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Archive for the ‘NBA’ Category

Concern for Iverson

Posted by Eric Fisher On July - 31 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Fisher column logo2You hope he’s all right. That was my first reaction when hearing that Allen Iverson didn’t show up for the BIG3 event Sunday in Dallas.

Iverson acknowledged concerns for the worst-case scenario in a recent Sports Illustrated article, saying, “I know people have been worried about me. You probably thought I was sitting in a corner in my boxers with a pistol in my hand ready to blow my damn brains out.”

Let’s hope that scenario, or anything remotely close to it, isn’t why Iverson missed an event in which, even as a player-coach, he’s the main attraction.

Let’s hope Iverson simply overslept. And if you think it’s impossible to oversleep for an event that starts after noon, you don’t know Iverson. Here is another quote from Iverson in the Sports Illustrated article: “I used to stay out until six in the morning, go to shootaround at nine and play that night at seven. I could do anything I wanted as long as I got a quick little nap before the game.”

But Iverson used to do that when he was younger. He’s 42 now. Although he was once again on the cover of Sports Illustrated earlier this month, it was the magazine’s annual “Where are they now?” edition.

Where is Iverson now? That question can be interpreted two ways. The first way is literal. Where is Iverson? That was the question being asked Sunday when he didn’t show up, without giving the league any notice, for the event in Dallas. But the question can also be asked in broader, more philosophical terms.

Iverson is still the beloved figure who wears his emotion on his sleeve, endearing himself to Philadelphia fans who want their athletes to care about winning and losing as much as the fans do. Remember his voice cracking and his eyes filling up with tears during his emotional speech last year when he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame?

On the other hand, Iverson is still the irresponsible person who frustrated coaches and Sixers fans. The BIG3, a league featuring former NBA players in 3-on-3 competition, sold Iverson as the main attraction. Instead, he has been a marginal player on the team for which he serves as player-coach. That is, at best, misleading. At worst, it’s false advertising.

The July 16 game at Wells Fargo Center was promoted as an opportunity to see Iverson play one more time on his Philly homecourt. But he didn’t play.

Iverson released a message on social media that he wasn’t going to play just a half-hour before the event began. Iverson cited “doctor’s orders,” although there wasn’t an official release from BIG3.

This behavior wasn’t an anomaly. In fact, it was consistent with Iverson’s behavior during his career. Iverson’s disdain for practice is well-documented. He seemed to view practice as an interruption of his nap time.

Iverson was consistently late. I remember waiting with other reporters in the Sixers locker room after a game while Iverson searched for an explanation for showing up late, only to have a media member throw him a life preserver by suggesting he may have had a flat tire or got stuck in traffic. (I forget the exact excuse, but remember it had something to do with his car.) The most infamous incident was when Iverson and Chris Webber, both of whom were sidelined by injuries, showed up late for fan appreciation night.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is that people make excuses for Iverson. We’ll never know how many times the public relations staff covered for Iverson while he was with the Sixers.

People are still covering for Iverson. On the Wednesday after the Philadelphia debacle, with many disappointed fans leaving at halftime, BIG3 co-founder Ice Cube said that when they went to Iverson’s room, they found him in bed. Ice Cube said the doctor advised him he couldn’t play, although it wasn’t clear if Ice Cube heard this from the doctor or was repeating what Iverson told him. No specifics regarding the medical reason why Iverson couldn’t play were revealed. Ice Cube also said that it was clear from the start that some days Iverson would play and some days he would coach. If that was clear from the start, the league did a superb job of hiding that information from the media and the general public.

Why do people cover for Iverson? For some people, like the public relations team when Iverson was with the Sixers, it’s because protecting Iverson was their job. For others, like Ice Cube, it may be because Iverson is the main selling point for his league.

But the tendency to forgive Iverson’s transgressions also may emanate from a love for Iverson. The heart he displayed during games. His incredible success as a sub-6-footer in the land of giants. The baring of his emotions, with his love for the game and desire to win in plain view for all to see. His independence and refusal to conform to society’s rules. Those are all reasons so many people root for Iverson. It’s why so many people are willing to forgive Iverson when he doesn’t live up to his responsibilities.

In many ways, Iverson hasn’t changed. But what has changed is he is no longer the transcendent star he was during his first 10 NBA seasons.

It’s been 10 years since the Sixers traded Iverson to the Nuggets. It’s been more than seven years since his swan song with the Sixers, a 25-game stint that followed a forgettable NBA tour that included time with the Nuggets, Pistons and Grizzlies (for three games).

In Sports Illustrated’s “Where are they now?” article, Iverson says, “I would never – and I know this might be selfish in some ways – be just another player. I had to be the guy who actually led the team to victory. I couldn’t be the used-to-be.”

But, despite the way that BIG3 is marketed, Iverson is clearly the “used-to-be.” He is barely just another guy, a marginal player in a 3-on-3 league featuring retired players. He jokes at the end of the Sports Illustrated article about the 3-on-3 league convincing an NBA team to sign him to a 10-day contract, but perhaps Iverson’s experience in the 3-on-3 league finally made him realize that his playing days are over.

