Advertisement
Share

An answer is out there for L.A.

For a moment I thought the Clippers actually did the right thing and acquired Allen Iverson.

Before Wednesday’s game against the Utah Jazz, the Clippers passed out a press release and threw together a news conference. Were rumors and speculation about to become reality?

Nope. Turns out the news was about Coach Mike Dunleavy’s contract extension. That’s fine and all, but it doesn’t make the Clippers a better team.

Advertisement

The Clippers need something, because the promise of last season has turned into the blandness of the previous years. Wednesday’s loss to Utah was the Clippers’ third defeat in four games and left them a game below .500. For whatever reason (and yes, injuries are part of the story), what they have ain’t working.

In the waning minutes, the call went out from the crowd: “I-ver-son, I-ver-son.”

The people have spoken, and they have it right.

Iverson would give defenses fits trying to cover both him and Elton Brand. He’d create one-man fastbreaks. And he’d instantly make the team more marketable.

There’s no way the Clippers could miss, even if they had to include Shaun Livingston alongside the obligatory Corey Maggette (who is, like, so outta here). The Clippers would have the advantage of what I call the headline rule. It’s real simple to figure out trades in the NBA: the team that gets the guy whose name is in the headline got the better of the deal. “Chamberlain traded to Lakers.” “Abdul-Jabbar traded to Lakers.” “Barkley traded to Suns.” “Shaq traded to Heat.” The results keep turning out the same, in favor of the team with the superstar.

“Iverson traded to Clippers.”

It would instantly become the biggest story of the young NBA season. Well, second biggest, after the new ball fiasco.

And the Clippers would have the firepower to become NBA Finals contestants.

While he sits in purgatory, exiled from the Philadelphia 76ers, he still holds the NBA’s best scoring average with 31.2 points per game.

The folks at Elias Sports Bureau had an interesting statistic: Iverson has more fastbreak points than any player over the last 10 years. Second-place Ray Allen is more than 1,000 points behind. This year’s Clippers happen to be next to last in the league in fastbreak points per game, with 6.3.

And Iverson’s high-speed style and roughneck attitude make him hugely popular. Not only does the hip-hop set love him, I even saw a life-sized cardboard cutout of Iverson in Germany this summer. Of course his defiant attitude hasn’t made him a hit with 76ers coaches or management. His latest transgression involved him skipping a team bowling event with season-ticket holders. Quick question: are the Clippers trying to get to the NBA Finals or join the PBA Tour?

Yes, Iverson might stay a little too long at the club Mood one night and miss a shootaround the next morning. He’ll also probably go for 35 points in the next game.

The Clippers have enough professionals that Iverson’s bad habits won’t spread. Do you really think Iverson is going to affect the way Brand prepares for work?

The Clippers aren’t overly concerned with these issues, either. They want Iverson. The sense I got from them Wednesday was that they’d prefer to wait for the 76ers to get more desperate and lower their asking price.

The Clippers could have had Iverson last Friday if they ‘had been willing to give up Livingston. No other package I’ve seen would give the 76ers an equal combination of useful players and salary cap-friendly contracts.

But the Clippers are reluctant to give up on Livingston.

I should show them the old Slam magazine with Livingston, Sebastian Telfair and Dwight Howard on the cover I came across Wednesday morning. All three players went from high school to the NBA in 2004. Now, in the third year of their careers, the Orlando Magic isn’t waiting on Howard. He’s here. The only “developing” he has to do is to go from star to absolutely unstoppable force.

Meanwhile, Livingston has regressed from the promise he showed in last spring’s playoffs. Dunleavy wants to give him the reins, and Livingston still plays like a timid deer at times.

Yes, Livingston is 10 years younger, seven inches taller and about $14 million a year cheaper than Iverson. But Livingston can’t get you 30-plus points. (And for all of his passing skills, he has yet to match Iverson’s average of 7.3 assists.)

Losing him would make the Clippers weaker defensively. Either Iverson or Sam Cassell would have to adjust to bringing the ball up the court more.

Quinton Ross and Chris Kaman would just have to play defense and rebound. A couple of scoring threats would suffice if everyone else dedicated himself to his role.

“Worked for us,” said Utah’s Derek Fisher, thinking back to his days with the Lakers. “We got some jewelry out of it.”

If I were a general manager, I’d want Livingston on my team. I’d just want Iverson more.

The plan-for-the-future thing is nice, wise even. But didn’t the Clippers just go through that with Lamar Odom, Quentin Richardson, Darius Miles & Co. a few years ago? How did that develop?

Exactly. The Clippers learned that now is much better than later, which is why they traded for Cassell last year.

The salary-cap guidelines are not conducive to acquiring superstars via free agency. Your best chances are through the draft or by taking advantage when a situation turns sour elsewhere. Iverson is the disgruntled superstar du jour.

Trading your future for someone else’s problem doesn’t make sense in the real world. But this is the NBA, and the Clippers need to make it happen as soon as possible.

J.A. Adande can be reached at j.a.adande@latimes.com. To read more by Adande go to latimes.com/adandeblog.


Advertisement