I’m not the biggest Allen Iverson fan but I refuse to believe that he has deteriorated so badly that an otherwise decent team cannot sniff the playoffs with him on the roster. Iverson has been nothing but professional with the Pistons. He hasn’t complained. He hasn’t been selfish on or off the court. He’s clearly been playing through an injury and has made no excuses. Just this week he said he would have no problem coming off the bench if it helps the team. That’s more than I can say for the way Rip Hamilton handled his move to the bench. Don’t forget, the Pistons lost four in a row when Rip returned from an injury. That’s why he was moved to the bench. Iverson has conveniently been labeled the scapegoat but everyone knows why this team underachieves. It’s not like it’s a new phenomenon.
With road wins over Boston, Orlando, and Denver, the Pistons proved that they are still a playoff-caliber team when they aren’t busy making excuses. Granted, Boston was without Kevin Garnett and Denver was without Carmelo Anthony. Still, winning three straight against playoff opponents after losing eight in a row shows this team still has the ability to win games. That’s why Joe Dumars should’ve been more aggressive at the trade deadline. As the deadline approached last month and it appeared that the Pistons were probably not going to land Amare Stoudemire, I implored Joe D to trade Allen Iverson for Shaq. There is no way of knowing if Phoenix would’ve done the deal but it would’ve made perfect sense for the Suns who were making no secret of their desire to cut payroll. Shaq is on the books for $20 million next season. Iverson’s $21 million comes off the books in three months. That sort of cap relief is hard to come by and I have to think that the Suns would’ve made the move.
While Phoenix would’ve been able to accomplish its primary goal with the trade, I think the Pistons had the most to gain. At the time, I felt Shaq would’ve been a significant help to the Pistons. Now, I’m starting to think he could’ve been the difference between reaching the NBA Finals and getting bounced in the first round. Shaq is in excellent shape and—as a result—has been playing spectacular basketball. He is playing as well as he did when he won a championship with the Heat in 2006. He is averaging 18 points and 9 rebounds on the season. The bulk of that, though, came while in a power struggle with Amare in the post. Since Amare’s injury—and Shaq’s subsequent ownership of the post—the Diesel has averaged 24 points and 9 rebounds while shooting a ridiculous 67% from the field. Who doesn’t need that kind of production in the post? It would’ve been a short-term acquisition but the Pistons would’ve gotten two playoff runs out of a dominating center before his contract conveniently expires in the summer of 2010. The Pistons have no offensive post-presence and haven’t had won for a while now. As a result, they have had to maraud around as a jump-shooting team despite the fact they aren’t a good jump-shooting team. The playoffs have been especially cruel in recent years as a result. No two post players in the NBA would complement each other as well as Rasheed and Shaq would. Their inside/outside game would be a brutal matchup for opposing teams not to mention the improvement it would have on Detroit’s horrific post-defense.
I hope the Suns turned down an Iverson-for-Shaq offer. Maybe I’m better off not knowing if the Suns would’ve made the deal because if they were willing, I would have to say that Joe D’s inaction on this front was a monumental mistake.