Allen Iverson deserves better.
With 24,020 points, nine All-Star Game apperances and an MVP award, a career like Iverson's shouldn't end with a dismal Grizzlies organization. A career like Iverson's, built on grit and breathtaking skill, should end on a playoff contender, with his chipping in key minutes of production on the court and crucial moments of tutoring in the locker room.
Instead, Iverson finds himself a man without a team, a victim of his ego, one that won't let him take a less prominent role as his game and physical skills slowly erode. In the days after the Grizzlies released Iverson from his one-year deal, the 34-year-old guard has maintained his desire to play. But after a summer in which no team but the woebegone Grizzlies showed enough interest, will any team bite on second glance? We asked an NBA scout to speculate about some potential contenders:
Knicks: "For anyone looking at Iverson, you have to ask if you're bringing him in because he can help you win or because he's a marketable item, somebody who will draw fans. He can still score, but at what expense to team play? In a season in which New York is lacking direction, it could turn to him as a one-year relief for the fans, somebody who may, at least, entertain them.
"If there's any type of system in which Iverson could score effectively, it would be a wide-open system like New York's. He would be allowed to do whatever he wants. He could play at a fast pace. Playing in that open style would give him more opportunities to create and flow in transition, where he is most effective."
Heat: "They don't have a deep backcourt. They could have interest as a team that could use a little more scoring or an added piece off the bench.
"Truth be told, you're going to have a hard time finding anywhere he is going to fit well without a team making considerable sacrifices for him to do what he wants. What the Heat have, with their management and the way they have played over the years, is a strong organization. He certainly can't walk in and think that he can be the Man ahead of Dwyane Wade. But playing alongside Wade, a guy who he respects, will convince him to come off the bench. Or maybe he gets to the point he does challenge Mario Chalmers for the point guard position. In any case, they would clearly define what is going to be tolerated and what his role is going to be."
Mavericks: "They might be able to use the help with Josh Howard's health already in question. But whose minutes would Iverson take? J.J Barea's? RodrigueBeaubois'? Not Jason Terry's, because he's been an excellent fit for that team."
Hornets: "With ChrisPaul out with an ankle injury, Iverson could help them stop scuffling. The issue there is that a lot of things they've done seems to be financially motivated. And who's confident that Allen Iverson can come in and make the difference and make a marginal team a playoff team? Those days are over. Would he work well with Paul? Who has Iverson ever worked well with? But he could help fill a few of their gaps."
Retirement: "He's always going to be remembered as one of the most dynamic scoring guards in history. What he did in Philadelphia will always be a precious time in his career. All he would have to do to get himself into a winning situation is to play some sort of role. He has needed a degree of selfishness in terms of the way that he plays, but he needs to dial that back a bit if he hopes to have any kind of future.
"As bad as these last few years have been, they're not going to leave scars that cannot be repaired. He just needs to get out of the news."
Getting back into a locker room may not swing the balance of power in either conference, but it might finally provide Iverson an appropriate stage from which to exit.
• Brandon Jennings envy. After dropping 55 points in his seventh game as a pro and winning the trust of disciplined coach Scott Skiles, the Bucks' rookie guard has fans of some lottery teams wondering if their clubs' management made some big mistakes on draft night. By our measure, three teams will have some explaining to do: the Grizzlies, Timberwolves and Knicks. All had chances to grab Jennings before Milwaukee selected him at No. 10, and all passed for players who haven't shown a hint of a spark. Sure, Memphis' Hasheem Thabeet, Minnesota's Ricky Rubio (who is playing in Spain this season) and New York's Jordan Hill may eventually prove to be worthy selections, but untapped potential doesn't sell tickets or win games now, like Jennings already has done.
• Young power forwards in the Central Division. Cleveland's J.J. Hickson, Chicago's Taj Gibson and Milwaukee's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute have secured increasingly crucial roles while helping their teams win. In five games as a starter, Hickson, the No. 19 pick of the 2008 draft, has averaged 14.8 points. He's also been taken under LeBron James' wing. Gibson, a rookie out of USC, has been effective on the offensive glass and an active defender for the Bulls. And Mbah a Moute, a second-round pick last year, averaged 7.8 rebounds during the Bucks' recent four-game winning streak.
• Channing Frye's range. After hitting 20 three-pointers combined in his first four seasons, the Suns' center has connected on 35-of-76 (46.1 percent) in 12 games this season. Equally eye-opening is the fact that a player who never averaged so much as one three-point attempt per game is firing up 6.3 in Alvin Gentry's let-it-fly offense. For as poorly as Shaquille O'Neal fit the Suns' (diluted) style, Phoenix deserves credit for identifying a perfect replacement for a return to its' up-tempo ways.
