Allen Iverson may well have hung up his sneakers last week, but news that the Philadelphia 76ers have approached and signed the supposedly retired guard seem to suggest that the Hall of Fame bound guard never truly intended to ride off into the sunset just yet.
Their can be little doubt that The Answer has at least something left in his diminutive frame to contribute to, if not necessarily lead, an NBA franchise, and perhaps there in lies the problem so evident in his stints in Detroit and Memphis: AI’s evaluation of his own abilities are clearly not on the same page as GMs around the League.
At 34, the Philly legend is certainly not done. If other players around the League can be relied on as any kind of indicators of age restrictions, Steve Nash, for example, who, regardless of his 36 years, has outplayed all before him to cement his position as one of the NBA’s elite point guards for at least another year, seems to suggest AI cab ball a while yet.
The problem, it would seem, is one of ego. Iverson still sees himself as franchise material and anything less than starting minutes and first option shots would appear to be so incomprehensible to the one time League MVP as to warrant him to walk away in mystified disgust a la Ron Burgundy:
“Do you know who i am? I’m kind of a big deal…”
And so the questions which awaited him in Detroit and Memphis will welcome him back to the city and the team that he could once call his own.
For the 76ers, the decision to bring back Iverson can easily be derided as financially motivated, designed to entice more people to go watch a team struggling on the court. Indeed, his arrival will probably be worth a few thousand ticket sales.
However, scepticism aside, the acquisition of Iverson in terms of aiding the team can only be viewed as low risk, high reward.
Recent problems assure that the Sixers will pay the equivalent of a bag of skittles for his services and there is of course the possibility that this situation might actually work out for all those involved. Hell, if it can’t work in Philadelphia, it’s not going to work anywhere.
Last chance saloon? Undoubtedly. But there is cause for optimism:
With no point guard, the minutes are available for AI and with Andre Igoudala and Elton Brand the only players even resembling offensive first options, AI should be able to hoist enough shots every game to get his, while not treading on anyone’s toes.
Eddie Jordan has said that Iverson starting is very much in his “thought process”. Unlike at the Pistons where there was an evident jam of personnel in the back court, and at the Grizzlies where youth development was always going to be a stumbling block for the veteran, the Sixers actually want him. More than that, they actually want him for who he is: a greedy scorer.
The Nuggets, Pistons and Grizzlies all traded for Iverson in the naïve belief that a player who had dominated his team since entering the League could suddenly become a selfless rotation player. That’s not hoping for a mild adaptation; that’s praying for the ultimate character switcheroo.
Philadelphia knows exactly what they are getting. They dealt with Mr Practice? For 10 years. Their knowledge of the man could well be the key to unlocking the player.
He could re-ignite a flailing team’s season or he might just score points for a team destined for mediocrity. Or he might last a week and leave, the Sixers having lost nothing.
Maybe, just maybe, this could work, giving one of the game’s best ever players the final curtain that his career deserves.