Monday, March 2, 2009

Monday Morning Schadenfreude

You know who I hate?

Allen Iverson.

Somewhere out in the depths of the Internet, there's a video of me on my 21st birthday, going off on a drunken tirade about how absolutely horrible of a basketball player he is. I mention this to prove that if the Detroit Pistons had asked me what I thought about Iverson when they were considering trading Chauncey Billups for him, I would not have hesitated to give my opinion. I'm not just kind of fair-weather hater, is what I'm saying.

Iverson was traded from the Denver Nuggets to the Detroit Pistons on November 3 for Chauncey Billups. (Essentially, since Antonio McDyess later re-signed with the Pistons.) That was on the second day of the season. Last year, Detroit went 59-23. So far this season, they're 29-29. "But Joel," you say, "there are so many variables at work! Their starters are all starting to age! They have to compete with the Cavs, Celtics, and Magic! They have a new, young coach! You can't blame the Pistons' decline solely on Iverson!" Fine. But now, let's look at Iverson's old team, Denver.

The Nuggets finished last season 50-32, a .610 win percentage, and lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Lakers. So far this season, they are 39-21, .650. At this point, they're #1 in their division, meaning that they should be able to avoid either the Lakers and the Spurs in the first round, and should be favored to make at least the semi-finals.

But here's the kicker. Since February 8, the Pistons had been in a free-fall, losing 8 games in a row and falling into seventh place in the East. It had been starting to look like they might not even make the playoffs. They had lost the first three games of a five-game road trip, including a 21-point drubbing at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then Iverson started suffering from mysterious back ailments, and was flown back to Detroit, his starting position in the line-up returned to Rip Hamilton. And then the Pistons won. At Orlando. And then they won again. At Boston.

And after the Celtics lost, Paul Pierce said: ''You can tell they're playing the system they played before Iverson got there. When Iverson is out there they're still trying to figure out how to use each other, how to all be successful. But that group that's out there is definitely comfortable because they've played together for years.''

Rip Hamilton said: ''We played our type of basketball. That's the thing for me with Tayshaun, Rasheed (Wallace) and (Antonio) McDyess, I always know they're going to be at all times.''

Doc Rivers said: ''This is the old Pistons we're playing now. The ball is hopping. They're playing together.''

Gee, nothing personal A.I., but when you're not there, the Pistons "play the system they played," "played our type of basketball," and were "playing together." It's almost as if playing "together" as a "team" helps Detroit "win basketball games."

I am still at sea as to why Detroit would trade Billups, who has won infinitely more NBA Championships than Iverson and is the epitome of a team-leading point guard who plays the system. The conventional wisdom is that, because Iverson's contract is due to expire next season, the Pistons are preparing to rebuild completely, and possibly get into the running for signing one (or more) of the big names that will be free-agents in 2010. Fine. But I still contend that they're better with Iverson on the bench. In a suit. At home. Weeping.

But we'll find out. Denver plays at Detroit tomorrow. My money says that, as long as Iverson doesn't play, the Pistons will win.

Because I hate him.

Go Blazers.


Kirby said...

It warms my soul some nights thinking about how Allen Iverson will never win a championship.

Joel said...

Allen Iverson is like, the Starscream of the NBA. (I'm at work right now.)