We can only hope that, at age 42, Iverson is OK with that reality.

Actually, until we find out why he missed Sunday’s game, we must first hope that Iverson is OK. Period.

NBA Mock Draft: Active first round

Posted by Eric Fisher On June - 21 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Predicting the 76ers’ first-round pick certainly got much easier. There was uncertainty at No. 3, both because of questions about which players the Celtics and Lakers would select with the first two picks of the NBA Draft and because of questions about whom the Sixers would select – or would they trade down?

Those questions became moot Monday when the Sixers finalized a trade to move up to the No. 1 pick. The Sixers will select Washington point guard Markelle Fultz.

Let’s hope that’s not the only pick I get correct in my mock draft. The Sixers’ pick can be written in stone, but there’s still a lot of volatility in the rest of the draft.

The Lakers could throw a curveball by not selecting UCLA guard Lonzo Ball. I don’t think the Celtics would select Ball at No. 3, so he would drop to the Suns at No. 4.

As I compile this mock draft, one of the few apparent certainties is that the top of the draft order – Sixers, Lakers, Celtics, Suns – will be the same as last year. But even the order for Thursday’s draft (7 p.m.) isn’t a lock. The Celtics may also trade the No. 3 pick they acquired from the Sixers in the trade for Fultz, especially if the Lakers select Kansas forward Josh Jackson.

There is one other certainty in the draft. A lot of freshmen will be picked early. Teams are looking for talent and upside more than experience, so there will be a lot of one-and-done players at the top of the draft.

With all the disclaimers above, here’s my shot at predicting the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft.

1. SIXERS: Markelle Fultz, point guard, Washington. There isn’t any mystery to this pick. The Sixers will take Markelle Fultz, who not only is widely considered to be the best player in the draft, but it also a nice fit for the Sixers. Fultz should become an important part of the young nucleus that the Sixers hope will develop into a championship team.

UCLA-Ball2. LAKERS: Lonzo Ball, point guard, UCLA. The Lakers reportedly trying to decide between Kansas forward Josh Jackson of Kansas and UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball (left). But the Lakers selected forward Brandon Ingram with the No. 2 pick last year and forward Julius Randle with the No. 7 pick in 2014. The reported trade of D’Angelo Russell to the Nets indicates the Lakers are going to go with Ball, a tremendous passes with an unusual shooting style.

3. KINGS (from Bulls from Celtics): De’Aaron Fox, point guard, Kentucky. The Celtics will have plenty of offers for the No. 3 pick. The Kings were rumored to be offering the fifth and 10th picks in the first round to the Sixers in order to move up to No. 3. They could make the same offer to the Celtics, but the Celtics don’t need more draft picks. The Celtics want players, and the Kings have nobody of substance to offer them. But the Celtics might find a trade partner in the Bulls, who could send the Celtics all-star Jimmy Butler and the No. 16 pick in exchange for this pick, the first-round pick the Celtics receive from the Sixers in the Fultz deal, another first-round pick and perhaps Avery Bradley. The Bulls would then turn around and make the deal with the Kings for picks 5 and 10. The Kings make the trade because they’re afraid that the Suns will select Fox. (It must annoy the Kings that they have to trade up to get a draft pick that belonged to them in the NBA Draft lottery, but that they had to trade to the Sixers.

4. SUNS: Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke. The Suns are all too happy to find Tatum and Josh Jackson available at No. 4. They go with Tatum, a wing player who seems to fit the Suns’ style of play better than Jackson.

5. BULLS (from Kings): Josh Jackson, forward, Kansas. The Bulls get the player they wanted at No. 3, while picking up the 10th overall pick in the process. The only question about Jackson’s game is his outside shot, but he can score and rebound, adding to the Bulls’ inside presence.

6. MAGIC: Jonathan Isaac, forward, Florida State. The Magic don’t need to look beyond their home state to find Isaac, who needs to put some additional weight on his 6-foot-11, 205-pound frame, but could develop into an impact player.

7. TIMBERWOLVES: Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona. The 7-foot Markkanen is a stretch forward who can bury 3-pointers (42.3 percent during his lone season at Arizona).

8. KNICKS: Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky. The Knicks select the best pure shooter in the draft. The question with Monk is whether the rest of his game will develop to complement his shooting.

9. MAVERICKS: Frank Ntilikina, point guard, France. The Mavericks, in desperate need of a point guard, have a choice between Ntilikina and North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith.

10. BULLS (from Kings): Luke Kennard, guard, Duke. With Jimmy Butler traded to the Celtics, the Bulls need someone who can score. The 6-foot-6 Kennard made 43.8 percent of his shots from 3-point range while averaging 19.5 points. Getting Jackson and Kennard is a solid rebuilding step for the Bulls.

