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So, it’s official now: the New York Knicks will not be pursuing Allen Iverson. Why? Knicks GM and President Donnie Walsh speaks, and Howard Beck reports:
“We’re not going to be making additions at this time to our team. So I guess that ends the speculation about Allen Iverson. It really has nothing to do with Allen Iverson. It’s just a stage that our team is in right now …what we’ve been trying to do since we got here in building a team for the future. It did get interesting for awhile, because Allen’s a great player, has always been a great player.”
It’s a diplomatic way to play it for sure, saying this decision wasn’t an indication of Iverson, the player, but of the direction of the current roster. To which one can only respond… “Um, what direction?”
3/4 of the Knicks roster is a free agent this season—if that’s the foundation for the future, it’s built on qualifying-offer quicksand. Which is fine. That’s been the Knicks plan all along. But with respect to AI, the Knicks’ reluctance to sign him has nothing to do with longterm plans, and everything to do with immediate concerns about Allen Iverson. Just a theory, I guess.
But one which a source close to The Knicks corroborates, telling Newsday’s Alan Hahn:
According to source, biggest concern about Iverson was potential for more unwanted controversy: “If it didn’t work it could really blow up.”
Indeed. Had things gone bad, they would have done so in spectacular fashion. Instead, the Knicks can enjoy the relative anonymity of losing with a roster full of expiring contracts. SB Nation’s Knicks blog, Posting and Toasting, puts it best:
It was cute while it lasted. Now let’s put that all behind us and get back to losing some games!
The Knicks put a great deal of thought into bringing Allen Iverson to New York to help rejuvenate the 2-9 team, but a source this morning suggested the team — after coming very close to going for it — has decided not to go through with making a contract offer for the future Hall of Fame guard.
I have to admit, this news makes me sad. Not because I feel like Iverson deserves another chance, but because I would have thoroughly enjoyed Iverson playing in Mike D’Antoni’s Seven Seconds Or Less offense. What can I say, mixing a guy who never met a shot he didn’t like with a coach who encourages quick shots is what passes for must-see TV for me.
Various reports have emerged suggesting that, contrary to earlier indications, the Knicks may not be in a hurry to add Allen Iverson. A deal may come, but not necessarily today. New York Times beat writer Howard Beck says "they are still deliberating and decision might not come today," while CBS Sports' Ken Berger reports that "potential "hangups" could slow completion of deal with Knicks tonight. Still expected to happen, but timing unclear."
As Iverson's free agency draws near, reactions are pouring in from around the web on how, exactly, he'd fit in New York. And Bethlehem Shoals at The Baseline, for one, puts forth a pretty poignant argument in favor of the move:
If you really think it through ... it's pure genius.
We can all agree, at least, that today's Allen Iverson is as much a celebrity, an icon, as basketball player. The same goes for the Knicks. I also suspect that, no matter what side you're on, there's a sense that Iverson's time has passed, and that it's high time he bowed out gracefully and allow history to start passing ultimate judgment. The Knicks, those guys should be all about brand right now. Sorry, but watching the ups and downs of Wilson Chandler, or the revival or Larry Hughes, just brings down the mystique. There is a no more mutually-beneficial marriage possibly today in the whole of team sports than an Iverson-Knicks pairing.
The Knicks wouldn't get any worse, and the team's youngsters are all supplementary, if not role players. Iverson can start and will not embarrass himself or others. It will end Iverson's career, and get the Knicks through the season, not with a fiery final act but—much to the chagrin of those on both sides of the debate—a big party that's akin to a career retrospective. Face it, millions still love AI, and it's been years since he's really been able to just get in front of the cameras and flash his natural charisma without a barrage of criticism following. The New York press, ruthless as it is, has nothing to gain by beating into the ground an "Iverson isn't saving us" agenda. But feature the interview on AI the man, the figure ... those will keep the press room humming all season, provided he trusts them enough to open up.
This is about Iverson as a national attraction, worthy of the biggest stage the league has to offer. Does this make a mockery of AI, or the Knicks? Only if you have something better in mind.
As some of my earlier posts indicate, I'm decidedly less enthusiastic about the thought of a Knicks-Iverson pairing. Mainly, because it's already been painful to watch Iverson toil in Detroit and Memphis, and the prospect of seeing him fail on the grandest stage of all scares me to death.
I get it, okay? Iverson's having the inglorious conclusion to his career that all the skeptics always predicted. It's already shaken my faith in what I thought I believed: the thought of having it happen in New York City, with columnists like Peter Vescey and Frank Isola trumpeting his downfall... That's just too much to bear.
