Monday, April 17, 2006

BLOW IT UP: If we love Allen Iverson, it's time to set him free.

He has truly given his all in ten years as a Sixer, and the two-month 2001 playoff run remains the greatest joy that professional sports has given me as a fan, more than the Phils in 1980/1983/1993, more than the Eagles' stellar 2004 run that ended in Super Bowl defeat.

Night after night after night, he brought it against the Pacers, Raptors, Bucks and Lakers -- 32.9 PPG, 6.1 APG, 4.7 RPG and 2.4 SPG, all while in a ridiculous among of pain. Those of us who were here, and especially those of us fortunate enough to be in the arena (I was at 6/13 of the home games) will not forget the electricity he provided, the effort and passion which were manifest every night.

He has been a source of fascination and consternation --the injuries, the hairstyles, the run-ins with the law, and, yes, one of the greatest press conferences in sports history.

But now, it's two straight years without a trip to the playoffs. Through no fault of his own, we aren't getting better with Allen Iverson in the lineup, and GM Billy King hasn't given him the supporting cast he deserves. The nature of the NBA salary structure demands that it's time to move on, time to trade Iverson while his value is still decent and, like Charles Barkley and Curt Schilling before him, time to give him the second chance he's earned to pursue a championship elsewhere.

I am not happy about this, and I do not look forward to the lousy Sixers team we'll have for the next few years. But Iverson gave us everything he could for a decade, and we owe it to him to let him thrive elsewhere.** And I will root for him no matter what uniform he's wearing.***

**That said, if we get a top-three lottery pick, I reserve the right take it all back.

***Because they won't trade him to the Lakers, Celtics or Knicks, right?

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