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March 30, 2020

Mailbag: Sixers ownership, Allen Iverson running mates, Pokemon starters and much more

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There may not be basketball being played, but that has never stopped any of you from asking Sixers-related questions before, and thankfully it hasn't stopped now. If you thought people were going to stop trying to trade Al Horford to far-flung corners of the Earth, you don't know Philly fans.

But since we have an absence of real-time sports to write about, I am also happy to take your questions on a variety of other subjects past and present, assuming you care enough about my thoughts on them to ask in the first place. In Monday's mailbag, our first of the pandemic, we touch on Pokemon starters, Eagles running backs, sports video games, and several Sixers topics, the first of which was my favorite of the bunch.

If anything comes to mind during this crisis, please feel free to leave comments here or to send emails, DMs, or even a messenger bird to get in touch with me. Just make sure you're still practicing social distancing.

Let's start the show.

This is an interesting thought exercise. I am going to use the following assumptions:

  1. Iverson is willing to play stylistically as they do today, rather than forcing the iso-heavy offense he played in during his prime on today's game (though you would definitely want him to attack switches)
  2. Iverson would be lined up at point guard, at least insofar as he would be the guy bringing the ball up and flanked by three wing-ish players and a big.

To get the most out of Iverson, you want floor spacing, secondary creation, and some form of defensive toughness (I would argue in favor of rim protection as the biggest priority, though opinions will vary there.) You don't have to make as many sacrifices in shooting to get defenders on the floor as you might have 20 years ago, so in almost any case, he would be in a better setup for his offensive talent than he was back then.

A name that jumps out to me is someone like Kristaps Porzingis. He's a lob target, a high-volume pick-and-pop guy, an excellent shot blocker, and athletic enough to run the floor either to finish at the rim or take trail three after trail three as defenses collapse on Iverson pushing the pace. Porzingis can put points up in a hurry but doesn't necessarily need to have the ball in his hands all of the time.

My only concern with that duo is that you may be building a team without enough creation for others. Iverson was a creative passer when he wanted to be, but that was never his first instinct, and Porzingis is almost exclusively a scorer offensively. You're asking Iverson to carry a heavy creative burden, and you might be drawing dead when he hits the bench.

If you want to pick from the top of the perimeter player heap, Iverson would certainly look nice next to any number of the league's best wings. But I think you'd need to look deeper down the list past guys like LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard and focus on someone like Paul George, who can do the things you want Iverson's running mate to do without monopolizing touches.

Honestly, the most important thing would be putting him in an offensive system that made the most of his gifts, there are lots of players I think he could win at a high level with.

The Sixers are in a rough spot with Horford. He may be valuable in the right context and has been at times even during a brutal first season in Philly, but if they end up moving on from him it's unlikely, if not impossible to have any leverage in trade talks. The rest of the league knows what locals here are aware of — Horford was a win-now signing who will continue to decline on an expensive contract, with the kicker being that he doesn't fit very well with their two young cornerstones.

The best you could hope for, unless you're putting together a league-altering trade package of several players and picks, is an exchange of similarly bad contracts for a player who might fit better. Maybe that's someone like Chris Paul, who it's worth noting has been considerably better than Horford (always but especially now) and might actually be a sought after piece for someone in win-now mode. 

That brings us back to what you'd have to attach — teams will almost certainly start by asking for Matisse Thybulle. The Sixers wouldn't do that but who knows where they'd settle. If the NBA playoffs don't happen this season, the team won't even have proof of concept for this team in postseason play, so fake trades are kind of impossible to draw up.

I started way back in the days of Pokemon Red and Blue, and my favorite remains Squirtle. Admittedly, I have not exactly kept up with the series and played them all over the years, but:

  1. There is no equivalent "Squirtle Squad" for any of the other starters
  2. The final evolution has two giant cannons on their back
  3. Best meme content by far 

I'm partial to the original Pokedex generally. Shout out to my guy Haunter, fellow meme king, always.

In either case, you are drawing dead before the scenario begins. Both of these guys were pulling down an insane amount of rebounds at their respective peaks. But if you actively choose to go up against Ben Wallace, you sort of deserve to meet your maker.

The average person is basically just praying for a weird bounce that catches one of these two off guard. The primary difference between Mutombo and Wallace is the latter had agility and strength to still come down with rebounds in those chaotic situations, whereas Mutombo's positioning and length were his best traits. You have to choose the guy who is worse suited for chaos.

