Iverson Dealt to Nuggets

Allen Iverson spent ten turbulent seasons in Philadelphia and made one NBA Finals appearance in 2001, the same year he won the league's most valuable player award.
Allen Iverson spent ten turbulent seasons in Philadelphia and made one NBA Finals appearance in 2001, the same year he won the league's most valuable player award. (Eliot J. Schechter - Getty Images)
By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

For more than 10 seasons, professional basketball in Philadelphia was personified by a scrawny, relentless, mercurial guard with cornrows covering his head and tattoos covering his body. But Allen Iverson's productive and often tumultuous tenure with the Philadelphia 76ers came to an end yesterday, when the Denver Nuggets acquired the seven-time all-star in exchange for point guard Andre Miller, forward Joe Smith and two first-round picks in the 2007 NBA draft.

"This is an exciting day for the Denver Nuggets," Vice President of Basketball Operations Mark Warkentien said. "It's not often that you have a chance to acquire a talent like Allen Iverson. No one plays with more passion, desire and a will to win than A.I."

The former Georgetown star reportedly drew interest from all but two NBA teams after 76ers Chairman Ed Snider confirmed that Iverson had requested a trade on Dec. 8. With Philadelphia (5-18) mired in a season-high 11-game losing streak, team president Billy King said he had no desire to have the trade talks drag on.

"Anytime you make a trade it's difficult, and obviously this is a big one. In evaluating and looking at where we need to go, it was one that needed to be made," King said in a news conference. The 76ers preferred to send Iverson to the Western Conference, and King took the best offer available after they failed to obtain Los Angeles Clippers third-year point guard Shaun Livingston and Minnesota rookie guard Randy Foye.

The trade matches the 31-year-old Iverson, the league's second-leading scorer, with Carmelo Anthony, the league's leading scorer. But the high-scoring combination won't suit up together until Jan. 20, when Anthony finishes serving a 15-game suspension he received on Monday for punching the New York Knicks' Mardy Collins during a brawl at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

Warkentien said it won't be a problem for Iverson and Anthony to work together, citing Nuggets Coach George Karl's history of working with superstars Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton in Seattle and Sam Cassell, Glenn Robinson and Ray Allen in Milwaukee. "This is not a block George hasn't been around," Warkentien said in a news conference. "He's done laps around this block."

The teams waived physicals for the deal, and Iverson is expected to be in uniform for the Nuggets' game tonight at Pepsi Center against Phoenix, Warkentien said. If Iverson is unable to travel to Denver in time, he will make his debut Friday against Sacramento.

The Nuggets, who also received reserve forward Ivan McFarlin in the deal, have been interested in Iverson for almost a year, reportedly engaging in heated discussions near the trade deadline last February. They were finally able to pry away Iverson, the 2001 league most valuable player, with a package that included Miller, one of the league's top point guards, and the expiring contract of former 76er and Maryland star Smith.

Miller, who ranks third in the league in assists, will receive an extra $1 million as a trade kicker on his six-year, $55 million contract. The deal will also give Philadelphia three draft picks -- their own and ones belonging to Denver and Dallas -- in a draft that many general managers believe will be the strongest and deepest in recent memory, especially if Ohio State freshman Greg Oden makes himself available.

Iverson, a four-time scoring champion and 2004 Olympian, has the third-highest scoring average in NBA history -- 28.1 points -- trailing only Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. Taken with the No. 1 overall pick in 1996, Iverson won the rookie of the year award and was quickly embraced by Philadelphians after transforming the woebegone franchise into a contender.

But he was never able to bring a championship to Philadelphia, coming the closest in 2001, when he guided the 76ers to the NBA Finals, where they lost in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Iverson's production never diminished in the subsequent seasons, but the 76ers continued to sink lower in relevance, missing the postseason in two of the past three seasons. Iverson was both a blessing and a curse for the team, his fearless jaunts to the basket and impressive assaults on the scoreboard made it nearly impossible to find a complimentary piece for him.

Jerry Stackhouse, Larry Hughes, Toni Kukoc, Keith Van Horn, Robinson and Chris Webber all failed to mesh with Iverson's immense talents, and his dominance of the ball was believed to have hampered the development of young Sixers such as Andre Iguodala, Samuel Dalembert and Kyle Korver.

He clashed often through six seasons with Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, but when Brown left for Detroit in 2003, the 76ers struggled to find stability at head coach. Randy Ayers, Chris Ford and Jim O'Brien couldn't reach Iverson. Maurice Cheeks appeared to get along with Iverson better -- until the two exchanged words and Iverson missed a team function earlier this month, expediting Iverson's exit from Philadelphia.

"For 11 years, he gave us all some great excitement. I think he's one of the greatest to ever play the game," King said. "The team was built around Allen. He helped carry us for a long time. . . . It's a big loss. I'm not going to discredit what Allen has done for this organization."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company