• Mike Conley. Amid the Iverson saga, the Grizzlies' Conley has regressed after making some gains late last season. The third-year point guard is shooting 38.8 percent and, worse, turning the ball over once for every two assists he records. Memphis' signing of Jamaal Tinsley spelled the end of Iverson's tenure in Memphis, but it could also mean a trip to the bench for Conley in the not-too-distant future.
• Turnstiles in Philly. Who knew Andre Miller was so popular? After averaging 15,802 fans last season, the Sixers are drawing an NBA-worst 11,377 through five home dates. While the Phillies' World Series run likely kept many away, as has a schedule featuring the Bucks and Nets, that doesn't explain the 10,000-plus who didn't show up when Steve Nash and the Suns or the hated Celtics visited.
• Troubling trade winds. According to the Sacramento Bee, the Hornets are considering sending Emeka Okafor to the Kings for Kenny Thomas' more cap-friendly deal. With Chris Paul already upset over Byron Scott's firing, shipping out New Orleans' only viable big man isn't likely to win over the injured All-Star.
Carmelo Anthony has catapulted himself into the early MVP conversation, averaging 29.9 points while leading the Nuggets to an 8-3 start. An NBA scout breaks down how Anthony's game has grown since Denver's appearance in last season's Western Conference finals:
"He's slowly becoming a better and better professional. He looks like he's stronger, he looks like he's in better shape and he's playing as aggressively as I've ever seen. He can go and get a foul anytime he wants; he's always the aggressor with the ball. The unique thing about him is that he has the skill level of someone 6-3 and he's 6-8. He seems to have a better understanding of what he has to do to attack a certain matchup.
"It's the little things: confidence, winning, making the game more important. When you get players of his caliber in a situation where they get a taste of the conference finals, you're usually going to get the best out of them. George Karl has done that with a lot of guys and he's doing it now with Carmelo."
• "Three-fourths of the world is covered by water. The rest is covered by Chuck Hayes."-- Shane Battier, to the Houston Chronicle, on the faith the Rockets have in Hayes' defense.
• "I heard Hedo [Turkoglu] say: Donuts"-- Raptors coach Jay Triano, to the Toronto Star, on whatrookie DeMar DeRozan brings to the team.
• "I wish twitter was around wen I was takin my sat I would asked yall for answers"-- Kevin Durant, on Twitter
• "It wasn't a bad night for me. It was a bad night for everybody else."-- Ron Artest, to AOL FanHouse,puts Thursday's five-year anniversary of the Palace brawl in perspective as only he can.
NBA.com: Long an NBA punch line, former Hawks GM Billy Knight is finally getting to witness the blossoming of all of his work -- from afar.
SLAM.com:Latavious Williams recently became the first high school player to jump directly into the D-League.
What does dysfunction look like? We saw a fine display from the Warriors during our visit to Madison Square Garden for their game with the Knicks last week.
1.The players play for themselves.Don Nelson's system allows enviable freedom on offense, but in the wrong hands it produces a lineup looking to shoot more than pass. That's fine from a few players, but when seemingly every ball handler is looking to create for himself, that leads to the now-departed Stephen Jackson hoisting up three-pointer after three-pointer with nary a glance at his teammates, and Monta Ellis dribbling at the top of the key focused only on blowing by his man, and 32-point quarters on a mere three assists for the entire team.
2.The coach isn't concerned with the big picture. With double-digit leads much of the game, Nelson persisted in leaving Jackson on the floor for 47:25. Mind you, this was Game 8 of the season and the Warriors had a game the next night in Milwaukee. Nelson tried to explain the move by emphasizing how the early part of the season meant his players had more energy and that he might have to use his bench more the next night. It didn't hide the fact that he needlessly overused one of his key players, be it because he wanted to exact revenge on the disgruntled Jackson, he wanted to teach his team a lesson or he thought a 1-8 Knicks team was a legitimate threat to overcome a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit. No matter, the move was wrong. (The Warriors lost that game against the Bucks thanks to Jennings' 55-point performance.)
3.A chill in the air. The Warriors appear to take as much joy in the game as a subway full of commuters on a Monday morning. Pregame finds Nelson awkwardly holding out his hand to players for a fist bump that rarely comes. Huddles find assistant coach Keith Smart diagramming plays while Nelson and his players do their best to avoid eye contact. And players leave the floor for a timeout in a game they lead by 16 without so much as a smile, unless you count Ronny Turiaf's animated conversation with an equipment guy.