By Ibrahim Kocyigit
ISTANBUL (Nov. 21) – It was not the first time Allen Iverson stepped into Besiktas Akatlar Arena, but it was the first time he saw the hall exceed its capacity. The Besiktas Cola Turka game against visiting Fenerbahce Ulker, defending champions in Turkish Basketball League was extremely important for the fans, since the opponent was the biggest rival of the club. After scoring 15 points on Tuesday against Hemofarm in Eurocup, Iverson disappointed his 3,500 fans in his Turkish league debut on Sunday by only scoring two points. More frustratingly for the fans, Besiktas, also known as Black Eagles, lost the game 74-67.
Looking physically unfit to be of much help, Iverson had an hard time against Omer Onan, the shooting guard of Fenerbahce who won silver in 2010 FIBA World Championship with the Turkish National Team. ‘The answer’ sat on the bench for the entire second and fourth periods, and he scored his only two points in the third, while Onan was not on the court. Aside from hitting only one of his six shot attempts in 19 minutes, Iverson had four rebounds and two turnovers.
These statistics were not bad enough to stop Besiktas fans from cheering for Iverson the whole game. But it’s not hard to guess that this reaction will change if the results stay the same. There is a possibility that the expectations are not as low as assumed.
“Iverson is one of the legends of basketball. I assume he’s not training regularly since more than one year. That’s why we need to be patient,” said one of Besiktas fans during halftime. But when his expectations for the whole season were asked, he didn’t seem that modest: “He should star by his own and be a team player at the same time. But the most important thing is that he should make us champions.”
Besiktas coach Burak Biyiktay sounded like he is not sure what to do with an unfit NBA star. “The expectations are so high regarding Iverson. But he’s unfit and unready. On the other hand we all want to see him play for a long time. So it’s a problem whether he plays or not,” said Besiktas’s low-profile coach in his post-game interview. “Today, he played almost 20 minutes, but did no help to the team. Allen Iverson is not the Allen Iverson that we know. He needs time.”
The Black Eagles lost both games with AI, and in Turkey even three defeats in a row can trigger a crisis. “Iverson may cause the coach to get fired in a month” said Onur Erdem, a reporter for NTV Spor, one of the most respected sport channels in Turkey. “Fans’ expectations are getting higher every day and Biyiktay, under the pressure of the fans, is letting Iverson play although he is not ready. In fact everybody is well aware that this roster can’t win the league. But with Iverson involved, people may start to think that the roster needs a high-profile coach. The situation is similar to Miami Heat, where people started to think that Erik Spoelstra won’t be able to handle a roster involving LeBron, Bosh and Wade.”
‘The answer’ has a two-year contract with Besiktas. But he is be able to leave the club next summer if he gets an offer from the NBA. He needs to start playing regularly soon and put up good statistics to be able to get the attention of NBA teams. But it seems that he needs to be patient and get into shape, quickly. As long as he’s physically unfit, it’s tough for him to be of much help.
How can this paradox be solved, that’s the question that Besiktas needs to find the answer.