1. Whither AI?: Allen Iverson is no longer a star player. He can still get off a ton of shots, he still has problems getting to practice and complaining to coaches, and he still has an attitude and style of play that get him attention. At the end of the day, however, AI’s greatest asset, shot creation, has really declined steadily since he turned 30 (and was traded away from Philadelphia). Some of this decline is due to the fact that Iverson will never again on be on a team that needed him as much offensively as the old Sixers did. Still, the stats and objective observation of Iverson both indicate that AI’s a notch below the famous player he was. Despite all this, we all care where Iverson ends up. For many people, this is because Iverson still has a flashy game, tons of tattoos, and the old attitude.
I’m not under the misimpression that Iverson’s a star but he is an interesting player at an interesting time in his career and I am also interested where he ends up. He’s not a star but he still has some value and he is still perceived to be a star by the casual fan (if not by most teams). Also, Iverson does not seem to accept the fact that he’s no longer the star. These tensions create a fascinating scenario where a player’s demands and baggage are larger than his actual value, yet the player is not likely to compromise because the decline in value is a relatively new development and runs contrary to his decade long star appeal.
At this point in his career, Iverson could fill the following roles: primary scorer (but inefficiently on a bad team) or a scorer off the bench or role player for a good team. Based upon his time with the Pistons, it’s clear that Iverson will not lightly accept the latter role, though he probably does not want to be on a crappy team either, even as a primary scorer. So where should Iverson go? The answer probably lies somewhere in between, a team that is likely to be decent but still is desperate for shot creation in the starting lineup. To assess this situation, I looked for teams with (1) with a chance to be competitive in 2009-10, (2) an opening at guard, (3) problems creating shots, and (4) problems scoring (which is somewhat different than shot creation). Teams falling into that description are Charlotte, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Miami. Because of past history, we have to eliminate Philly from the list. This leaves us with Charlotte (quite possible with the Larry Brown connection, though Charlotte has been tight with the money), New Orleans (doubtful because they are not looking to spend money), and Miami (a perfect Pat Riley contract, where he overpays for an aging superstar just to take a shot).
Where will AI ultimately end up? Without the benefit of any inside information, Miami seems like the perfect spot to best balance his interests of being a main scorer but also doing so on a decent club. He also apparently is talking with a few crappy teams too (Memphis and the Clippers) and has not ruled out retiring if the offers are not acceptable. It should be fun to see how this ends up.
2. Fun With Summer League: One of the fun little past times of the summer is to review the summer league rosters to see what old random names are still on the fringes on the NBA. This year, we have fewer of such names because the NBA teams have chosen to field fewer summer league teams because of the economic problems in the NBA and the world this last year. With that proviso, here’s the interesting names we’ve found:
James Lang: Lang was drafted in the second round in 2003 out of high school. He was cut by the Hornets in December 2003 without every playing a game. Lang’s only NBA experience was 11 games with the Wiz in 2006-07.
Smush Parker: Parker had worked his way back into the NBA with the mediocre Lakers of 2005-2007 vintage. Miami gave him a nice two year deal in 2007-08 and he promptly played really poorly, got suspended for a legal issue, and was cut before the first year ended. He played in China in 2008-09 and we probably won’t see him in the NBA again.
Nikoloz Tskitishvili: The ultimate foreign bust (30% career shooter), Tskitishvili hasn’t been in the NBA since 2005-06. He’s been trying to play summer leagues for a few years now. He’s still only 26 but has shown nothing as an NBA player yet.
Yaroslav Korolev: Drafted by the Clipps at age 18, he played only 34 games over two season and has been out of the NBA since 2006-07. He showed even less than Tskitishvili (28% career shooter). He is less heralded of a bust than Tskitishvili because he wasn’t quite as high a pick. Korolev’s also even younger than Tskitishvili (22) and has been playing in Russia for a few years.
Mickael Gelabale: Gelabale was a defense specialist for the Sonics in 2006-07 and 2007-08. He wasn’t great but was useful as a bench player. He blew out his ACL in late 2007-08 and spent much of last year rehabbing and played a few games in the NBDL at the end of the year to see what he could do. He played reasonably well (16 ppg, 4 rpg on 50% shooting in six games) and should get another NBA chance next season if he’s healthy.
Earl Barron: This seven-footer was a twelfth man for the Heat from 2005 to 2008, where he didn’t do anything particularly well but developed enough to keep his role as a decent backup. He spent 2008-09 in Italy, where he was offered a reported $2 million. Barron was let go in the middle of last season and spent the rest of the year in the NBDL, where he wasn’t great (9.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg on .415% shooting).
Matt Freije: This Vanderbilt product has had two cameos in the NBA. The problem is he really can’t shoot (he didn’t break 30% in either of his tenures in the NBA) and he wasn’t shy about trying anyway, shooting almost two threes per game and making only .224%. His hustle style, however, does well with coaches.
Stephane Lasme: the NCAA leading shotblocker from UMass had a cameo with Miami in 2007-08 when they were tanking the season. He spent 2008-09 with Partizan Belgrade and played pretty well.