Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 6:31PM
By Derek Li, TheSportsHatch.com writer
As the adage goes, "winning cures everything." It's only when things begin to go wrong that we are allowed a glimpse through cracks in a team's cohesion.
A few weeks ago, we learned of a rift in the Washington Wizards in the Washington Post. Brendan Haywood and team captain Gilbert Arenas offered two opposing takes on why the Wizards have gotten off to a stagnant start. Haywood thinks that his teammates need put aside their pursuits of individual glory, and put the sake of the team first. Haywood's words imply that he's not just talking about Arenas. Arenas, probably to the horror of the teammates Haywood referred to, pondered whether or not he should take on a greater load.
In the NFL, it's mostly wide receivers that are seen as divas; they want a certain number of passes thrown their way. Passes thrown to a receiver can be converted to receptions, and receiving yards. Terrell Owens is the diva du jour. When he doesn't get passes thrown his way, the rest of his game tends to suffer too; he doesn't run routes, or run-block.
In the NBA, players who feel don't get enough touches tend to take more bad shots than those who are comfortable in their role. Unlike in football, where a reception is an end in itself, it's up to basketball players to convert the pass into points. Given enough possessions without an opportunity to score, a player's defense usually suffers, too. Washington, a team with several 20 points-per-game players has had to make an adjustment with the return of a score-first point guard like Arenas. The fact that eight of its players are in a contract year only exacerbates the situation. Contrast this with the Big Three-era Celtics, who play good team defense and stay within their offense.
Arenas seems to believe he can carry a team like he did three years ago, but having played two seasons without him, it seems they've moved on past that idea. Indeed at the time of this article, Gilbert has already reduced his role. In the four games, since that post-game interview after a loss to the Spurs, Arenas averaged 12.3 shots a game and 19 points, compared to 19 shots and 22.9 points previously. The Wizards have also seen Antawn Jamison as their leading scorer/shooter in almost three out of their four games since November 23rd, all coming in wins; in their loss to Charlotte, Jamison had only 9 shots and 6 points.
Give Agent Zero credit, since it looks like he's giving up the ball for the good of his team.
Meanwhile, the other major story involving a score-first point guard is the saga of Allen Iverson. Since appearing in the NBA Finals in 2001 with Philadelphia, Iverson has yet to find a more lasting home. He started two seasons in Denver, refused to come off the bench in Detroit (shutting it down after not even playing a season) and more recently retired from the Memphis Grizzlies after again not being able to get into a starting lineup.
Now today Iverson is back with the 76ers where he hopes to resurrect his career where it all began. The Sixers can use a point guard, but more importantly, they're looking for someone who fits in with their team. Philadelphia is hoping that Iverson will see the same light that Arenas did and give up his score-first ways for the sake of the team. Hey, even Air Jordan had to adjust his game as he got older and a step slower.