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Unbuyer's Remorse

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Things happen too fast in the NBA.

You wake up one morning, and your favorite team is the leading contender to get one of the best players of all-time.

It's sort of blinding, sort of jarring. It throws you off-kilter and gets your defenses up immediately. There's a flutter of excitement because, hell, your mediocre favorite team is in the news! They might shake things up! That's good. But it's scary.

Monday morning was scary for me, and I don't know why. I rationalized my ass off, convincing myself that Allen Iverson was not the right fit for the Sacramento Kings. I wrote about 2,000 words on it over two days, but thought about the situation almost nonstop. You think trades like Webber-to-Philly or Artest-for-Peja are big? This is Allen f*cking Iverson! It'd be the biggest sea change in Sacramento history - more than even trading Mitch Richmond for Webber. It would create the day against which other days were set against. The new calendar would've started with Year 0 A.A. (After Allen).

That's scary sh*t. Unless you're a fan of a team like the Kings - a team that sucked out loud for a decade-and-a-half, then got consistently good - you might not understand. Fans of Boston, for example. Every Celtics fan the age of 20 or higher has seen a title. Winning 50 games and making the playoffs doesn't mean as much to Celtics fans - they've been there, done that. "Championship or bust." Yeah, they've had a lot of garbage teams since then, this year's edition being no exception. But what makes a special Celtics team isn't a 50-win and second-round performance: It's a title.

Sacramento fans don't have the same luxury of title banners and memories of parades and ring ceremonies and full summers of adulation from fans all over the world. We've had big games - a slew of Game 7s, including a pantheon battle against the Lakers. We've had success, with eight straight postseason berths.

But we remember the darkness. We remember year after year of not even competing with division foes. We remember lots of seven-game losing streaks, 20something win seasons. We remember when beating even a marginal Warriors team at ARCO was a huge deal, a giant morale boost.

We don't want to go back. Subconsciously, I think every Kings fan fears it, the quick descent back to irrelevancy. We were halfway there last season, before Ron-Ron came to town. It wasn't energy and pride and defense he injected into this town - it was second life. He saved us from reverting to 1990s Sacramento. He saved us from the bottom.

Mike Bibby, flawed as he is, is a last vestige of glory. He was the third banana at best on the three serious title contenders (2002-2004), but he was a banana and the team was excellent. No one will ever forget his Game 5 shot, or that whole series actually. People laugh because Jerome James made $30 million based on five games - Mike Bibby made $80 million based on seven. He had the attributes Webber and Peja lacked - tough, ballsy, clutch. He was deified, correctly. Immediately, he got the tag of "future superstar, clutch god, competitive leader."

Sadly, he's not really actually any of those things. He's got a fair body of work in the clutch, though he buckled against the Spurs and ceded most of the heroics to Bonzi and Kevin last season. He never reached that level Steve Nash and Gilbert Arenas - at one point, easy comparisons - have exceeded with two MVPs and 30 points per game. Even "star" is an overestimation of Bibby. And leader? Well, that's been the biggest void. From the fan's perspective, Bibby couldn't lead a Boy Scout troop or a pack of vigilantes, let alone a championship basketball team.

So, are we grasping on to this faux hero and refusing to let go? No, I don't think so. I'm not sure I heard one person say "We can't do this trade because we need Bibby." Mike hasn't been the stumbling block. It's another complete mess of excuses we dredge up - it's Allen, he's scary; it's Kevin, he's too good to pin behind AI; it's Ron, he can't coexist with AI; it's Muss, he can't coach AI; it's KT and Salmons, they can't perform with AI on the same roster; it's KG, we'll have even less of a shot if we get AI; it's Greg Oden, we should just tank and try for him; it's our frontcourt, we need to trade our assets to beef up the bigs.

It's a million little collectively inconsequential things which adds up to fans like me putting up the wall. "Nope, no thanks. Not a good fit. I don't care if he's the best scorer to be available on the market in roughly 15 years. Too much at stake." Honestly, it's stupid. AI is amazing. Even if he crowds out Kevin (which is possible but not predictable), he's by far the best player the Kings could conceivably add in the next 12 months.

The last two days - since Joe Maloof told everyone the Kings were out of the running - I've found myself continuing to dig for Iverson rumors, especially anything to do with Sacramento. "You know, this could be posturing - maybe Billy King will give up on trying to land Kevin and will realize Bibby, Thomas, and Garcia is the best offer he'll find." After railing against the acquisition, I was - in my head - begging for it to happen. I wish I could explain it, I really do. All of a sudden, despite my rationalizations all week about why Iverson isn't right for the team, I want A.I.

Some new rationalizations:

  1. He might not be the best fit, but he's the best player out there. And in the NBA - typically - the team with the best players wins. It's that simple. And Iverson is a big upgrade over Bibby.
  2. Kevin will get his shots. I've noticed in the last few games, especially at Golden State, that Kevin is creating when he touches the ball. He's not waiting in a corner for a kick-out or floating around looking for space. He's getting to a place where he can receive the ball, and he's trying to score. It's a sight to behold for anyone who watched Kevin his rookie year and early last season. He's using every move in his arsenal to get the ball up, get to the line, get the ball in the basket. He can create for himself, no matter who's out there with him.
  3. Ron-Ron and AI are the two most violently tenacious players in the league. As long as they don't hate each other (which they don't), can this be a totally bad thing?
  4. AI is happy when he's winning. I think a team with AI, Kevin, Ron, Shareef, and Brad in the starting lineup would win immediately. That wasn't my full concern before - I was worried more about the future (namely either stunting or losing Kevin). This team may not be a championship team, but who out there can the Kings pick up that would make them a contender? Oscar Robertson isn't walking through that door.
  5. Excitement. Remember that feeling? The Kings haven't had it in a while. If absolutely nothing else, AI brings some excitement to town for at least a week. And he's a sure-bet All-Star, which means we'll definitely have a rooting interest in Las Vegas.
I feel like a mark, but I think I've converted. Bring on The Answer.