The last season to be truly affected by a lockout was 1998-99, which I’m sure you knew. Way back then, the league didn’t start until February and each team only played 50 games. This is old news. 12 years old to be precise.
Also back then, the Philadelphia 76ers drafted Larry Hughes with the eighth pick in the draft after a single season at Saint Louis University. He was supposed to be Allen Iverson’s running mate — a bigger guard who could score, play defense and handle the ball to allow AI to play shooting guard. In retrospect, maybe putting two shoot-first guys who need the ball to be effective was not the greatest plan.
But why all this 98-99 Philadelphia 76ers talk? Only because both of these guys are trying to make it back to the NBA. From the Washington Post:
Larry Hughes wants back in, whenever the NBA lets players back in. Hughes sat out all of last season after he failed to secure the deal that he wanted in free agency two summers ago. And now, Hughes is like every other locked out player waiting for the league and union to finally reach a settlement on a new collective bargaining agreement, so that he can pick up where he left his career. [...]
But when he participated in the Impact Basketball Competitive Training Series last month in Las Vegas, the 32-year-old Hughes said that he wasn’t quite ready to retire. “I still got some game left. Having a role on a team, a contending team, is what I’m looking for. We’ll see how it goes.”
And from Yahoo! Sports:
It doesn’t matter if it’s the Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Minnesota Timberwolves – or any of the NBA’s other basement dwellers. Allen Iverson will take your call. If you’re an NBA team and you have a spot open on your roster, Iverson is willing to talk.
“I’ll play for anybody,” Iverson told Yahoo! Sports.
Now, I am not too sure that there are teams who are dying to sign Larry Hughes and Allen Iverson when free agency actually starts. Neither Hughes nor Iverson left the league because they wanted to, and neither of them left with very good reputations. Hughes was traded in each of his last three seasons and Iverson flamed out in Detroit, Memphis and Philadelphia. When their contracts ran out, no one was hurrying to snatch them up, and that’s when they were still in NBA shape.
That being said, at least these guys are doing and saying the right things. Hughes played in the lockout league and is OK with playing a small role. Iverson is being honest about why things went bad at the end of his career and is willing to come off the bench. These two might not be guys you want on your team, but at least they’re acting like guys you would want on your team. That hasn’t necessarily always been the case in the past.
It probably won’t matter though. Larry Hughes is notorious for having a website devoted to his terrible shot selection and Allen Iverson is Allen Iverson. Those aren’t the kind of things that just get swept under the rug because they’re being humble while trying to get back to the NBA. I mean, would you want either of these guys on your team in 2011? Didn’t think so.
But if they do get some team interested, I hope they come as a package deal with Aaron McKie and Eric Snow thrown in for good measure. Maybe a little Doug Overton too, but let’s not push our luck.
UPDATE: According to the Washington Post’s Michael Lee, Iverson and Hughes will play on the same team in AI’s Las Vegas Superstar Challenge. Mission complete.