But despite my skepticism of his premise, Shoals' final conclusion is perhaps his best of all. Namely, he suggests that putting Iverson in the media fishbowl that is New York City, full of water that's been muddied with talk radio negativity and shouting opinion columns, could backfire on the Knicks. With 2010 beckoning, the Knicks are on the brink of an elaborate courtship process with some of the game's biggest names. If Iverson gets torn to shreds by an inevitably cynical and negative media, how will that look to someone like Dwyane Wade or Lebron James?
It's an interesting question, anyway, and the entire article's worth your time, so give it a look.
SB Nation’s Knicks blog, Posting and Toasting, weighs in on the proposed addition:
An Iverson signing seems like a lateral, temporary move that is unseemly and somewhat counter-productive, though not nearly as devastating as, say, signing Jason Kidd for three years would have been. To me, the continued blossoming of Toney Douglas, Danilo Gallinari, and Jordan Hill (which, mind you, requires that they all get minutes) would sell more tickets than a ‘90s relic eating the youngsters’ minutes. I have always loved Iverson as a player, but the one-year rental of a veteran doesn’t sit well with me. If Walsh feels the need to make signings, why not reach into the D-League and mine for a diamond in the rough—another piece with which to rebuild? What’s Joe Crawford up to?
That Iverson’s being unfavorably juxtaposed with D-League denizens like Joe Crawford tells you all you need to know about his current trajectory. Good luck, Knicks fans.
Well, it has begun: "The answer to The Answer appears to be yes" writes Frank Isola in today’s New York Daily News. Indeed, Iverson-to-NYC, if it happens, is sure to create plenty of terrible puns splashed across the city’s sports pages. Will it happen though?
Nothing’s set in stone, but Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni are certainly considering it:
Donnie Walsh said Wednesday night that the Knicks have yet to make a final decision on whether to sign Allen Iverson but the Knicks president hinted that the club is leaning strongly in that direction.
Iverson, a former MVP, is expected to clear waivers at 6 p.m. today and will become an unrestricted free agent.
"Until something’s done it’s not done," Walsh said. "That’s the way I’ve always been. If he’s not signed it’s not done."
"When you’re 1-9 I’m not going to be quoted saying I don’t think we need to change anything," said Walsh, whose team is now 2-9. "But it’s what the change is. Is it going to benefit you really by making the change?"
"We wouldn’t be considering it if we thought we were functioning well," Walsh said. "And we’re not. But I want to make sure if we do something, it is the right thing to do."
So for now, at least, it seems that the Knicks realize they need to change the direction of their team, but they’re proceeding toward Iverson with caution. It’s understandable, especially considering Iverson’s track record over the past two years. Still, the Knicks are terrible right now—literally, one of the three or four worst teams in the league—and it’s not as if they even have a high draft pick to look forward to. Utah gets their lottery selection in the 2010 draft.
The fans have been patient while waiting for Donnie Walsh’s 2010 master plan to come to fruition, but they won’t be that patient. Part of the reason Walsh hired D’Antoni was his ability to play entertaining basketball, even without the most talented team. His ability to maximize the entertainment value of a paltry supporting cast allows the Knicks and Walsh to buy some time with their fans until 2010 free agency, when Walsh will try to make the Knicks into an actual contender.
But the team has been SO bad, so early, that adding Iverson might make sense at this point. Because even D’Antoni can’t make this group look good. And bringing in a superstar like Iverson, however declined, would allow New York at least a little bit of breathing room with their fans. Even if he doesn’t translate to any meaningful victories, the spectacle of seeing one of the game’s icons in a Knicks uniform might just be enough to distract the fans from the rest of the team’s players, and a record that figures to be among the league’s worst.
So... Could the Knicks possibly get more depressing? The Answer is YES!!!
With the Allen Iverson’s free agency looming, it seems the Knicks’ interest in the controversial veteran has gone from casual to deadly serious, and the two sides are thinking of going steady. To abandon the lame relationship metaphors, let’s go to New York Times beat writer Howard Beck:
With the team in a free fall, and no other help on the horizon, Knicks officials are seriously considering Iverson as a quick fix. The matter was still being deliberated on Wednesday, but one team official said the chances were at least 50-50 that they would pursue Iverson.
Another person with close ties to the team put it in stronger terms. "It’s a given," said the person, who was not authorized by the team to discuss private deliberations. "They’re going to make the biggest play for him." […]
Publicly, D’Antoni and Walsh have expressed lukewarm feelings about acquiring Iverson, giving the impression that the team was considering him out of courtesy. But the person with close ties to the team said it was much more than that.
"It’s out of need," he said.
Okay, now let’s go back to the relationship metaphor. The Knicks are single, middle-aged, and painfully lonely (1-9). Sure, Iverson’s coming off a series of broken relationships, and yeah, he’s a little long in the tooth… But he’s still ALLEN IVERSON. Being seen around town with Iverson will definitely boost their profile in New York City, right? Right???
