Buyer Beware: Why The Nuggets Acquisition Of A.I. May Not Be So Smooth

By Eric Williams
Updated: December 21, 2006

Denver NuggetsPHILADELPHIA — Like most basketball fans, I am curious to see how the mercurial Allen Iverson will fit in with the Denver Nuggets and his new teammates, specifically, scoring machine, Carmelo Anthony.

Unlike most fans however, I have seen Iverson’s act up close for the majority of his career and I am skeptical at best about how Iverson will mesh with his newfound teammates.

On one hand, it appears that Iverson will flourish with better teammates surrounding him in Denver’s fastbreak system and will be able to pair with Anthony in Karl’s system much like Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp did under Karl with the Seattle Supersonics in the 1990s.

On the other hand, I can definitely see Iverson disrupting the offensive flow the Nuggets are accustomed to because of his career-long tendency to generally, not share the ball with any of his teammates.

The Nuggets are obviously hoping that the former situation is what takes place, but the possibility of the latter is as real as the day is long no matter what anyone in the Nuggets organization says.

However, one statement by Denver vice president of player personnel, Rex Chapman made left me totally perplexed and scratching my head in amazement.

“We envision it working very well”, Chapman said. “The guy is ecstatic to come here. This is where he wanted to be. He said he’s ready to come in here and do his thing.

“We’ve got a 22-year-old young man that we’re trying to help raise and become a winner. He would admit to you that he’s got room to grow. He’s all in favor of this. It’s our vision and our hope that these two are going to be a dynamic scoring pair. They’re going to take this franchise to new heights.”

Maybe it’s me, but I think Chapman must be smoking something illegal. While it’s true that Iverson will bring an extraordinary ability to put the ball in the hole, if the Nuggets think that he will help Anthony grow as a person, they are sadly mistaken.

Iverson has never been a team leader or a role model and to be honest about it, he is one of the last players in the league I’d want my young superstar hanging around.

Nuggets coach George Karl, an enigmatic fellow himself, says he is not worried about any of the stories he’s heard about Iverson’s antics and adds that the pairing of Anthony and Iverson can work.

However, like Chapman, Karl also talked about Iverson providing leadership and chemistry, which is something I have never seen out of “The Answer” in all my years of covering the Sixers as a young reporter for the Philadelphia Sunday Sun, although I will agree with Karl that Iverson will bring mental toughness to Denver, if nothing else.

“Don’t get me wrong, there’s some bad stories out there,” Karl acknowledged. “As I told ‘Melo when I got here, there’s some stories about me out there, too. One thing I hear on a consistent basis, his teammates love him. I think we need better chemistry on my basketball team”.

“I think we need more leadership. I think we need more emotional maturity, I think we need some mental toughness, some intensity, an every game, every possession mentality. I think everything I said there, Allen Iverson has.”

Karl and Chapman may envision Iverson as “The Answer” to all of their problems, however, I am more inclined take a more realistic approach – seeing as how Iverson had a chance to play with some pretty good players in Philadelphia and could never make it work.

Maybe the Nuggets are not fully aware of the numerous attempts the Sixers made throughout the years to pair Iverson with another legitimate 20-point per game scorer, only to watch each experiment fail more miserably than the last one.

From Jerry Stackhouse and Larry Hughes to Matt Harpring, Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson, Keith Van Horn and an aging Chris Webber, the Sixers have tried several times to pair Iverson with another scorer only to see the “second” scorer become another flat-footed spectator to the Allen Iverson show before being shipped elsewhere.

In the case of Stackhouse, Hughes and Harpring, all three players went on to become more productive and prolific scorers after playing with Iverson than they did while in a Sixers uniform.

Then again, I guess that can happen when a guy shoots nearly 30 times a night and hogs the ball on nearly ever offensive possession – which brings me to the point of which superstar is going to give up approximately five shots per contest.

Anthony averages 31.6 points per game on 30 shots per contest and Iverson is averaging 31.2 per game on’almost 28 shot attempts per game. Again, maybe it’s me, but definitely see trouble down the road in Denver.

I warned the Sixers – and gave them my unsolicited advice for years and in the end, the scenario played out just like I predicted – with no championship and Iverson leaving town in a less-than-spectacular fashion.

While this move gives Denver one of the best scorers in the history of the league, the Nuggets have also acquired a player with more baggage than Samsonite. I just hope they’re prepared for the bumpy ride that lies ahead.