A superstar with a knack for making controversy as well as baskets becomes increasingly irritated by his team's direction, which is pointing south. He gripes a lot, snaps at his coach and really gets to be a royal pain in the baggy shorts. Clearly, he's phed up playing in Philly and everyone agrees he needs a one-way ticket out.
This sounds like it's going to happen any day now, but actually, it already did. Before the Allen Iverson auction, there was Charles Barkley, who thought he'd spend his entire career with the Sixers, until he had enough of them and vice versa. The Sixers all but placed an ad in the classified section when it came to shopping Barkley. They let it be known around the league that a franchise player, slightly used but not abused, was available for the right price, and the Suns finally met it.
But: A cheesesteak smothered with Velveeta to the person who can name what the Sixers received in return.
That's how these franchise player trades usually turn out. The team doing the trading is lucky to get 75 cents on the dollar. The 76ers didn't even get 76 cents for Sir Chuck. He was only 29 years old, still in his prime, still capable of woofing down 15 rebounds faster than a plate of spaghetti, and yet the best he could do was fetch a few spare parts: Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry, none of whom will ever receive an invitation to any Sixers Alumni Night.
Barkley went to Phoenix and enjoyed a career renaissance, hooking up with Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle and reaching the NBA Finals for the first and only time in his life. Meanwhile, the Sixers finished next to last in the division, won 26 games the first year without Barkley and didn't get to the playoffs for seven consecutive years until Iverson, their next franchise player, finally took them.
"Dumb trade," Barkley said then.
Maybe, but whenever a franchise player is involved, trades rarely receive high marks for creativity. The team doing the trading might as well concede it will be ripped off in any deal, and in the aftermath, the team will likely collapse and continue suffering in the foreseeable future.
Everyone's driving a hard bargain, no matter how many teams are interested. Finally, there are other factors to consider, such as the superstar's hernia-causing contract, considerable ego and the frightening possibility that he gave his best years to his former team.
That's enough to make plenty of teams pause while nickel-and-diming their way through negotiations, hoping and expecting the team doing the trading will cave. When they finally get around to sifting through the offers made by an estimated 16 teams who called, the Sixers will realize trading Iverson can be just as annoying as keeping him.
He has to go. And he will go, to the highest bidder, who will weigh Iverson's considerable toughness, his ability to burst for 40 points without warning, his street credibility, his love for practice (kidding), his obvious gate appeal and will deliver the goods to the Sixers.
Such as: A player with a bad contract, another with a bad attitude, an unproven rookie and a first-round pick that will probably become the winning ticket in a Pervis Ellison-like draft. And somewhere on TV, Barkley will shake his head and say the obvious: "Dumb trade."