is being billed as a deep NBA Draft.

Those three picks will determine the outcome of the Iverson trade, and that determination will not be made until the newcomers have accumulated several seasons’ worth of experience.

This was no gamble on the part of Billy King and the 76ers. The 76ers were not going anywhere with Iverson, and his fat contract precluded the team from dipping into the free agent pool.

Now the 76ers have acquired a solid point guard in Andre Miller and Joe Smith’s expiring contract. They could remake themselves in a hurry if the draft breaks their way. Or it could be a lengthy process.

Either way, the 76ers risked nothing in relieving themselves of Iverson other than the public relations fallout with the hometown crowd.

Iverson was an incredibly popular athlete in Philadelphia, which celebrated his pugnacious attitude.

But that manner was not about to add relevancy to the 76ers in the Eastern Conference, not as long as the one-legged Chris Webber was his sidekick. And there is no market for a one-legged player with a bloated contract.

King had a simple evaluation to make with Iverson: continue to lose with him or lose without him and possibly facilitate the transformation process.

Unless the addition of Iverson puts the Nuggets in the company of the Spurs, Mavericks and Suns — and that is doubtful — the value of the trade from their end is hard to fathom.

Iverson undoubtedly is going to enhance the marketing prospects of the Nuggets through both ticket and merchandise sales. Beyond that, his individualistic playing style has no history of uplifting those around him.

This is not to imply that Iverson will have problems with Carmelo Anthony, the fragile one.

Iverson is wise enough not to be seen as intruding on Anthony’s star. He already has made it a point to say all the right things about Anthony. But that is different from co-existing with the rest of the players, and co-existing with others never has been one of his strengths.

The Nuggets possibly will advance to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, and that will be it.

Their championship prospects are not apt to improve the next two seasons, as the 31-year-old Iverson passes two more birthdays and collects $40 million.

In a culture with a 15-second attention span, the moving of Iverson allows the Nuggets to revel in the sexiness of it all, short-term proposition though it is.

Long-term, the 76ers are positioned so much more favorably than the Nuggets.

That is not to say the 76ers will make the right picks in June or find an able player with Smith’s expiring contract.

But even if they shoot themselves in the foot in the offseason, they still will be no worse off than they were.

The 76ers made the proper call.

They acted with their brains instead of their hearts, however difficult it was for the Iverson fan base to accept.

At worst, the 76ers squander the opportunity before them and remain where they would have been anyway.

Given the economic conditions of the NBA today, trades are spawned as much by the contracts of the various parties as the collective talent.

The 76ers were stuck because of the contracts of Iverson and Webber.

Now they have been granted the freedom to begin the restoration project.

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