An additional point of consideration: Wallace was a mean sonofabitch when he played, and he might actually try harder to get the rebound if he knew the stakes. Mutombo might take pity on you and let you live. Give me Dikembe.

It is my obligation to give you a language warning before embedding this video. I would say "NSFW" but everybody is working from home or not working at all right now, so...

I have generally given up sports video games as I've gotten older because they were what I was best at growing up and thus became what I would get angriest about as I got older. FIFA caused me to break several Xbox 360 controllers back in the day, with one of those controllers surviving as a "throw" controller that would get spiked to protect the good one(s). There were more productive uses of my time.

The four sports games I probably got the most enjoyment out of in my lifetime are NBA Street Vol. 2, NBA Jam, SSX Tricky, and Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey. I prefer arcade-y sports games (especially basketball) over more lifelike stuff. Honorable mentions to Madden "Michael Vick is a cheat code" 2004, the first two Tony Hawk Pro Skater games, and 2010 World Cup Fifa, where I gave everybody the work with Ivory Coast.

(The only two sports-ish games I play now are Rocket League, which is basically soccer with rocket-powered cars, and Everybody's Golf, which is a great quarantine game to play and drink during with friends.)

They either needed a member of the Celtics to suffer a catastrophic injury as their first-round opponent did or for a bonafide lead star to drop out of the sky into their laps. Andre Iguodala was a very good player the entire time he was in Philadelphia, but he was miscast as a No. 1 option. His career here would have been looked at very differently if they had ever found an elite cornerstone to take responsibility away from him, and that became very clear once he left Philly after that series.

That team is honestly a really great example of how much star power matters. With a real No. 1 option, a supporting cast of guys like Iguodala, Lou Williams, Jrue Holiday, Thad Young, and Nik Vucevic can do some damage (even if Doug Collins basically refused to play the final guy in this list). Their problem was being just good enough as a group to undercut the team's ability to land the sort of player they needed in the draft, and expensive enough to prevent chasing a star in free agency.

Here's what I have to say on Rubin — I think what he decided to do with his factory late last week was a terrific idea, but would have liked to see more than him telling a few reporters he was upset about potential salary reductions. Offer to help out those employees financially or else it's empty chatter. Moot point now, of course.

My pal and terrific coworker Jimmy Kempski is the better guy to turn to on Eagles-related things, but I do think some of Roseman's comments have to be taken with a grain of salt. You can look at what the Eagles have said prior to making a lot of big decisions over the last year and write off some of their public stances as the things they feel they "need" to say to get through a press conference. That definitely applies to the wide receiver situation, too. Roseman can't just come out and throw the guys in the building under the bus.

The problem here isn't the comments, it's the fact that they basically can only upgrade wide receiver through the draft at this point, barring a major trade we aren't aware of yet. It's a great class at wideout, if you believe the people who are paid to track that stuff, but putting all your eggs in one basket doesn't tend to be a smart strategy. We'll see how it plays out.

The only way you can really make businesses hear your voice is to not give them money. Don't buy tickets, don't purchase merchandise, make them feel it in their wallets in any way that you can if you want them to know you are upset. As long as you make it available to them, they will continue taking your money and view you handing it to them as a sign of approval.

You can root for the players and the team regardless, and it's easy for me as a person who gets paid to go to games to say "Don't buy tickets!" to people who enjoy going to games as a recreational activity. I'm not telling anyone what to do, just being realistic.

This one sort of depends on the rest of your roster and what kind of offense you want to run. As a pure runner, I think McCoy was better by a good margin. He had basically everything you would want to have in a running back — vision, agility, between-the-tackles power, and his infamous cutback ability that left guys reaching for air in the open field. McCoy was capable of creating holes that were not even there, which is not something you can say about many running backs, let alone Eagles running backs.

On the other hand, Westbrook's versatility was a game-changer, as you could line him up as a receiver and have him cook linebackers and safeties in space for huge downfield plays. McCoy was dangerous on swing passes and screens, but he was never at Westbrook's level as a true wideout. Add on Westbrook's significant contributions in special teams and his own combination of elusiveness and power, and you have a pretty complete back. That versatility gives you some flexibility building your roster that can't be taken for granted.

I think I would lean McCoy because he was a special runner who was able to thrive in a variety of contexts under different coaches. If you cut both players off at nine seasons, McCoy's rushing yards total is only 183 yards short of Westbrook's all-purpose yards total. There's no wrong answer here though — Westbrook in today's NFL would be an absolute nightmare. 

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