Nuggets acquire four-time scoring champion Iverson from 76ers
PHILADELPHIA (TICKER) —One day after losing the NBA’s leading scorer, the Denver Nuggets picked up a four-time scoring champion.
Second in the NBA in scoring this season at 31.2 points per game, Iverson made national headlines two weeks ago when he demanded a trade. Sixers chairman Ed Snider confirmed the news on December 8, stating that the team would accommodate Iverson’s wishes.
Less than two weeks later, Sixers president Billy King delivered on his boss’ promise, sending the 2001 MVP to a contender.
“Any time you make a trade, it’s a difficult one,” King said. “Obviously this is a big one. But I think in evaluating and looking where we needed to go, I think it’s one that had to be made.”
The deal added to an already hectic week for the Nuggets, who learned Monday that star forward Carmelo Anthony was suspended 15 games by the NBA for his role in Denver’s ugly brawl with the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
With the 22-year-old Anthony sidelined for the next five weeks, the Nuggets will receive a much-needed offensive boost from Iverson, who has a career scoring average of 28.1 points, topped only by Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. Earlier this month, Iverson eclipsed 40 points for the 76th time in his career.
I’m very happy about the trade,” Iverson said. “Denver’s style of play fits my strengths. I’m looking forward to playing with Carmelo, the rest of the Denver Nuggets, and for (coach) George Karl, who is a proven winner.”
“Allen has proven he’s a winner,” Nuggets vice president of player personnel Rex Chapman said. “He’s won playoff basketball games. He’s been an MVP in this league, he’s been a scoring champ in this league. We’ve got a 22-year-old young man that we’re trying to help raise and become a winner year in and year out.”
Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien said the team hopes to have Iverson in the lineup for Wednesday’s home game against the Phoenix Suns.
“Physicals have to be passed, and in some cases physicals have been waived,” Warkentien said. “Not all of them have been, and to shorten the process to try to get him in uniform tomorrow night, there has been some waiver of physical requirements. If it’s logistically possible, it’s going to happen.”
Chapman said he spoke to Iverson over the phone shortly after the initial deal was agreed upon.
“He is ecstatic to come here,” Chapman said. “He said this is where he wanted to be. He says he is ready to come here and do his thing.”
The 1997 Rookie of the Year and a seven-time All-Star, Iverson has two years and $39 million remaining on his contract after this season. He is one of the NBA’s true drawing cards - especially with young fans - and could be the missing piece for Denver, which also lost second-leading scorer J.R. Smith to a 10-game suspension on Monday.
With his braided hair, tattoos, aborted venture into rap music and brutally honest approach, Iverson became an icon of the hip-hop culture, which endeared him to young fans but made older fans cringe. He had more than one run-in with NBA commissioner David Stern.
However, there is no denying Iverson’s talent. Perhaps the best small player in NBA history, the 6-foot, 165-pound Iverson disrupts opposing offenses and defenses by making plays for himself or teammates, averaging 6.1 assists and 2.3 steals in his career.
He may have been at his best in the 2000-01 season, when he put aside his running feud with coach Larry Brown, led the NBA in scoring and powered the 76ers to a 56-26 record and their first appearance in the NBA Finals in 18 years, earning league MVP honors.
“I’d like to thank Allen for the 11 years,” King said. “I think he gave us all great excitement, getting to the Finals, being an MVP, being in the All-Star Game. I think he’s one of the greatest players to ever play the game, and from the organization, I thank him for everything he’s done for us.”
Last season, Iverson averaged a career-high 33.0 points, 7.4 assists and 1.9 steals. But the team collapsed down the stretch and finished 38-44, and Iverson and Chris Webber did not attend Fan Appreciation Night at the final home game of the season.
At the time, King said it was necessary to “change the culture” of the team and in the offseason tried to trade Iverson. The team is off to a horrendous 5-18 start this season and has dropped 11 straight games.
“I’d like to thank my fans in Philadelphia,” Iverson said. “They’ve been with me every step of the way, through all the ups and downs.
“I will always be grateful to the 76ers organization, and I wish them the very best.”
The 31-year-old Iverson now will combine with Anthony to form the most explosive scoring duo in the NBA. The 6-8 Anthony is averaging a league-leading 31.6 points in 22 games this season.
“Carmelo’s a great, great young player,” Chapman said. “He would admit to you he’s got room to grow, but he’s all in favor of this. … It’s our vision and our hope that these two are going to be a dynamic scoring pair, a dynamic duo together - that they are going to take this franchise to new heights.”
It will be up to Karl to mesh the two great scoring talents, but Warkentien did not seem worried.
“We’ve got a really good basketball coach,” Warkentien said. “We’ve got a really good basketball staff. I was in Seattle when George had Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. I don’t see it ending up a lot differently. I saw George coach Gary Payton and Sam Cassell in Milwaukee. This is not a block George hasn’t been around. He’s been around this block, he’s done laps around this block.”
Miller, 30, is averaging 13.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 9.1 assists this season, the third-highest assist total in the league.
“I’m really excited because of Andre being third in assists,” King said.
The 6-2 Miller led the NBA with 10.9 assists per game with Cleveland in 2001-02 and will make $8.7 million this season. He has $19.2 million remaining over the final two years of his contract.
“Andre has done a yeoman’s work for this franchise,” Chapman said. “He’s terrific in the community. He’s loved by his teammates, his coaches and by us. It was one of the more difficult (moves) I’ve ever had to have.”
Smith has an expiring contract worth $7 million. The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005, Smith is averaging 5.1 points and 3.6 assists in 11 games with Denver this season.
The 6-10 Smith figures to replace injured big man Shavlik Randolph, who is sidelined indefinitely with an ankle injury.
“Joe will give us a big man that will help replace Shav until he’s back,” King said. “Now we can evaluate our team and see where we go from here, but I think we have a great future ahead of us.”
The 6-8 McFarlin averaged 1.4 points and 1.0 rebound in 11 games with the Sixers.
Philadelphia received Denver’s first-round pick in 2007 and a second pick which the Nuggets acquired from the Dallas Mavericks. Both picks are projected to fall somewhere in the 20s.
“What we were trying to accomplish was to get some cap flexibility, to be able to get a player that could help us, and I think we were able to do that,” King said. “I think we have a plan now in place that will help this organization for the long haul.
“The draft picks are really important, because we want to build through the draft and through our young players and have cap flexibility. So all that was very important.”