That’s the only possible explanation that makes sense. Clearly, the Knicks are looking for any way possible to salvage this year’s dismal outfit, and if that means turning to a serial heartbreaker like Iverson, I guess that’s what they’ll do. Remember, though: he’s used to being treated like a diva, and damnit, that’s what he deserves. Make him a starter, Mike.
One day after Allen Iverson was officially released by Memphis, it appears the Knicks aren't the only team that could consider signing him.
NBA Fanhouse reports that, if George Karl is to be believed, the Denver Nuggets might think about Iverson if circumstances change for them.
"A.I. for us is an injury discussion,'' Karl said. "I don't think it's a discussion right now for us... But just say somehow (guard) Ty Lawson is out for the season, I think speed and quickness is what Ty gives us. A.I. would be on the list of speed and quickness.'
Karl also admitted that the Nuggets briefly talked about signing Iverson during the offseason.
Denver isn't the only contender considering Iverson. One day after losing all-star point guard Jameer Nelson for four to six weeks due to a knee injury, Orlando Magic GM Otis Smith indicated to the Orlando Sentinel that Iverson is a possibility.
Magic General Manager Otis Smith is more inclined to use veteran point guards Jason Williams and Anthony Johnson while waiting on Jameer Nelson to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery in four to six weeks.
At the same time, when asked by the Sentinel about the possibility of signing free agent point guard Allen Iverson, Smith didn't reject the idea out of hand. He has usually shot down scenarios involving players who come with baggage or questionable character, citing team chemistry and how it might affect superstar Dwight Howard.
"It's hard to say. You have to evaluate it. But it has to make sense for your team," he said. "I just got the news (on Nelson) a few hours ago, so I can't rule out anything yet. You have to take a step back. That's how we've done things."
Karl and Smith both believe that Iverson will be on an NBA roster at some point this season, even if it isn't theirs. So ... maybe there's still more to be written in the book of Allen Iverson's NBA career.
However, it's also possible Donnie Walsh, Karl and Smith are just being polite because of all Iverson has accomplished in his career. Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Spears have been asking nearly every team in the league whether they would sign Iverson, and none has even responded with a "maybe."
Just when it seemed like Allen Iverson’s NBA career was over, it appears he might get a reprieve from … the New York Knicks?
Frank Isola from the New York Daily News is reporting that the Knicks will considering signing Iverson for the rest of the season.
[Donnie] Walsh, the Knicks’ president, confirmed Monday night that the club will explore the possibility of signing Iverson, the former league MVP who was placed on waivers yesterday by the Memphis Grizzlies.
“We’ll look into it,” Walsh told the Daily News. “Right now, I’d say probably not but we’ll see.”
Isola reports that the Knicks’ 1-9 start has accelerated the need for a guy like Iverson to provide buzz and sell tickets while the Knicks wait around for the 2010 offseason. The Knicks’ concern, of course, is that Iverson’s presence will stunt the development of youngsters such as Danilo Gallinari and Toney Douglas. Sounds pretty similar to Memphis’ concern, doesn’t it?
But you know what? This might actually work. The Knicks may be one of the few teams in the league that can give Iverson the starting job he so desperately craves. Right now, the Knicks start Chris Duhon, a backup on any decent team, and Larry Hughes, whose shot-happy ways convinced one fan to create a site called “Hey Larry Hughes, Please Stop Taking So Many Bad Shots.” Everyone around the Knicks knows this season doesn’t really matter anyway, so why not try to generate a little buzz? Plus, let’s be honest, watching Allen Iverson play in Mike D’Antoni’s Seven Seconds Or Less offense is going to be interesting, to say the least.
However, Posting and Toasting, SB Nation’s Knicks blog, disagrees.
I don’t see the point. The idea that we need some sideshow to keep us occupied until July seems childish. Similarly, the notion of signing Iverson to win some games is shaky because 1. Iverson at this point in his career isn’t enough to make these Knicks competitive, so why bother? and 2. Paying for wins just to spite Utah (the owners of New York’s draft pick) is unnecessary. It’s Utah. The big thing, though, is that Iverson would steal minutes from Toney Douglas, which seems backwards, given that Toney’s a long-term investment and AI would be a rental.
Long story short, the interest is to be expected, but I don’t see it amounting to anything for the reasons mentioned above.
And thus ends the brief Allen Iverson experiment in Memphis. According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Grizzlies will waive Iverson after mutually agreeing to terminate his contract.
