Iverson Signs with Memphis; What Does It Mean?

From the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

Free-agent guard Allen Iverson informed the Grizzlies this morning that he will accept a one-year offer to bring his explosive scoring to FedExForum this season, according to an NBA source.

Iverson’s decision came following a Monday night meeting in Atlanta with Griz owner Michael Heisley, general manager Chris Wallace and head coach Lionel Hollins. Iverson, a 34-year-old, 13-year veteran, will play for a contract that pays $3.5 million (what the Griz have left under the salary cap) and the deal will be loaded with incentives.

This deal comes at the end of a summer which has seen Iverson flirting with a number of teams, but perhaps more remarkably, jilted by many others. After a long and distinguished career--with some definite bumps in the road along the way--Allen Iverson was a man that nobody wanted. That he's signed with the Grizzlies only confirms as much: the NBA's version of Siberia (sorry, Rudy and OJ) is the only place that welcomed him.

As mentioned in an earlier update, I believe Allen Iverson's twitter account is ghostwritten, so take his supposed enthusiasm with a grain of salt. Still, "Allen" made the following remarks on Memphis:

I feel that they are committed to developing a winner and I know that I can help them to accomplish that. I feel that I can trust them.

But are they really? Signing Allen Iverson seems like a transparent ploy to sell tickets, a desperate move by a downtrodden organization in a down economy. Whether that retards the development of rising stars like Rudy Gay, OJ Mayo, and (so far wildly disappointing) Mike Conley remains to be seen. Still, you'd think if the Grizzlies were truly trying to build a winner, adding players like Iverson and Zach Randolph wouldn't be the preferred course.

One counterpoint, though: while many would question the wisdom of bringing on someone like Allen Iverson--and lord knows Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace deserves plenty of questioning for just about everything he does--this could end up as a major coup for Memphis. Iverson has seen his legacy decay over the past few years, and I have a feeling he's due for a sort of renaissance this season. Does that mean the Grizzlies will make the playoffs? Doubtful.

But for all the skepticism that's sure to emerge--and all of Iverson's critics from over the years that are eager to proclaim this a definitive referendum on his value to a team--Iverson is still a warrior on the basketball court, and a whirling dervish of a guard that's nearly impossible to stop when he's "on". Even if he takes some of their minutes, is that someone who might be able to teach a thing or two to the Memphis young'ns?

I say yes. And I'm tellin ya, just when everyone was ready to put Iverson out to pasture, he could surprise some people in Memphis this year.

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