At the end of Larry brown’s single season coaching the New York Knicks on March 31st 2006 his former player Allen Iverson, then with the Philadelphia 76’ers, came to New York where he faced a rookie who loves to tell people to this day, every chance he gets, that one of his greatest inspirations growing up was A.I. That night five foot eight Nate Robinson dropped 34 points against Iverson and the Sixers. After the game inside the visiting locker room Iverson spoke in front of a large media contingent who had waited patiently for him to appear in front of his locker for some postgame conversation.
Earlier that season on November 26th 2005 Philadelphia made their first trip to Madison Square Garden, and with the score tied in the final seconds New York had the ball for the final shot. Coach Larry Brown designed the final shot of the game for Nate Robinson. Robinson was guarded by Iverson on that final possession and went down the court and nailed a three point shot over Iverson at the buzzer to give New York a 105-102 victory.
As Iverson spoke in front of the media on that night in late March he smiled and talked glowingly about the 34 point night Robinson had just had against him and told everyone that Robinson reminds him a lot of himself.
Earlier this week the future hall of famer Iverson was released from his contract with the lowly Memphis Grizzles and there was much speculation that the New York Knicks would sign him and bring him in for the remainder of the season. It would have been great to see Iverson and Robinson, a two-time dunk champion and easily the most popular player among the garden faithful, team up together in the Knicks backcourt for the remaining 70 plus games of the season. As the Knicks debated internally whether or not to bring Iverson to the team Robinson reiterated again his respect for Iverson at a Knicks practice earlier in the week by telling New York reporters the reason he wears a sleeve on his arm during games is because he watched A.I. do it first. The Knicks however chose to take a pass on Iverson, which is disappointing all the way around.
The Knicks are in the process of what will be a ninth straight losing season. Before this streak began the Knicks were one year removed from having a run of nine consecutive years of making it out of the first round of the playoffs. Knicks fans have had nothing to get excited about since. After four and a half years of Isiah Thomas running the franchise as president of basketball operations from 2004 through 2008 owner James Dolan showed Thomas the door and brought in longtime Indiana Pacers top basketball executive Donnie Walsh. Walsh’s mission statement from day one has been to get the Knicks far enough under the NBA salary cap where they will have a chance at signing one or two big name free agents in the summer of 2010. But if one of those two names who are brought in to help resurrect the Knicks next summer are not Lebron James and/or Dwayne Wade then Knicks management under Donnie Walsh will be batting .000.
The Knicks do not bring A.I. to the world’s most famous arena and they like to tell us their reasoning behind this is they don’t want to interrupt the development of their young players. But the only development the young players of the Knicks have experienced since wearing the orange and blue for most of the last decade has been losing. A condition that has marinated deep inside the franchise and has been apparent every time the team has taken the court over most of that time. This losing environment more than anything else is a detriment to the young Knicks who the organization says they are trying to protect and who they want so badly to develop. The losing atmosphere has prevailed inside the halls of Madison square garden, and no matter what kind of talent the team has brought in on the court or on the sidelines the past few years the team has not been able to shake this losing mentality. It’s an atmosphere where the Madison Square garden fans who are tired of all the losing get down on the team quick at the first sign of bad play. It’s an atmosphere that includes a locker room of players who have never won with the knicks, never won in the NBA, nor knows how or what it means to win in the NBA period. The franchise has been beaten down so much by losing that there is no real belief from anyone inside that Knicks locker room that they can be a respectable team because none of the current Knicks players have felt success like that with the team and none of them probably even remember a time when the franchise was respectable on the court. This has been the biggest factor for the Knicks dismal play the last five seasons.
Continuing to expose these young players to this kind of losing atmosphere will do more harm than help no matter how much time they get to play on the court the remainder of the season. Iverson is a proud competitor and would not have put up with being a part of a Knicks team who have rolled over many times over the last few years as the opponent embarrassed them on a nightly basis. If the Knicks had brought in Iverson he would’ve garnered more respect in that locker room than any Knick currently does. The moment he entered everyone would know the success Iverson has had and the winner he has been in the league despite never being a part of a championship team. Bringing in Iverson not only would have caused mass excitement among the fans but it would have brought a whole lot of excitement to the Knicks locker room as well. For all the baggage we hear that Iverson would have brought to the Knicks he may have been the best remedy for a locker room that has known nothing but losing and embarrassment since joining the organization. He would have brought a fight to the team and a fire that New Yorkers would have loved.
When Donnie Walsh came in last season and immediately traded Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph two weeks into the season after the club had gotten off to a good start with a winning record Knicks management made it clear that their plan was to have money available under the salary cap in the summer of 2010 so they can offer the world to Lebron James and/or Dwayne Wade. The organization sacrificed last season and this season and told us that winning ball games was not the top priority until the calendar hits the summer of 2010. The Knicks can say all they want about how not brining in Iverson will allow them to play their young players. If the Knicks were so worried about their young players playing then why is their 8th overall pick in the draft forward Jordan Hill hardly ever on the court? He has already had seven DNP's and the team has only played 13 games. Furthermore, the only other young players the Knicks have any real eye on keeping are Danillo Galinari, Wilson Chandler, and Tony Douglass, none of these men would have hardly seen their playing time affected. Galinari and Chandler would have remained in the starting lineup and Douglass would have continued his role off the bench and the Knicks could have banished current starting point guard Chris Duhon to the bench and sacrificed his minutes.
There is a rookie point guard, Brandon Jennings, playing for Milwaukee who a week ago came 3 points shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time single game rookie scoring record with 55 points, who the Knicks had the opportunity to select in last June’s draft and passed. With the Knicks getting off to their worst start in franchise history Knicks management could have thrown the Knicks fans a bone by bringing Iverson to the team for the rest of the season. Iverson has never played in New York and has no association with the city, but he has that kind of swagger, respect, street cred, and game that New Yorkers have always admired and if the Knicks had given Iverson the keys to the Garden for the remainder of the season and let him start, the A.I. show would have been in full effect and Knicks fans would have loved it.
If Iverson played well there could have been a chance that the Knicks could have decided to bring the future hall of famer back for next season when the other stars come to town. There would have been more excitement at the garden this season than there has been in the building in years, but Knicks management chose to be conservative and not make a move that seemingly the overwhelming majority of Knicks fans wanted to see happen. The Knicks passed up making the popular move and if they don’t bring Lebron or Wade to the city next summer it’s hard to see Walsh and D’Antoni being popular with anyone who bleeds orange and blue.