11. HORNETS: Donovan Mitchell, guard, Louisville. There will be pressure on the Hornets to select North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith, but the Hornets have more of a need for a shooting guard than a point guard. Mitchell, a sophomore, is the first non-freshman drafted (not including Frank Nitlikina of France).

12. PISTONS: Dennis Smith, point guard, North Carolina State. Teams always say they can’t believe players were available when they picked. This is one case where you can believe it.

13. TRAIL BLAZERS (from Nuggets): OG Anunoby, forward, Indiana. The Trail Blazers, with three picks in the first round, send the Nuggets the 26th overall pick in exchange for moving up to spots to pick Anunoby, who may have been targeted by the Heat with the 14th pick.

14. HEAT: John Collins, forward, Wake Forest. The Heat could use an upgrade at every position except center.

15. NUGGETS: Zach Collins, center, Gonzaga. This 7-footer made 47.6 percent of his 3-point attempts during his lone season at Gonzaga. He’s too good to pass up this late in the draft.

16. CELTICS (from Bulls): Justin Jackson, forward, North Carolina. The Celtics trade down twice, pick up Jimmy Butler, and still are able to find a good forward, which is their position of greatest need.

17. BUCKS: T.J. Leaf, forward, UCLA. The Bucks are set at guard with Malcolm Brogdon and Giannis Antetokounmpo, but they could use an upgrade at the power forward position, where Spencer Hawes is past his prime and Thon Maker may never reach a “prime.” Leaf averaged 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds in his lone season at UCLA, making 46.6 percent of his 3-pointers, which fits in well with the Bucks’ perimeter game. In other words, Leaf can help inside and outside.

18. PACERS: Jarrett Allen, center, Texas. Allen is still raw, but there’s a lot to like in the 6-foot-11 center’s game.

19. HAWKS: Justin Patton, center, Creighton. The Hawks find a potential long-term replacement for Dwight Howard, whom they traded to the Hornets, in this 7-footer who averaged 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds as a freshman.

20. TRAIL BLAZERS: Harry Giles, center/forward, Duke: I would look for a forward in this spot, but four of the five mock drafts I looked at over the weekend had the Trail Blazers selecting Giles. Who am I to argue?

21. THUNDER: Semi Ojeleye, forward, SMU. Ojeleye averaged 19 points this past season for the Mustangs, who won the American Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles.

22. NETS: Tyler Lydon, forward, Syracuse. The Nets need someone – anyone! – who can possibly contribute right away. They don’t have time to wait for projects, so they select Lydon, who averaged 13.2 points and 8.6 rebounds as a sophomore and can drain a 3-pointer.

23. LAKERS (from Raptors): Terrance Ferguson, guard, Australia. Lakers trade 27th and 28th picks to Raptors to move up to No. 23, take a flyer on Ferguson.

24. JAZZ: D.J. Wilson, Michigan. At 6-foot-10, 240 pounds, Wilson provides an inside presence and can make 3-pointers. He is insurance in case the Jazz lose Gordon Hayward to free agency. If the Jazz hang on to Hayward, Wilson can help in a smaller role this year.

25. MAGIC: Derrick White, point guard, Colorado. The Spurs take steps to upgrade their guard position, a noticeable weakness against the Warriors, even if Tony Parker hadn’t been injured.

26. NUGGETS (from Trail Blazers): Ike Anigbogu, forward/center, UCLA. Patience will be required, but Anigbogu, who is only 18, is an intriguing prospect with a lot of potential.

27. RAPTORS (from Lakers from Nets): Bam Adebayo, center, Kentucky. An inside power player, the 6-foot-10, 250-pounder averaged 13 points and eight rebounds as a freshman.

28. RAPTORS (from Lakers): Isaiah Hartenstein, forward, Lithuania. The Raptors have a history of selecting foreign players. Hartenstein might be a project, but the Raptors will trust in his upside.

Villanova-Hart29. SPURS: Josh Hart, Villanova. The Spurs try to decide between Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan and Hart (left), but the playoffs revealed how much the Spurs need guards – even before Tony Parker was injured – to close the gap with the Warriors at the top of the Western Conference.

30. JAZZ: Frank Jackson, guard, Duke. If the Jazz hadn’t selected D.J. Wilson at No. 24, they could go with Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan, Utah forward Kyle Kuzma or Oregon forward Jordan Bell in this spot. It’s possible that the Jazz select Derrick White at No. 24, knowing there will be a decent selection of power forwards at the end of the round.


The Sixers enter the second round with, as of now, four picks (No. 36, No. 39, No. 46, and No. 50). It’s possible that the Sixers could package the 36th and 39th picks to move into the end of the first round or the top of the second round.

There should be a wide selection of forwards available at the top of the second round. In addition to Swanigan, Kuzma and Bell (see the Jazz pick at No. 30), forwards available in the second round could include North Carolina’s Tony Bradley, Valparaiso’s Alec Peters, Indiana’s Thomas Bryant, Oregon’s Dillon Brooks and Baylor’s Johnathan Motley. Villanova guard Josh Hart could also be available.  

Carson Wentz owes Jake Elliott some money