Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tale of two cities: Philadelphia vs. Denver

As I sleepily watched the Denver Nuggets vs. the Los Angeles Lakers game it was obvious from the start what the eventual outcome would be. Every year there are a few playoff series where a seasoned nba fan can predict which teams phone in their appearance, and which teams relish the role of playing upstart.

In this case, the Denver Nuggets are using their rollover minutes.. and it is only game one.

Realizing the need to be more productive, I decided to take a nap rather than see the hapless Nuggets inflate the already bloated ego that is the Los Angeles Lakers. A few hours later I woke up to see how the Philadelphia 76ers would handle their gift of a second season. Needless to say, I'm happy I took my nap during the Nuggets game. The Sixers were impressive - The exact type of team that nba fans are hungrily looking for to play the role of upstart.

This isn't to say the Piston's are rattled or their season is over. But it was refreshing to see a young team play fearless against a championship caliber team. As an nba fan, I want to watch an actual series. I do not want to watch a team who celebrates the fact they enter the playoffs as an eighth seed, and have their all star over-celebrate with a DUI charge.

As I watched the Sixers from afar on my couch, I started to think about the storylines that led both of these teams to the situation they are in today. The biggest storyline that links these two teams is the trade of Andre Miller for Allen Iverson.

When this trade went down I was never a fan of it. I did not understand the need to trade a point guard with solid leadership ability for a lone maverick hall of fame shooter. Of course, I'm in the minority when it comes to this trade. Friends have asked: “How can a team pass up on the acquisition of one of the greatest players of all time?” I found the answer simple: Andre Miller is a quiet leader, which I think would have benefited the Nuggets in the long run. Allen Iverson is a flashy superstar with incredible talent and zero leadership ability. The Nuggets did not need another scorer; they needed a leadership guy that could defer to Carmelo Anthony and his talents without burdening him with the actual role of leading. They needed a player that could lead by example, possibly teaching Anthony how to be a leader for the future.

Allen Iverson was lucky when he had his championship run in Philly. He had one of the best coaches in the nba to discipline him (somewhat), and surrounded him with quality leadership guys in Eric Snow and Aaron McKie. Fast forward a few years later and Denver was duped into thinking that matching two shooter mentality superstars would translate to victories. If anything, the team has floundered and is possibly getting worse. The problem is perception in the fact Denver brass equated Philly's past championship potential success to one single person in Iverson. All this trade has done has made it that much more clearer who was clearly responsible for Philly’s success. Larry Brown.

The mess in Denver is ugly. They have no leadership, they are poorly coached, and look listless as they play. This problem isn't going away unless one of their superstars steps into leadership void or the Nuggets trade for an actual leader.

Scorers are only one piece of the puzzle.

Just ask Mo Cheeks as he coached from the sidelines watching Andre Miller run a simple floor game maximizing the talents of the young players around him. Or ask George Karl as his veteran superstar got two technicals in the fourth and left for the locker room early. For the Nuggets, Iverson ejected to the locker room with time to play is a foreshadowing of things to come - an early playoff exit.

Philly? Their future is bright and is guaranteed to bring a couple of quality home games to the legendary raucousness of a Philly crowd.



gehri said...

The only entertaining thing about the Denver vs. L.A. game were the D U I chants every time Melo stepped to the free throw line! Comedy gold!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for finally summing up the point I have been saying since this trade went out. I am a die-hard Nuggets fan since the Chris Jackson days and I have hated Iverson on our team since the beginning.

The Key to the Nuggets previous success was always Miller, Marcus Camby and the emergence of Melo. If we would have added a couple shooters (JR Smith and Kleiza emerged this year) and a perimeter defensive stopper, this team would have done a lot better than the crap I endured this year.

Great post and great blog---Dmitry