Tuesday, March 16, 2004

posted by James - 12:07 AM

I'm watching ESPN's NBA coverage tonight... and it's a slow night, to say the least, with only three games on the schedule.

So, they're zealously showing Amare Stoudemire dunking over Yao Ming like he's Paul Bunyan chopping down a Sequoia, and they're talking about the 2004-2005 homes of Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson.

Yeah, there's only one month left to decide some tight playoff races, but they're keeping busy by talking about next season.

Iverson thrust himself into this discussion after engaging in a sit-out on Sunday night as the 76ers faced the Pistons, and Interim Head Coach Chris Ford intended to bring Iverson off the bench.

I can't defend a player refusing an assignment, as it sends a bad example to the rest of the team, but I also can't defend a stop-gap coach taking over mid-season and alienating the franchise player - if there ever was one in the NBA - while the team is only two games out making the playoffs.

Even though he comes with myriad problems, Iverson does a couple things undeniably well: score... a lot and give fans the one and only reason to come to the First Union Center, except to boo Bryant when he's in town.

Iverson's big-time entertainment because he touches the ball a lot, and he's a threat to score every time he does and, the rest of the time, he's flapping his gums and doing something crazy.

With the unhappiness growing on both sides, Iverson could be on his way out to a team who needs a main scorer, main attraction or both, and ESPN discuss his potential suitors.

Most of the conjecture falls outside the scope of my interest, except David Aldridge’s mention of the Utah Jazz.

Now, I know our resident Jazz supporter, Skippy, would rather focus on their fight for the final Western Conference playoff spot (which they did their best to undermine Sunday by losing decisively to the current No. 8 team, Denver, while the team directly behind them, Portland, beat a division leader), but maybe he’d have some thoughts about how Iverson would work out in Salt Lake City?

The Jazz could definitely use some scoring in their backcourt and have a ton of cap room next year to make a deal. I’d be interested to see the relationship between Head Coach Jerry Sloan and an Iverson-type player.

Sloan makes me think he’d come to blows with a player during practice and still put him in the starting lineup.

While the national sports coverage focused on the 2004-2005 NBA season and the ridiculous Terrell Owens soap opera, they missed the biggest story: Kerry Wood throwing four spectacular, shut-out innings against the Royals, striking out four without walking a batter.

With Matt Clement struggling to find his groove and Mark Prior still on the sidelines, Kerry has given me hope that the Cubs might have their first Cy Young award winner since 1992 (Greg Maddux, incidentally having a great spring himself), and it might be his influence that gets Kerry there.

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