Is Iverson's petulance hurting 76ers' playoff chances?

On The NBA

April 11, 1999|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

After the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, Allen Iverson said:

"It's time to just roll. It's no time to act like a baby now."

Whether Iverson was referring to playing through a bruised thigh injury or his brief departure from the team last week is unknown. For Iverson's sake, he had better hope his team -- one of four jockeying for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference -- is able to secure a postseason spot. (The Sixers face the Washington Wizards at the MCI Center today.)

If not, a lot of the blame for the team's failure will be placed on the shoulders of the Philadelphia guard who was being touted as a Most Valuable Player candidate.

After cursing at coach Larry Brown a week ago Friday, Iverson was benched for the second half of the game. Afterward he announced he would not play the next game in Toronto and not take the court until he felt "100 percent."

Choosing not to play is a sign of immaturity and could prove crucial to Philadelphia's playoff chances (the Sixers lost at Toronto). Iverson did play the next game against Milwaukee, scoring 27 points in the win. But Iverson's action is just another example of athletes trying to gain too much control over teams.

Whether Iverson and Brown can push their differences aside remains to be seen. Maybe a playoff appearance can help mend the differences between the two. If the Sixers don't make the playoffs, maybe Iverson asks ownership to make a choice between the two. In figuring how many people pay to see Iverson as opposed to Brown, it's clear what the choice would be.

At least Iverson, since his return, has been saying the right things.

For now.

"I was just wrong," Iverson said. "You should never curse at a coach. It was terrible going through the whole thing, because I was 100 percent wrong."

Back to the bench

Now, let's get this right. You're the second-leading scorer on your team, which also happens to have the best record in the Eastern Conference. You miss four games with a hamstring injury, but you expect to step right back in the starting lineup, right?

Wrong, if you happen to be Nick Anderson of the Orlando Magic. Anderson was injured recently against the Wizards and missed four games. But he returned as a reserve on Thursday because Penny Hardaway didn't want to move back to point guard.

In Anderson's absence, Hardaway had 30, 24, 30 and 24 points in four consecutive games -- all Orlando victories. Hardaway scored 23 points in a win over Cleveland on Thursday, Anderson's first game back, and 26 Friday against Milwaukee, the Magic's sixth straight victory.

"I'm way more comfortable at shooting guard," Hardaway said. "At point guard, everything is tougher for me, because teams defend me differently. At shooting guard, I have more room, and I can play the game differently. I'll do whatever is asked, but I'm a better shooting guard now than I am a point guard."

Said Orlando coach Chuck Daly: "He could be among the top five at 1, 2 or 3 [point guard, shooting guard or small forward]. But it's obvious, he wants to play off the ball."

It will be interesting to see how the move affects team chemistry, because Darrell Armstrong gave the team a lift off the bench. Anderson only played 23 minutes and scored five points in his first game back in his new role and had seven points in 23 minutes Friday.

Around the league

With the firing of Bernie Bickerstaff last week, two coaches have been fired immediately after losses to Miami. Earlier this season, the New Jersey Nets fired John Calipari after a loss to the Heat.

Said Miami assistant Stan Van Gundy: "I said to Pat [Riley], `Is it that embarrassing for teams to lose to us?' "

Toronto Raptors power forward Charles Oakley, whose $10 million balloon payment this season was drastically reduced by the lockout, said he's insulted by his team's three-year, $12 million offer. "I'd rather go somewhere else and play for less," Oakley said.

After missing 10 games with partially torn ligaments in his right thumb, Vin Baker returned to the Seattle lineup on Thursday. But the day before he got into a jawing match at practice with point guard Gary Payton, who called Baker a "fake All-Star," "fat" and several other unprintable names.

Former Maryland star Buck Williams will have his jersey retired by the Nets today.

Stat of the week

In its past four games at the Great Western Forum, the Utah Jazz has a 4-0 record over the Los Angeles Lakers. In its past four games at the Pond in Anaheim, the Jazz is 1-3 against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Quotable

"If he always played like that, he would still be here."

-- Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal, after Denver guard Nick Van Exel scored a career-high 41 points, to go with nine assists and eight rebounds, against his former teammates.

"Excuse me for a second. Let me tee off real quick."

-- Golden State Warriors guard John Starks, pausing during an NBA conference call with the national media so he could continue his round of golf.

Jerry Bembry can be reached via the Internet at JeryB@aol.com

Pub Date: 4/11/99

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