Nuggets’ Road To Title? A.I. The Way

By Mark Kiszla
Updated: July 21, 2006

DENVER — Want the Nuggets to escape the malaise of mediocrity that has plagued your local NBA franchise for far too long? Philadelphia point guard Allen Iverson is The Answer.

And the Nuggets know it.

To measure Denver’s interest in trading for Iverson, all you have to do is take a poll of the people whose votes count the most with the Nuggets.

Coach George Karl declares himself an admirer of Iverson and believes he could nurture a good relationship with the feisty point guard.

Player personnel director Mark Warkentien said Iverson’s scoring ability is almost unmatched in hoops.

Bret Bearup, confidant of Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke, believes Iverson is one of the league’s few players capable of seizing control of a playoff game by himself.

So it’s not a question of whether the Nuggets should or would make a big play for Iverson, subject of the hottest trade rumors in the league.

It’s only a question of if Denver can get the deal done.

“Do I think Philly is serious about trading (Iverson)? The truthful answer is: I don’t know,” Warkentien said Thursday. “It would be a huge play to trade him. He’s the identity of the whole franchise.”

Any American who carries a work ethic in his lunch bucket to the job site, any whiner who moans that too many NBA players don’t earn their money, any admirer of the competitive spirit should love Iverson.

“I’m an Allen Iverson fan. I like him as a player,” Karl said.

“The one thing I’d like to add to the Denver Nuggets is the culture of playing with that kind of intensity every night.”

Although he prefers to work quietly behind the scenes, Bearup made it clear to me that if there’s any chance Iverson might be traded, a smart team needs to jump in the bidding.

Of course, there are well-intentioned, misguided folks who confuse etiquette with excellence and prefer choirboys over entertainers who can make the whole building get up and dance.

These are the folks who don’t like Iverson.

Buttoned-down, uptight traditionalists who never have taken the time to know Iverson cannot see past the cornrows and tattoos of one genuinely bad little dude. But, last I checked, an NBA bench was not a church pew.

Knuckleheads who don’t know basketball cannot appreciate the blood, sweat and tears invested in every game by Iverson, the hardest-working man in show business since James Brown.

Asked for a shortcoming the Nuggets must fix to win their first playoff series since 1994, Karl said his team scored points in bunches last season, but never played fast.

Andre Miller is the ultimate warrior, but as long as he is Denver’s point guard, this team never will play fast.

Put A.I. in the Denver lineup alongside forward Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets will advance beyond the first round of the playoffs quicker than Iverson’s crossover buckles the ankles of a hopeless defender.

The Nuggets are not going to acquire Iverson’s 33 points and seven assists per game for a box of rocks. So forget any loose talk you might have heard about acquiring him for disgruntled forward Kenyon Martin.

Ain’t gonna happen.

With the new contract signed by Nene making it nearly impossible to trade the young behemoth under rules of the salary cap, if Denver wants to negotiate a deal for Iverson, the Nuggets must be prepared to part with Miller and defensive stopper Marcus Camby.

While declining to discuss any trade specifics, Warkentien stressed the Nuggets are shopping.

“We didn’t win the championship. We’ve got to get better. And you’ve got to give something to get something. Almost always, unless the guy is brain dead on the other end. And I haven’t found that guy yet,” Warkentien said.

“Our need for shooting or a second scorer is obvious.”

If the Sixers really are serious about unloading Iverson, the Nuggets would be crazy to let The Answer go anywhere else.

Make ‘em an offer the Sixers cannot refuse.