Posted Sep 22 2010 8:37AM
It seems that the bold idea of taking a slow boat to China has already sunk.
So what now for Allen Iverson?
Is there an industrial league in Tierra del Fuego that could find a spot for the toughest little guy in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere? Could he find satisfaction running the floor with three Sherpa guides and a yak in the Nepalese lunchtime games at the Mt. Everest YMCA?
Is there really no place on the basketball globe that could use the talent of a four-time NBA scoring champion, 11-time All-Star, 1997 Rookie of the Year and 2001 Most Valuable Player?
A week ago it appeared the 35-year-old guard might be headed across the Pacific to join up with fellow pariah Stephon Marbury in the Chinese Basketball Association.
Marbury played last season for Shanxi Zhongyu and one could only imagine the scoring -- and field goal attempts -- records that might have fallen if they squared off this season with Iverson in the uniform of Foshan Liyuan.
An excited Marbury made a pitch to him on Twitter: "AI come to CHINA baby. Let's make history again. This is the next chapter in the book that we will write."
But before expectations could grow higher than the Great Wall, officials from Foshan pulled out, indicating that Iverson's financial demands were simply too much.
With training camps all around the league ready to open in a matter of hours and days, is there really no place for him in the NBA?
"We're very astonished, to say the least, that not one team has contacted us with any interest," Iverson's personal manager Gary Moore told The Associated Press. "I just don't understand it. What has Allen Iverson done to not warrant interest in him?"
That, of course, is a large part of the question concerning the Answer. They don't understand. Or don't want to.
Does Iverson (or any of his handlers) comprehend that it's no longer the early days of the 21st century when a kid with cornrows and tattoos could set the league on fire with a competitive streak and a love for the game that was old-school intense and a pure joy to watch?
Oh, those were the nights, when he bounced and ricocheted all over the court in Philadelphia like a human pinball, one arm wrapped in a neoprene sleeve, his headband frequently knocked askew. Yet he always bounced right back up no matter how many times bigger, stronger defenders slammed him to the floor. There wasn't a fiercer warrior in the league for nearly a decade, including those named Kobe and LeBron. In fact, Iverson in his prime might have been pound-for-pound the toughest player ever to lace up a pair of sneakers.
Oh, but most of those best nights were a decade or more ago and so much has changed, not the least of which has been Iverson.
Over the past two seasons, as he bounced from Denver to Detroit to Memphis and back to Philadelphia, his body and his game have begun to break down at the same time that his personal life has frayed. While it is true that Iverson left the Sixers in February to attend to the health issues of his four-year-old daughter, there were also published reports about problems with gambling and alcohol that had even close friends concerned.
Yet history says that none of that would preclude teams from signing Iverson if they believed he could still contribute without being a disruptive factor. After saying he was happy to join the Grizzlies last year as a role player on a young team, Iverson left Memphis after three games because he was displeased at coming off the bench. Prior to that, he was discontented with his role in Detroit.
The great ones are often the last to know or at least the last admit that it is slipping away, even when it might be just around the edges. There is no one who believes, that Iverson, at 35 with an arthritic left knee, is still capable of being the lead horse pulling a wagon in the playoffs, outside, perhaps, of Iverson.
Considering his past contentious relationships with coaches, and his own recent reticence to be a lesser cog in the machine, he has virtually eliminated his choices.
Among the consensus championship contenders heading into the season, who among the Lakers, Miami, Boston, Orlando, San Antonio or Dallas might be willing to add such a headstrong and volatile component to the mixture? If you're a young team trying to build for the future, where do you feel comfortable fitting him into the long-term picture? What's left when even the slow boat to China sails off without you?
The Answer still blowin' in the wind.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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