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iverson1218.jpgIt was a year ago tomorrow that the Sixers traded away their franchise player, Allen Iverson for Andre Miller, Joe Smith and two draft picks which would eventually turn into Jason Smith and Derrick Byars. Here's a story from that seems to twist Iverson's words a little bit from none other than uber-sensationalist (and Rodney Carney apologist) Phil Jasner. Iverson talks about how it seems dull to see the Sixers playing front of half-empty arenas. Jasner leads you to believe that he thinks the Sixers as a team are dull. Either way, Iverson does take a shot at however, here's his quote, "If I was still in Philadelphia, I don't think they would be in the predicament that they're in right now." If by "predicament" he means occupying a playoff spot as we speak, I suppose he's probably right.

This isn't a post to blast Iverson, though. I loved watching the guy play and I'm thankful that I got to see him night in and night out for 10 years. I want to talk about the state of the franchise today. Bill Simmons' most recent Boston Appreciation Society Essay column, nominally covering the NBA trade market, takes several shots at the Sixers. Here's the first one:

Louis Williams: If you made a "Top 10 Things Sixers Fans Are Most Excited About Right Now" list, Billy King's firing would be first; Sweet Lou would be second; the next seven things would be left blank; and No. 10 would be the fact we're seven months away from the 25th anniversary of the Fo-Fo-Fo team winning the '83 title.

While I'm glad Simmons is out there speaking for all of us lowly Sixers fans, I really wouldn't have a hard time listing 10 things to be excited about. Number one would probably be seeing the Sixers pass the Celts in the standings within 3 years because Boston traded every last shred of young talent it had for two geezers with too many miles on the odometer.

Next, Simmons takes a shot at Iguodala:

Andre Iguodala: This summer's Gerald Wallace, a quality supporting guy forced to become "The Guy" on a lottery team -- with bad results, of course -- who now wants to be overpaid because he was miscast for a few months as "The Guy." But wait, what would you have done without me. I carried us to 26 wins! Love that logic.

Actually, Iduodala led the Sixers to 35 wins last year, more than Ray Allen led Seattle to (32), Kevin Garnett led Minnesota to (32) and Paul Pierce led Boston to (24). Were those three guys overpaid and miscast as "The Guy?" Let's trade everything we have for three guys that make too much money, are too old, and have never won a thing! Love that logic.

Finally, here's the coup de gras for Simmons, soak it in...

Earlier this month, did you notice the night when Boston blew out the Sixers in Philly in front of about 8,500 comatose fans, and a couple of hours later, Iverson exploded for 51 against the Lakers? The lesson, as always: Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER trade a superstar for less than 75 cents on the dollar.

First of all, here's the "blowout" in question, the Sixers lost 113-103. They led after the first quarter 32-26, they led at the half 57-52, the trailed by three after three 83-80, they cut the lead to one at 89-88 with 9 minutes to go, then faded. That's a blowout? That's a laugher? I think it's pretty funny that the Sixers scored 10 points above their season average against Boston, 17 points more than the Celts allow, on average. But that's neither here nor there, let's take a look at the rest of his statement.

On the same night, Allen Iverson did indeed score 51 points for the Nuggets against the Lakers. As a matter of fact, he exploded for 51, just like Simmons said. And guess what, the Nuggets lost 111-107. What's the moral of the story here, Bill? The Sixers should've held on to Iverson so he could score a ton of points and the Sixers could still lose?

This has been a circuitous route to get to my point, but here it is. On December 18, 2007 the Sixers are leaps and bounds ahead of where they were on December 18, 2006. Their record this year, 10-14, is 4.5 games better than their record at last year, 5-18. They have a core of players who are growing together and being led by an unselfish floor general, Andre Miller. Last year, they had a young core being hampered by Allen Iverson's intense ego and Chris Webber's lazy attitude. Andre Iguodala was a bit player, now he's on the verge of becoming an All Star. Sam Dalembert was an afterthought, now he's a top-five center in the East. Lou Williams never got off the bench, now he's contributing 10.9 points and 3.7 assists per night, while only averaging 21 minutes. His assist-to-turnover ratio is a stellar 2.36 and he's shooting 45% from three.

Thad Young and Jason Smith are getting their minutes, earning their way into the rotation. Willie Green has changed from an "Iverson without the talent," to an offensive spark who gets his shot within the offense and plays passable defense.

The Sixers will have the cap space to be major players in free agency after this season and next season. Throw all the stones you want at Philly for making the A.I. trade, but before you write this franchise off, how about actually watching them play a couple of games. How about looking at the quality basketball they've been playing for a full year now. This team may make the playoffs this year, without Iverson. I don't think we could say that if he was still here.