This means Iverson's Memphis tenure will have ended after just three games. If this is indeed how one of the most influential players in recent NBA history goes out, it will have been a sudden fall from grace. As recently as 2008, Iverson was averaging over 26 points per game. Now, he probably won't be able to find a place to play. Memphis was the only team willing to give Iverson a chance this summer, and now they have waived him. I suppose it's possible someone else picks him up, but that's probably as likely as Memphis making the playoffs this year.
It's only fitting to show this clip on the day of Iverson's likely exit from the league.
Are the Memphis Grizzlies ready to end the Allen Iverson experiment? According to Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the answer (no pun intended) may finally be “yes.”
Tillery reports that owner Michael Heisley is giving Iverson until the end of the week to decide if he wants to return to the Grizzlies.
"I’ve treated this like Allen told me it was – a personal leave," Heisley said. "But either he’s retiring or coming back to play. I’m not upset with Allen. We’ll be happy to accommodate Allen. If he retires, then he retires. If he wants to come back, we’ll gladly accept him back. But I have personally made it clear that there’s going to have to be a decision made. We’re expecting an answer in a couple of days."
Tillery also reports that Heisley is upset that Iverson hasn’t spoken to him directly since he took his leave from the team. This means that Iverson has now had communication issues with his team’s owner, his team’s coach, his previous team’s coach and his previous team’s players. At a certain point, I’d think Iverson loses the benefit of the doubt here.
Tillery quotes a source saying that it’s doubtful Iverson returns to the team, which would mean that he’d retire. That news, combined with the Grizzlies’ recent signing of Jamaal Tinsley, certainly reinforces the belief that Iverson may have played his last NBA game.
There are conflicting reports coming out of Memphis, and after a tenure in Memphis that’s already seen high levels of turmoil, there are whispers that Iverson may retire. The Memphis Commercial Appeal quotes a source close to Iverson:
Allen Iverson is contemplating retirement if he doesn’t rejoin the Grizzlies, according to a source with knowledge of the veteran guard’s situation. […]
The stress associated with a family issue plus Iverson’s frustration over playing a reserve role might spell the end of his 14-year NBA career, according to the source.
By contrast, Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley refuses to concede anything is over as far as Iverson’s concerned:
“I just think if he was going to retire, he’d tell me first,” Heisley said. “I expect him to come back. If he does retire, I’ll be tremendously disappointed. I feel bad because I don’t think that’s the way he should go out.”
“I hope he doesn’t retire. I really hope he comes back and plays for us. He’s still got a lot of game left.”
The idea that Iverson would feel compelled to confide in Heisley is laughable… He may not retire, but his silence over the past few days—amidst persistent rumors that he’s done with basketball—suggests he’s seriously considering it. Stay tuned.
For the past few days, while the Iverson controversy has simmered, I've tried to remain pretty apathetic, at least in writing. But with rumors surfacing that Iverson may retire, it's impossible to keep on ignoring it. The surprise isn't that a player like Iverson--with nothing left to prove and having banked $100 million at least--might consider retirement. But that someone who was once so iconic would be reduced to an ending like this.
I mentioned elsewhere that it's difficult to write about this situation because it's just so damn depressing. Like writing a profile of the city of Detroit, I joked. And while that was just me being a sarcastic dick, it's also a little bit true.
Detroit's a city that is dilapidated in practically every sense. Politics, economy, crime, the freakin Lions... Hell, even the weather is depressing. And relatively speaking, the landscape directly mirrors the Memphis Grizzlies franchise over the past few years. Let's see... Their owner doesn't want to own a pro basketball team, they have one of the more hapless GMs in the league, their attendance is among the worst in the league, they have a team full of selfish players, and... well, you get the point. They traded an All-Star Center for Kwame Brown and Javaris Crittendon. As far as the NBA landscape's concerned, Memphis=dilapidated.
But what makes it even more difficult to write about this situation is that Iverson mirrors Detroit, too. That city's trajectory over history--from prideful beacon of American evolution to a sad symbol of our decline--is disturbingly similar to Iverson's. For most of my youth, Iverson was an icon of the post-Jordan generation. An incredibly polarizing, occasionally maddening figure, but an icon nonetheless.
And watching his decline over the past few years has been oddly personal. He played a pretty critical role in how I came to understand basketball. AI was never my favorite player, but that's because he was so overwhelmingly popular that calling him "favorite" just seemed redundant. I remember watching him work out during his freshman year at Georgetown and returning home wide-eyed. Never in my life had I seen someone that quick.
Photo courtesy of the Hampton Roads Daily Press.
I remember watching him dominate the Big East, making other All-Americans like Ray Allen at Connecticut look downright boring in comparison. It's hard to imagine now, but Allen Iverson could DUNK back then, and you couldn't take your eyes off him when he was on the court. He defied our notions of what won basketball games--while scouts frothed over size and versatility and shooting, here was Iverson, this 5'11 kid who did nothing but score and attack people. And yet, he was such a force of nature that even the greatest cynics couldn't deny his value to a basketball team.
