Just two days ago, I mentioned how the Cavs/Magic game from last weekend had been devoid of flow and rhythm due to all the fouls called in that game. Then on Monday night, the Lakers and Nuggets had their playoff game interrupted by another parade to the foul line. A total of 84 free throws happened in that game. The game did not go into overtime; more than a foul a minute drew a whistle.
Finally, last night there was an NBA playoff game that was exciting in two dimensions. The Cavs and the Magic played an OT game where the lead changed more than a few times and neither team ever led by 10 points. In addition, the players were able actually to play basketball for stretches of the game and did not spend all of their time lining up along the free throw lane.
By the way, here is a question for the Cavs’ coaching staff:
Why does LeBron James have to start about 80% of the offensive plays in your half court offense?
Make no mistake, he is clearly the best player on the team and may be the best player in the league at the moment – although that is clearly debatable. But there are point guards on the Cavs’ team who should be able to start some of the Cavs’ set offense more than once in a while. If not, why are they there?
Here is a reason to root for Cavs/Nuggets final series in the NBA. Picture that the series goes to a seventh game; in that seventh game, the Cavs have a one-point lead with about 5 seconds to play. Imagine if Denver were to inbound the ball to a player wearing #7 who then drove the length of the court to score a lay-up at the buzzer to beat the Cleveland team. Fans in Cleveland would have flashbacks to “The Drive” and John Elway; if that were to happen, it would behoove the drug companies to have half their inventory of Prozac and its similar medications in the Cleveland area.
Did someone ask who #7 on the Nuggets is? Merely Chauncey Billups… And that leads me to my next topic.
One of the sidebar topics for the NBA now, which has exactly nothing to do with the playoffs, is where Allen Iverson might play next year. Let me be as explicit as I can here; Allen Iverson was an exceptional player when he was at the peak of his game; today, Allen Iverson is not that player but he remains a very good player. The reason there is all the discussion about where he might find a basketball home next year has nothing to do with his on- court skills.
Given that the Denver Nuggets morphed from a team with a losing record and a lethargic style of play into championship contenders immediately after trading Allen Iverson away, many people have blamed the Nuggets weak start on the season on Iverson. That’s not really fair; the reason for the turnaround has as much to do with the addition of Chauncey Billups as the “quarterback” for the Nuggets as anything else. In addition, Iverson himself does not make it easy to dismiss all the barbs aimed his way with the way the Pistons tanked after he got to Detroit.
Does anyone really believe that the reason the Pistons put a premature end to Iverson’s season was because Iverson’s back injury would not allow him to play at an NBA level? I do not. The Pistons were a team going nowhere this year; and when Iverson came back from his injury and griped about his lack of playing time, that was enough for the team to recognize that it would be a more pleasant end to the season – with a similar “one-and-done” playoff appearance – with Iverson in a different zip code.
That is – and has been – my only criticism of Allen Iverson from the first time I saw him play for Georgetown. He is a supremely talented player who plays full throttle all the time; and at the same time, he requires the ball in his hands so much that the other players on the team stagnate resulting in no championships for any team he has ever been on. Some players make teammates into better players; some players make teammates appear to be better players; Allen Iverson stagnates his teammates.
I don’t read minds, so I don’t know if Iverson plays the way he does because he is selfish or because he was allowed to play that way for so long as a supremely talented kid that he never learned to play any other way. Here is what I do know. Now that his skills have begun to erode, his need to dominate the ball and his less than fully cooperative attitude with team activities will make finding a position for next year into an event. Teams considering signing him need to think about this one very carefully:
There is no “I” in team – - but “Iverson” begins with “I”.
Finally, here is a comment from Jim Armstrong in the Denver Post about LeBron James:
“As for the MVP, was that a yawn I detected the other night after LeBron’s 38-footer at the halftime buzzer? Makes you wonder how good the kid could be if he used women’s fertility drugs.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…