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Sunday, July 14, 2024


Games 1/25/2006

By Rick Racela

In a world with more and more distractions, less and less free time, and even less disposable income, where does that leave the often boorish behaving professional basketball player in the hearts and minds of the sporting public?
 The Delaware Valley sports fan is starved for a champion.  With the Sixers showing little capability to garner an NBA title, it’s not difficult to imagine the club fading even further from public interest.
 Ticket prices are high.  Free time is low.  Competition for attention and amusement is great.
 It’s sad that a warrior like Allen Iverson will never earn a ring.  Although diminutive, Iverson goes full throttle in every game of the endless NBA season.
But whether he’s tough to match chemistry with or whether his team’s general managers have seldom made decisions on compatible talent to bring in, Iverson’s stellar career appears to be in sunset mode despite long minutes and high scoring in this, his 10th season.
 Brought in by coach Larry Brown, team GM Billy King is finally under fire for a squad he assembled long after his mentor departed for a title in the Motor City.   King makes a sharp appearance and his Duke background presented him as a logical choice to continue representing the franchise even after Brown’s departure.
 But the team continues to languish despite numerous coaching and personnel changes.  Talk radio is on King’s back and the noose will only tighten as another disappointing season begins to wind down.
 The sudden availability of Pacer star Ron Artest has awakened some in the fan base who want the team to roll the dice on the talented, but T.O. like, superstar.  The squad is starved for defense, a specialty of the enforcer-like Artest.
 Rumors say it’ll take at least sophomore Andre Iguodala in a package to get Artest to South Philadelphia.  The former Sixer first round pick is viewed as an up and coming star so the organization is reluctant to part with him and his potential.
 But would it be worthwhile to go for a title, now?  With Iverson’s mileage becoming more and more of a concern, would it be worth one last push for this year and next, to try to win with Artest?
 What if Iguodala never transitions from good to great?  What if Artest can pull together a weak defense and reinvigorate the sagging fan base?
 Then again, there’s a chance that Artest will be too troublesome, especially if the inconsistency continues despite his presence.  That’s why guys like King make the big bucks and wear those great suits.
 The area is not exactly overwhelmed with excitement about the upcoming Phillies’ season.  The major story appears to be the lengthening of the leftfield wall at Citizens Bank Park. 
 The Flyers have a ton of talent but they, too, have a recent history of post-season disappointments.  Their Wachovia Center fan base is very loyal, but with hockey being a television-challenged sport, the Fly Guys remain fourth fiddle in the scheme of things.
 It’s no secret that Eagles’ fans are still in recovery as they watch the NFL Playoffs with gut wrenching memories of last season’s Super Bowl shuffle.   Most fans are eager for the free agency signing period and the draft.
 Since the Eagles failed this year and hockey was returning from a year-long lockout, it was an ideal time for the basketball franchise to make some noise.  But it hasn’t worked out that way.
 Even favorite son Maurice Cheeks is being criticized in his first year as headman.  No one is spared when the losing becomes habitual.
 It would take guts to pull the trigger on Artest, but it might be the last bullet in King’s pistol.  Perhaps owner Ed Snyder has quietly shaken his head in disapproval of such a move.  He is after all, “Mr. Snyder.”  No one, not even the ever-popular Pat Croce, could go toe-to-toe with Mr. Snyder.
 It’ll be interesting to see how the organization responds if this season continues to spiral.  What do you do with Iverson?  Would anyone dare take Chris Webber’s fat contract and aged legs?
 Where do they go from here?  And do we really care?

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