That continued throughout his career. But somewhere along the line, he acquired additional meaning, and became more than a basketball player. Suddenly, he was this counter-cultural figure that transcended the success of the Philadelphia 76ers--by succeeding in opposition to the stereotypes of star athletes before him, he was lionized, regardless of whether he ever actually won anything with the Sixers.
Nothing epitomizes this more than that legendary play from his rookie year, when he embarrassed Michael Jordan:
Nobody cared that Iverson's team lost that game. It was looked upon as a torch-passing moment between icons of different generations. The Bulls and Jordan may have reigned at that point, but everyone could point to that play and say that Iverson--and the Hip Hop generation--was coming. Except, it never did.
Iverson had his moments, particularly during the 2001 season, but the rise of some tattooed, swaggerific next generation player never happened. People forget, but these are the terms in which Iverson was viewed.
He was a departure from what we'd come to expect from athletes, clad in tattoos, white t-shirts and nappy hair, and disregarding the approval of others. And as a generation of superstars raised on hip-hop was coming to maturity, many believed that Iverson was who they'd become. He was seen as a harbinger of a new culture. For this, he was crucified by traditionalists, and deified by American youth. But we all sort of missed the point.
Iverson was, and is, unique. A generation of anti-authority, corn-rowed, tattoo-covered superstars never came--instead, hindsight leaves stars like Stephon Marbury and Iverson looking like history's accident, a brief blip on the radar between the Jordan era and contemporary times, with deferential stars like Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, and Chris Paul taking up the torch from Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, two guys who, in every concievable way, are the antithesis of Iverson's ethos.
Iverson never got to carry that torch, after all.
And that's sort of hard to stomach. Because however misguided we were in assigning this deeper meaning to Allen Iverson, it was very real, and he represents a generation of fans that came to understand basketball through a cultural prism that was established with him at the forefront. And yet, if this is how it ends for AI, then it sort of undermines everything, doesn't it?
I guess I'd been hoping for one last renaissance for Iverson. Holding out hope that this year in Memphis, he could carry the Grizzlies like those old 76ers teams, and even though they wouldn't advance far in the playoffs, getting them there, on the strength of a broken down body and a Herculean will, would be a testament to Iverson's greatness in itself.
And then, even though he'd never won a title, we'd always be able to look back and say, "Iverson was one of the toughest players I ever watched." Instead, we see a guy unwilling to accept a backup role even for a few games, and so frustrated by the perceived lack of respect that he'd rather go home and sit on his ass in Atlanta.
Iverson, then, just looks like a heroically stubborn basketball player that was great for a long time, and then, the second he stopped being great, became too stubborn for his own good. No deeper meaning, there. Just an overly-prideful person who made enough enemies in the NBA to wedge himself out of the league a few years earlier than expected. He was a great player and his impressive career definitely happened, but The Allen Iverson Era never did.
And for someone that spent his youth as a basketball fan waiting for that era, it's hard to accept that reality. It's like the whole experience--the Reebok Commercials, the All-Star Games, the hair, Tyronn Lue, that damn press conference... It's like none of it mattered. And Iverson's reduced to just someone that was supposed to make history, but never did.
But God damn he was quick...
Over at True Hoop, ESPN’s Chad Ford gathers some telling quotes from GMs around the league on the Iverson situation. Some excerpts:
A number of GMs I spoke with on Saturday night said they had no interested in acquiring Iverson via trade or off the waiver wire. “I can’t imagine anyone wanting him at this point,” one GM said. “Struggling teams now know he’s going to be a distraction. Contending teams have to live with the fact that Iverson puts himself above the team. Even the Clippers backed away from him this summer and Donald Sterling will do anything to sell tickets. I’m still not sure what the Grizzlies were thinking.”
Iverson ran into similar issues last season with the Pistons. After he was demoted from his starting job to a sixth-man role, he eventually left the team and didn’t return for the rest of the season. While the official reason provided was that Iverson was rehabbing an injury, sources said later that the Pistons and Iverson had mutually agreed to part ways because he couldn’t come to grips with being demoted to the bench.
Is history repeating itself? If it is, one GM was ready to write AI’s NBA eulogy: “He’s finished in the NBA. He can go hang out with Stephon Marbury.”
And Ford shared a telling bit of info on Twitter, as well:
SB Nation’s Straight Outta Vancouver weighs in with some interesting thoughts on Iverson:
I’m not trying to say that Allen Iverson is over the hill. I believe that Iverson should be starting on the Grizzlies, and I believe that Iverson still has talent. The problem is that I’m a blogger, not an NBA executive or coach. Iverson has to prove himself to the likes of the NBA management to regain their loyalty.
