Maybe it was all of those little quips with Larry Brown. Or maybe it was the now infamous “Practice? We talking about practice?” rant. Maybe it was even his obvious unwillingness to take a back seat on the rebuilding bus that was the Memphis Grizzlies. Perhaps it was the reports that surfaced last year which said that Iverson is battling alcohol and gambling problems.
Some combination of these past career missteps has to account for the lack of consideration that NBA clubs have granted Allen Iverson this offseason.
The fact that NBA teams are not lining up to elicit the services of the thirty-five year old former superstar does not come as a surprise; he has lost a step, cannot single-handedly dominate games in the manner in which he used to, and has done nothing to diminish the rumors of his displeasure with anything but a starting spot. So no, one wouldn’t expect the market for the eleven time all-star to be too elevated. The fact that not a single franchise felt that they could fit Allen anywhere on their roster, however, does come as a surprise. In fact, in a league where Kwame Brown can dupe teams into a decade’s worth of employment, Iverson’s inability to find work, despite several statements on his part suggesting he’s ready to play, is slightly more than surprising.
Iverson is only two full seasons removed from being the NBA’s third leading scorer (An insignificant accomplishment compared to the rest of Allen’s storied stat sheet, but it’s useful for keeping things in context). In the 2007-2008 season Iverson started all 82 games for the Nuggets while posting 27 and 7 dimes per, further solidifying his status as one of the League’s premier players. Now it doesn’t seem like Iverson could land a spot on the Nuggets if he volunteered to be the team’s conditioning coach. How can an athlete go from outstanding to outcast in just two years?
Very rarely in professional basketball does a player drop from superstar status to relative obscurity in such a short time without the assistance of injury or scandal. Aside from a few nagging injuries amplified by age and a well-publicized niche for nightlife, Iverson has avoided both, yet here we stand, with the 2001 NBA MVP homeless. Sure the skills have slipped, and Allen’s certainly not the same caliber player he was during his decade of dominance in Philly, but it seems that some of his initial set of skills should be enough to land him a roster spot somewhere in the League.
His play last season, while not spectacular, was solid, and demonstrated that Allen still has the ability to be a serviceable scorer, whether as an off-ball option, or boost off the bench. Thus, his inability to find a spot on any of the League’s 30 squads is mysterious, and speculation that he may take his talents overseas is even more off-putting. Maybe he ruffled too many front office feathers throughout his career, or maybe his failure to find a franchise is representative of the NBA’s eagerness to get past an ill-fated era all too well represented by Iverson. Whatever the case, Iverson toiling away the twilight of his career in a foreign country, jettisoned from the very League which he dominated so recently, does not seem a fitting end for the captivating career of a future first ballot hall-of-famer.
Although the nickname will remain forever, it seems for most in the League, that Iverson is no longer the answer.
In case you have not heard yet…the AP has a story that Gary Moore, Iverson’s personal manager, said Monday night there are “serious talks” for Iverson to play with a Turkish team. Iverson, the 2001 NBA MVP, is negotiating with Besiktas Cola Turka for at least a one-year deal. “This team seems very interested in having him come play,” Moore said by phone. ” Allen absolutely wants to play basketball. He has no hesitation going there if that’s the best opportunity for him.”