Short doesn’t always mean sweet

I had the privilege of working with NBA Hall of Famer Nate Thurmond over the weekend, and we got to talking about Allen Iverson, which figures because Iverson is the talk of the league these days.

We chatted about how good Iverson is and where he might end up now that the Philadelphia 76ers have decided to trade him. Then, Thurmond said something that struck me.

“If you look at smaller players who have played in the NBA,” Thurmond said, “you’ll find that they don’t tend to play very long. There’s a lot of wear and tear on small guys.”

So, I started to take a look at some of the league’s best smallish players over the years, such as Nate Archibald, Kevin Johnson, Bob Cousy, Guy Rodgers, Tim Hardaway, Mookie Blaylock, Mark Price … even Muggsy Bogues and Spud Webb.

Turns out, Thurmond was on the money. There is nuance to this, but by and large, most of the league’s little guys tend to play between 800 and a thousand NBA games, and their careers seem to decline rather quickly in later years. Injuries were a factor for most of these players.

Former Jazz point guard John Stockton is the exception, having played more than 1,500 games. But as nails as Stockton was, he was bigger and stronger than Iverson, and coach Jerry Sloan always was careful about his minutes.

Point is this: Unless Iverson defies history and odds, he likely can play at his current level for only another year or two. And don’t forget, Iverson is slighter than almost all of these guys and probably plays more recklessly than any of them did.

The team that acquires Iverson should count on him only through the length of his contract, which expires at the end of the 2008-09 season. At that time, Iverson’s main worth to a team will be less his game and more his ability to give salary cap relief.

Any team considering trading one or more of its youngish players and/or a draft pick for Iverson better allow for the possibility that two or three years from now it is left with a hobbling Iverson while one of its own is flourishing on some other coast or on some other team.

Then again, Iverson has defied the odds already. He hasn’t quite been an iron man, but he’s awfully durable for 10 NBA seasons. He plays with a fearlessness that few can match, and aches and pains rarely sideline him.

He will likely change the mentality and image of the team he goes to. He might even be able to transform a mentally fragile team into a strong one.

But he’s played almost 700 games, not including another 62 playoff games. How many more big-time performances does he have left? It’s not his heart we worry about. It’s history.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.

Other Sportssports

Just Posted

A felled tree in Sydney G. Walton Square blocks part of a lane on Front Street following Sunday’s storm on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
After the rain: What San Francisco learned from a monster storm

Widespread damage underscored The City’s susceptibility to heavy wind and rain

Plan Bay Area 2050 is an expansive plan guiding the region’s growth and development over the next three decades. The regional plan addresses progressive policy priorities like a universal basic income and a region-wide rent cap, alongside massive new spending on affordable housing and transportation infrastructure. (Shutterstock)
$1.4 trillion ‘blueprint’ would address Bay Area’s housing, transit woes

Analyzing the big ticket proposals in ‘Plan Bay Area 2050’

A felled tree in San Francisco is pictured on Fillmore Street following a major storm that produced high winds and heavy rains on Oct. 24, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Philip Ford)
Storm updates: Rainiest October day in San Francisco history

Rainfall exceeded 10 inches in parts of the Bay Area

On Sunday, California bore the brunt of what meteorologists referred to as a bomb cyclone and an atmospheric river, a convergence of storms that brought more than half a foot of rain to parts of the Bay Area, along with high winds, concerns about flash floods and the potential for heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada. Much of the Bay Area was under a flash flood watch on Sunday, with the National Weather Service warning of the potential for mudslides across the region. (NOAA via The New York Times)
Bomb cyclone, atmospheric river combine to pummel California with rain and wind

What you need to know about this historic weather event

The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy SF.gov)
The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy SF.gov)
Whistleblowing hasn’t worked at the SF Dept. of Building Inspection

DBI inspectors say their boss kept them off connected builders’ projects

Most Read