Of course A.I. knows that, but it’s a reality too deeply incompatible with his experience and knowledge of self. Remember this is a player who’s always faced doubts about his viability and personality, and yet has always been a good enough basketball player to demand love on every level. Today Allen Iverson isn’t a good enough basketball player to demand love, which is a truth he refuses to recognize only because he’s still a damn good basketball player.
This is the source of the identity conflict. Allen Iverson doesn’t care that he’s coming off the bench; he’s been around the league long enough to know how easing into the lineup after injury works. Lionel Hollins isn’t fundamentally opposed to starting Iverson and hasn’t penned Iverson into a 6th man role. Allen Iverson is disheveled because he is being both subversively disrespected in the open and possibly openly insulted behind closed doors.
So I don’t know just what it would take to make Iverson leave the team. Even late in his stay in Philadelphia and after being lied to in Detroit, A.I. stuck with his team unless benched with “injuries” like in Detroit. Did Heisley or Hollins lie to him? Did they lock their doors to him? I have a suspicion that something is going on behind the doors of the Grizzlies’ castle that we’re not hearing.
Sometime in the future the truth will come out, as it did with Detroit, but until then I’m loathe to put the onus on Allen Iverson so long as Michael Heisley is a part of the same old boys club that has manipulated A.I.’s image of an cantankerous gangster throughout his career.
It’s a well done, interesting take, so definitely check out the full article.
The NBA season is not yet two weeks old, and already, the Allen Iverson experiment in Memphis could be termed a failure. The latest development in an already sordid affair has Iverson headed back to his offseason home, Atlanta, after asking to leave the team to deal with a “personal matter.”
The veteran guard asked for and was granted permission to leave the Grizzlies to deal with a personal matter, according to an NBA source.
Iverson, 34, met with Griz owner Michael Heisley Friday night following the team’s 114-98 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. The pair met again this morning, and Iverson was expected to depart for Atlanta this afternoon.
It’s unknown when, or if, Iverson plans on returning to the Grizzlies, but you’d have to think this is a pretty ominous development as far as his tenure in Memphis is concerned. It's a shame, too; AI wasn't exactly setting the world on fire for the Grizzlies, but in just 22 minutes a game, he's shooting 57%, averaging 12 points and 3 assists for the Grizzlies.
And while Iverson's absence doesn't necessarily signal the end of his time with the Griz, it's yet another instance of Iverson separating himself from his teammates and coaches. And with a coaching staff that already has ample reason to resent Iverson--after Michael Heisley ignored basketball advice and signed him despite their objections--it adds fuel to a fire that's been fanned extensively over the past few weeks. Iverson missed the entire preseason after showing up out of shape, publicly criticized his coaches when he finally did play, and now, he's left the team in frustration, after consulting with not the coaching staff or meeting with his teammates, but Memphis owner Michael Heisley.
It's impossible for a player to be successful if he doesn't respect his coach or teammates, and while it's not impossible for both sides to salvage things before this season's overwith, it's certainly been an inauspicious start to Iverson's relationship with the Grizzlies.
Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley pledged support for his head coach Lionel Hollins, today, in a dispute with superstar veteran Allen Iverson over whether Iverson should start. From the Memphis Commercial Appeal:
“Lionel will handle it,” Heisley said via telephone. “This is a situation that’ll be handled between Lionel and Allen. What Allen said was inappropriate, but I’m not going to make a big deal out of it. Allen expressed his frustration about not playing and I understand that.”
It’s no secret that Heisley made the Iverson acquisition happen. But Heisley reiterated Wednesday that he won’t tell Hollins how to coach.
“It’s up to the coach to handle these issues,” Heisley said.
And Hollins, for his part, echoed his earlier statements as far as Iverson’s concerned, saying "There’s no way we’re making a change right now,” but leaving open the possibility that Iverson could start in the future. It’s a significant statement from Heisley, only insofar as it affects the public perception of the situation—from the outside looking in, it may have looked as though Allen’s public comments had a chance to usurp the authority of his head coach, specifically since Iverson was directly acquired by Heisley, the owner and superior to Hollins.
Instead, though, Heisley called Iverson’s comments inappropriate, and sided with Hollins—a minor decision in the shorterm, but one that could have a significant bearing on diffusing this situation. Iverson needs to understand that he’s got minimal authority, here, regardless of how he was acquired, and if nothing else, starting Iverson in the wake of his public complaints would send a horrible message to the younger players in Memphis.
For now, at least, Hollins seems to be making the right call. But with sizable egos involved on all sides, to say nothing of the impressionable young players in Memphis, this will be a tricky situation for Hollins and the Grizzlies to navigate. And with the entire basketball world watching Memphis closer than they have in years, having Heisley’s support certainly helps.
