No winners in A.I., Jackson sagas
It usually takes at least 10 games before dysfunctional NBA franchises discover the wishful thinking of the offseason isn't going to pan out and belatedly begin scrambling the mix. In that sense, Memphis, Golden State and Charlotte were right on cue Monday with personnel moves that involved this young season's poster problem children,
There are no genuine winners arising from this changed landscape, only, at best, teams that will be lesser losers in the short term, while still facing long-term woe. Let's take a look at each team ...
The absurdity continues with discussions over where Iverson will land next. The once-indomitable MVP and four-time NBA scoring leader has been on four teams over the past three years, and arguably has weakened every one during that time with his corroded skills and selfish mind-set. There are murmurs that the Knicks might take a chance on him, a cynical marketing ploy that would further insult the high basketball IQ of fans at Madison Square Garden.
Bottom line, if you are a bad team, you are acquiring Iverson simply to inflate your gate receipts by suckering in the casual fan who cares more about the celebrity than the caliber of play. And if you're a good team, the rewards of tapping into Iverson's quickness and competitive fire are outweighed by the risks of his egocentric impact on the rest of the team. The best-case scenario is that it's the end of the line for Iverson and we can soon be extolling the sum of his fabulous career rather than wondering if he'll find another way to besmirch it.
While conventional wisdom may hold that the Bobcats "won" the deal by getting the best player, the baggage Jackson brings to Charlotte adds a layer of risk that could undermine his impact. Frequently foolish but not stupid, Jackson will be on his best behavior with the Bobcats early, knowing he faces the formidable task of rehabilitating an image damaged and repaired repeatedly by his own actions.
After being suspended for his role in the infamous Palace brawl and then again for a subsequent incident in which he fired a gun outside an Indianapolis strip club, Jackson was shipped to Golden State. Jackson took to his new surroundings well, helping spark the Warriors' upset of the top-seeded Mavericks in the 2007 playoffs. He was named team captain and received league awards for his work in the community. And last year, he was rewarded with a three-year, $28 million contract extension that doesn't kick in until next season.
Yet during the summer, Jackson demanded to be traded to a "winning team" and began a feud with Nelson that left both men much diminished by their mutual bile and pettiness.
Does Charlotte really want to pay $34 million (a figure that includes the rest of this year's contract) through 2013 for a player with such an untrustworthy back story? Sure, Jackson is a long, rugged wing defender and prolific scorer. But temperamentally, he's a walking stick of dynamite, a player who craves a position of leadership, yet reserves the right to renege on those duties if he feels slighted in any way. He can be charming and inspirational: His coaches, including Nelson, have often sung his praises and attested to his team-oriented character. Then Jackson does something that blatantly contradicts all the compliments.
Now it is Brown's turn to try to manage Jackson. Brown has told the Charlotte media that he knows how to deal with troubled players, specifically by being honest with them. The obvious parallel, ironically enough, is Brown's productive relationship with Iverson. But the glory days for Brown and Iverson were nine years ago, before an NBA title in Detroit ratified Brown's Hall of Fame credentials. His time with the Knicks and now Charlotte has seen Brown's unyielding standard of "playing the right way" slip from the coach's once-airtight persona.
In some respects, fireworks between Brown and Jackson -- at least on the level that they once occurred between Brown and Iverson -- would be good news for the Bobcats, as both men are at their best when challenged by a foil they respect. But the dynamics are unwieldy. Brown will be 73 when Jackson's contract expires. Both men probably know that, best-case scenario, the deepest they can take this team is the second round of the playoffs. Both have done more, expect more, and are running out of time. The most likely outcome between them, then, is lassitude in the face of mediocrity followed by, inevitably, damaging frustration.
• Imagine a game in which an elite NBA player --
But it happened to
• In one of the season's bigger surprises, the Knicks, coached by the guru of go-go,