Iverson-Anthony combination can work — maybe
Seattle Times staff columnist
"Fame is proof that people are gullible." — Ralph Waldo Emerson
We've been fooled before. Fooled good. Fooled thoroughly. Duped. By Carmelo Anthony's boyish grins. By Allen Iverson's dauntless performances.
When they are at their best, we forget their worst. It's the slyest star quality of all, this ability to make our minds go blank. But eventually, they mess up again, and we stop trusting them again, only to be spellbound and then disappointed, spellbound and disappointed, a cycle that spins as long as they mesmerize.
And now we're back for more. The NBA's most compelling new drama will perform at KeyArena tonight. Denver's A.I.-'Melo project — which combined for 51 points in its debut Monday night, a 115-98 win over Memphis — hits the road for the first time.
We know why this novel duo won't work. During a month of anticipation, we've stated the reasons, often in code. Let's not do that anymore.
They're too selfish, too troubled, too immature, too aloof, too perimeter-oriented, too proud, too stubborn. Too braided. Too tattooed. Too hip-hop.
If we listen too much, we figure Anthony and Iverson might as well toss the basketball and commence fisticuffs. (No hitting and running this time, 'Melo.) It's inevitable, right? They are Shaq and Kobe, The Sequel, at least when it comes to potential for drama.
It's nice, logical conventional thinking. But here's the problem: When have Anthony and Iverson ever played it straight?
And when has optimism, or better yet, our starstruck naiveté, failed to attract a large portion of us?
So despite the baggage of two of the NBA's most mischievous stars, a thought loiters among the doubt.
It can work.
For the love of the crossover dribble, it can work.
For the love of the fadeaway, it can work.
For the love of George Karl's sanity, it can work.
Anthony and Iverson can live in bliss. They can share. They can contribute more to the NBA than volume shooting and peculiar behavior.
Maybe. Just maybe.
You know, Emerson died before James Naismith invented hoops. But his quote about fame matches today's NBA so perfectly.
We shouldn't believe Anthony and Iverson can be special together. We can't help it, however. They are the most exciting perimeter creation since Orlando tried to put Grant Hill with Tracy McGrady. But Hill's trick ankle ruined that duo. They were together about as long as Britney Spears and Kevin Federline.
Because Anthony and Iverson are both healthy, this pair has a chance to be the best perimeter partnership since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. It's both blasphemy and false to declare Anthony and Iverson could be as good as Jordan and Pippen. But the Nuggets' stars will be more intriguing.
The possibility for turmoil makes them so captivating. Jordan and Pippen were great, highly respected and influential, but there was no conflict. Jordan was the man; Pippen was the helper. Their team, the Chicago Bulls, won all the time. Their dominance was as straightforward as a cover letter.
Success for Anthony and Iverson is not a given. But they can thrive together for several reasons.
Foremost is the age difference. At 31, Iverson is nearing the end of his prime and needs Anthony, a 22-year-old prodigy, to extend his career and give him hope for a championship.
Though both players can score 30 points a game, they have diverse skills. Iverson is the smallest and quickest combo guard in the league and does his damage with jumpers or slashes to the basket. Anthony is stronger than most small forwards and scores most of his points from within 18 feet. He has special post-up skills. It gives the duo the feel of an inside-outside tandem in some respects. It's enough of a difference for the two to coexist.
And the eccentric Karl is just the man to coach Anthony and Iverson. Karl, the former Sonics coach, has proven he can manage superstar egos. He must do some bargaining, but talent makes that assignment much easier.
This is the best tandem Karl has had since he coached Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. Anthony and Iverson might be his last good chance at a title. He can't blow it. He won't blow it.
It's easy to dream, isn't it? Right now, Iverson's infamous domestic incident and practice bemoaning are a blur. Anthony's role in the Big Apple Grapple and his immaturity during the 2004 Olympics and his "Stop Snitchin' " cameo seem so far away.
The possibilities blind us. They could be revolutionary together. They could inspire inner-city kids to play basketball unselfishly. They could alter some negative perceptions about the NBA.
Or they could bamboozle us. It wouldn't be the first time.
Fame is sneaky that way.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or email@example.com.
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