The 76ers have enjoyed a stellar, thrilling eight seasons with Allen Iverson. Those seasons, however, have been peppered with annoying and team-eroding actions by Iverson: lack of practice time to develop better team chemistry, petulant refusals to follow directives from head coaches (Larry Brown, Randy Ayers or Chris Ford) and a resistance to altering his training regime to adjust to the demands of the team or the demands on his aging body.
Despite this turbulent tenure, this city loves AI -- he is consistently fearless with this game and a ferocious competitor. He "fits" with the rough-and-tumble aura of Philadelphia. Perhaps more importantly -- he fills the Wachovia Center.
So what is a GM and/or team owner to do?
Let another season go by and treat it as an audition. An argument that has merit points out that the team around AI has been injured and is composed of older veterans that may be wearing down (e.g., Derrick Coleman, Aaron McKie and Eric Snow). Add to this the inordinate amount of injuries throughout the season and a lack of a strong coach to impose a system and...well.
I believe that Billy King has one more try to compose a different team with a strong coach (e.g., Jim O'Brien, Mo Cheeks or George Karl) during this off-season to test whether the "AI problem" is fundamental or whether it is contingent on surrounding factors. If King assembles a new crew and next season looks significantly better, then he can defer addressing whether to trade AI or not.
Granted, building a team around AI has occurred about three or four times already, but this last attempt should not count as a full attempt.
If the team is looking haggard by mid-season, then,
The answer to that question will depend on the kind of crew assembled during the 2004 off-season. I would target the power forward position and try to get a tough-nosed, interior presense with scoring ability -- the Sixers seem to have a track record of getting small forward types that do not get too dirty in the paint (e.g., Keith Van Horn and Glenn Robinson).
So, after all these conditional statements what is the skinny? Trade AI if he does not gel with the new components brought in during this off-season or if the team remains fundamentally unchanged.