From SB Nation’s Straight Outta Vancouver, Grizzlies fans are preaching patience:
I understand this is what he went through in Detroit, but he needs to see the big picture. No, he most definitely is not a 6th man, even in the latter stages of his star studded career, but after a month of inactivity and no basketball, should he really expect to be plugged directly into the starting lineup? There’s a few guys who can do that, the LeBrons, Wades and Bryants of the world, but he needs to understand that he should probably work his way back into it.
In numerous posts I have agreed with many that eventually he needs to be the starting guy in Memphis because of his experience, but for a team thats not looking for the playoffs this season, he should just sit back and let things get worked out before freaking out.
All good points. Iverson should be the starter, and he will be. But until he’s in basketball shape, playing him 35 minutes-a-game makes no sense. For one, he’d probably be an injury risk playing that much, but also, a reduced role in the interim gives the younger players a little bit more opportunity to get used to playing with him in small increments. In every conceivable way, this eases Iverson’s transition into the lineup; that Iverson is so vehemently (and publicly) opposed is… well, that’s not a good sign.
And when Iverson does start, it's not as if the complications disappear. Chris Herrington of the Memphis Flyer explains:
Iverson as sixth man, often closing out games, is the best role for the team, but it's probably better to accede to his demands to start than let this issue combust and tank a promising season. So, at this point, when he's physically ready for a big boost in minutes (and I'm not convinced that's as soon as tonight against Golden State), the team might as well let Iverson have his way. But letting him start opens up a couple of new questions:
1. Can he bend his game even a little bit into a team context? Iverson has always taken tons of shots, but he's older now, less physically explosive, and playing with the most talented cast of scorers he's ever been surrounded by. For this to work, his game needs to change a little. Is he willing to do that even if he starts? Against Sacramento, he had nine field-goal attempts and one assist. That ratio won't cut it if he's going to be on the floor with Mayo, Gay, Randolph, and Gasol for most of his minutes.
2. And where is the line drawn in terms of what Iverson is willing to accept? Is it okay to bring him out at the 5:00 mark in the first quarter or is that too soon? Playing him in shorter bursts, particularly early, will keep him fresh and help the team spread out the scoring options throughout the game. But would that kind of substitution pattern also draw Iverson's post-game ire?
Iverson made his season debut with Memphis Monday night in a 127-116 OT loss to the Kings. He scored 11 points off 5-9 shooting in just 17 minutes on the court. That last bit has A.I. less-than-satisfied. His postgame comments:
"I had no problems (with the hamstring). I had a problem with my butt sitting on that bench for so long," Iverson said.
"No. I’m not a bench player. I’m not a sixth man," Iverson said. "Look at my resume and that’ll show I’m not a sixth man. I don’t think it has anything to do with me being selfish. It’s just who I am. I don’t want to change what gave me all the success that I’ve had since I’ve been in this league. I’m not a sixth man. And that’s that."
Head coach Lionel Hollins responded by reminding Iverson that he missed the entire preseason, the first three regular season games and to kindly be quiet and accept his role:
"As the season develops, roles develop," Hollins said. "Sometimes roles get defined that you have to be willing to accept. We didn’t expect A..I. to miss eight preseason games and three regular-season games, either. So we’ll play it by ear and see what happens. Allen can score and his instincts will take over. Right now, he’ll be great with the second unit."
Allen Iverson tweeted that he will make his Grizzlies debut tonight when they take on the Sacramento Kings in a matchup of likely lottery-bound teams.
Let’s see: O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Allen Iverson, and Zach Randolph…how isn’t this going to work?
According to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, Allen Iverson has been cleared by doctors to play, and is hoping to return on Monday night against the Sacramento Kings. Ronald Tillery reports:
But while Griz coach Lionel Hollins said the workout was encouraging, his understanding is that Iverson’s return is targeted for Monday when the team plays at Sacramento.
So the Griz are expected to be without the 10-time all-star guard for tonight’s game with the Toronto Raptors at FedExForum.
“I felt good,” Iverson said. “It was a regular day of practice for me. I didn’t feel any pain. I didn’t feel fatigued to not be able to get through it. I’m ready to play. It’s up to them.”
Despite A.I.‘s claims that the hamstring he injured about two weeks ago is no longer causing him pain, he said Friday that he considers himself a “longshot” to play in next Wednesday’s season opener. Iverson says he can run and cut fine, but he hasn’t been medically cleared to play.
