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.
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"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.