In 889 regular season games, the man dubbed as “The Answer” has grabbed a MVP plum, Rookie of the Year award, two All-Star MVP’s, seven All-NBA citations, and ten All-Star appearances. The man played ball in Philadelphia, Denver, and Detroit and most recently in Memphis. While the past few years have been bad for many top PG’s like Penny Hardaway (retired via waive), Steve Francis (retired via waive), and Stephon Marbury (currently finding a team), Iverson is not like these guys.
Iverson has been a constant merchandising draw since he started strutting his stuffs alongside Jerry Stackhouse and Derrick Coleman in his rookie year with the Sixers. Let’s face it, for a Hall of Famer like him, this is not the way to end his career.
Sure, people are saying he was too selfish to take a back seat for a guy like Mike Conley. I agree. Iverson needs to complete his playing career by giving way to the next generation. You saw how John Stockton tried to build up Howard Eisley in the mid-90’s and how David Robinson took a backseat for Tim Duncan. Shaquille O’Neal first started playing as a second fiddle for Dwyane Wade. Larry Bird was trying to build Reggie Lewis who unfortunately suffered a fatal heart attack. Clyde Drexler relinquished top dog honors just to play second option for Hakeem Olajuwon. And Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning, Chris Mullin, Grant Hill, and Dikembe Mutombo took a step back to help build some of the stars of today. Just when we thought his trip to Denver was important to make Carmelo Anthony a top-tier superstar, it seems he was merely holding him off (especially when Chauncey Billups got Melo a breakout year last season). Iverson’s stock greatly reduced when his entry to Detroit made the team from a contender to an eighth seed playoff seat hunter. The Pistons should have never severed their ties with Billups. Billups was the glue of the squad. Not even LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, or Anthony could prevent this from happening.
But maybe, a little break from the game could do well for a storied comeback.
The problem with Memphis is he is being used as a sub for a lackluster team. Even if people try hard to make it happen, there is no chance that the Grizzlies would take a playoff spot with this kind of Western Conference environment. Rudy Gay is the team’s scoring leader while Zach Randolph, O.J. Mayo, and Marc Gasol average in double figures. Hasheem Thabeet, the 2009 NBA Draft second pick overall, average less than three points and three rebounds per game. It seems like they wasted a pick on Thabeet, where they could have done better if they gave up this right and trade him for better frontliners that could help them. While Hasheem is a project, Iverson certainly isn’t.
The Answer nails 12.3ppg, 1.3rpg, 3.7apg, 0.3spg, 50% FT, 58 % FG, and 100% 3PG in 22.3 minutes of action. If you pass him Mayo’s minutes, AI will give you a daily 20ppg. Let’s face facts here: IVERSON IS NOT WASHED UP. He just had a bad season in Detroit and he can still hurl troikas in any given night. Hell, the guy is so passionate that even arch-enemy/buddy Charlotte coach Larry Brown is giving him options to stay (although Brown is also hesitant to sign him since he is developing his guards at the moment… DJ Augustin, Raymond Felton, Acie Law, and Flip Murray should be pleased by this).
Five days before the trade deadline, expect clamor for Iverson. Hell, I can hear Marbury getting buzz as well (although that may be a whisper of a buzz given the availability of AI). I don’t think New York would love Iverson when he enters the scene because just like Memphis, Nate Robinson is not a reason for him to get benched. However, a Sixers comeback could be good for both parties. In terms of the NBA superpowers, Boston is one team that could use a guy like Iverson. Let us not forget that Iverson is a heavy assist man and a defensive specialist. Rajon Rondo has developed into a quality player but that doesn’t mean that he is untouchable in the Celts’ PG spot. The Lakers too could use Iverson. Kobe could hate this but given the right attitude, they’ll have a very dangerous backcourt. But I guess, it’s hard to disrupt a winning formula right? Even if the Lakers coach had a distinction of taming the wildest of beasts (*cough* Dennis Rodman *cough*). Dallas, Utah, and New Orleans won’t even flirt in this idea because they will disrupt the games of Jason Kidd, Deron Williams, and Chris Paul but once these guys get injured, he’ll be a catch. Chicago? Well, in some ways they can benefit with an Iverson around especially since they lost a clutch player in the level of Ben Gordon. Orlando, Atlanta and Cleveland doesn’t need another scoring option although the Cavs have a problem during the dying seconds when LeBron James is clamped by defenders and Shaquille O Neal can’t be inserted for fear of the Hack-A-Shaq.
My best picks? Let’s shake things up a bit.
EASTERN CONFERENCE – MIAMI HEAT
The Heat will benefit from Iverson. Wade is not the type of player that would love individual citations over championship glory. Iverson, looking at his Pistons experience, would try to make AI useful in other facets because this “humbling experience” almost made him retired. The Heat is a team that lacks a great second option on a daily basis (although Michael Beasley and Jermaine O’Neal could be saying otherwise). Hell, his entry could even draw Pat Riley back to the sidelines.
WESTERN CONFERENCE – SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Surprised? You sure are. The Spurs are an aging and often injured bunch. It’s rare to see Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker playing in an extended period of time. Even the entry of Richard Jefferson has yet to register a solid claim to the throne for the perennial contenders. Like I said, Iverson is an offensive player with a gift to play seriously suffocating defense. Gregg Popovich will use AI to the way that both parties could agree on something. Sure, his entry would create small ball in San Antonio but for a team lacking in scoring options, he is the most natural and most available in the free agent pool as of this moment.
I know Iverson doesn’t know this guy but if you have talent, they’ll come and look for you. Honestly, I don’t know why Johnny Abarrientos is languishing in the Brgy. Ginebra Kings’ bench. You saw him play, right? He played four regular season games in two seasons (last season he played one game in the Philippine Cup) and all of those games triggered a good reaction from the fans and the players. Abbarientos might have slowed down, but you can see the court generalship, court sense, defense, vision, smarts, and passion still flowing in his body. Hopefully, if Jong Uichico decides to bench him anew, I hope this is the last year in his contract so he could return to Alaska and retire the way a legend of his caliber should be retired.
Same goes for Iverson.