SBN's Straight Outta Vancouver weighs in on last night's news:
For the actual Memphis Grizzlies the Iverson injury may actually be beneficial, however, as the Grizzlies will be able to better figure out just what they've got with Mike Conley before he has to play around the specter of Allen Iverson's career. Additionally it will give the team more time to integrate Zach Randolph into the offense before having to even further chemistry clashes with A.I. out on the floor. Much less importantly it will also get Marcus Williams some playing time, which could be increasingly important since A.I. might be spending more time in the therapist's office then ever before in his career.
Why do I say such things? Iverson's getting older. At some point we need to face the facts and not get trapped in idolatry. Yes, he's been an iron-man throughout his career, but old muscles don't work quite like new ones, and I don't think it helps that he essentially took the summer off to avoid injury.
Take the good with the bad I suppose. After all, what's preseason to the man famous for his rants on practice?
For continuing analysis and more news on the Grizzlies, check out Straight Outta Vancouver.
From the Memphis Commercial Appeal, we have a few more tidbits on this injury and its implications:
“It’s just basketball,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “Got to play with who is there. Can’t worry about who is not.”
Asked how he could help the team from the bench, Iverson said: “Just keep talking to them and helping them. One thing about these young guys that’s so different from a lot of the young guys I’ve been around in my career is they accept criticism. They accept it, and that’s important. … These young guys obviously respect me and what I’ve been through and what I’ve accomplished in my career, so it makes it that much easier to talk to them and help them.”
“The most frustrating part about the injury is that I’m mobile,” he said. “I can do things. I can jog and I can move around, but from what I’m hearing, that’s the catch to the whole thing: You think you feel well, then once you take off, take that initial burst, that’s when it hits you.”
Allen Iverson, who signed with the Memphis Grizzles this offseason, may miss the beginning of the NBA's regular season after an MRI revealed a partial tear in his hamstring. A.I. will almost certainly miss all of the preseason, although he's optimistic he'll be healed in time for the Oct. 28 opener against the Pistons.
More from AP:
"The way I see it, I'm glad it's happening right now rather than in the season," Iverson said in a pregame press conference. "That's the only positive thing I can take out of the whole thing."
Iverson, declaring himself a quick healer, said he expects to be back in time for the opener. He was hurt during the Grizzlies' training camp in Birmingham, Ala. last week and said he was just starting to get into shape after not playing basketball for five months waiting to see where he was going to land for this season.
"My legs were starting to feel a lot better than they had the first three or four days," Iverson said. "Then, just like that, I hurt the hamstring."
For the Grizzlies, a team that's already weathered its share of criticism for adding the aging superstar, this may not be their worst case scenario, but it's certainly a disappointment. Adding Iverson was part-basketball, part-marketing in its origins, and from either perspective, this presents a significant setback.
Marketing: Speaking with little background in marketing--an ocean of ignorance, really--it's generally not good when, as you're trying to build excitement over a new product, you have to recall that product for a month, right as it's being released. That's basically what's happening, here. Now, instead of seeing Iverson preseason highlights on their nightly news, Memphis citizens will see the same, old Grizzlies bunch, with Rudy Gay leading all scorers with 22 points (on 8-23 shooting). As the regular season gets started, the Griz will be an afterthought, and once AI finally rounds into playing shape, it'll be December, and the fans will have moved on.
Granted, this is all guesswork on my part, derived from hours of Mad Men and something I once read in Esquire. Feel free to move along.
Basketball: How is one supposed to have a renaissance season if he hasn't played basketball for five months prior? Including his time on the shelf, that'll be six months, now, where Iverson hasn't played, while "waiting to see where he was going to land." To which I say... Hmm. Maybe my strident defense of the Iverson signing was misguided. I didn't he realize he was taking the Rod Strickland approach to conditioning. You know, show up out of shape, use the first six weeks to get yourself in shape, and then take the last 6 weeks off after you're out of playoff contention.
Is that what's happening here? Maybe not, but it would make sense. For most of his career, Iverson's been good enough to pull off the Rod Strickland-fitness routine without hurting himself or his team. He's just that good of an athlete, and unlike Strickland, he fights his ass off in every game he plays. That much is obvious. But as he's gotten older, his partying habits are still the stuff of legend throughout the league; maybe his body just can't recover the way it used to?
Finally, what about Rudy Gay, OJ Mayo, and the rest of the young Grizzlies? It's not as if Memphis was pegged for the playoffs at the start of this year, but if they're to make any noise at all, the younger Grizzlies will have to mesh well with Iverson. And obviously, his absence hurts that cause. A.I. calls himself a "quick healer," but likely forgets that he's older now. And he's in Memphis, where's there's bad karma for eons, the "culture" is one of a perennial loser, and fans may or may not show up to games.
Winning in Memphis--and selling it--is tough enough. On Iverson, Gay, Coach Lionel Hollins, everybody. And unfortunately, Iverson's hamstring just made it all a little bit harder.
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