It's just about a given. In seemingly every chat I've run since Allen Iverson's(notes) time with the Detroit Pistons ended, some commenter will sincerely wonder aloud as to the feasibility of him joining a certain team. Honestly wondering why a guy who used to average 25 in his sleep can't get a gig. It never goes away.
And now that Marc J. Spears and Adrian Wojnarowski have reported that Allen Iverson is a few scribbles away from signing a contract to play basketball in Turkey, I don't have to bite my tongue and answer those questions anymore.
This doesn't make the sad reality of Iverson's dwindling prospects go away, though.
Marc and Woj pointed out in their piece that AI "couldn't even get a training camp invitation," which is how things should be. They didn't have to be this way, but with the way he's conducted his career, this is the way things should be. He won't help an NBA team win games.
And the idea that AI could average 25 points per game in his sleep? Well, that's a misnomer. Because putting those points on the board was hard, hard work.
Let's not mistake activity for achievement, though. Iverson made a career out of dominating the ball, turning his team's offense into a funnel that made him essentially a non-factor if he wasn't the first option, and launching low-percentage shots. Launch enough low-percentage shots, and you're bound to get 25 a game. But not in a way that helps a team unless everything else runs perfectly.
Iverson was at his best in 2000-01, because he was featured on a 76ers team that had absolutely no offensive options besides Allen. Or, at least, none that AI or coach Larry Brown wanted anything to do with. Iverson averaged a whopping 25.5 shots per game that year, a remarkable achievement on a team that was 19th out of 29 teams in possessions per game.
Those Sixers were great, but they weren't built to last. They did their work in one of the worst conferences in NBA history, and needed seven games to get out of the second and third round, before falling in the finals in five games. The league moved on, adapted, improved, and matured. Allen did not, and though he still got his 25 a game and a starting nod on the All-Star team every year, he was left behind.
And, as Deadspin's Barry Petchesky points out, the sticking point in Iverson's as-yet-unsigned contract with a Turkish team (making it so the team cannot fine him more than 1 percent of his $1.5 million contract) is beyond telling. I'll let Barry bash it out:
That's his sticking point? For a normal player, haggling might focus on more guaranteed money, or perhaps making the bonuses easier to achieve. But not Iverson: His chief concern is limiting how much they can take away from him if he screws up. When he screws up.
Fined and suspended multiple times in Philly for missing games, leaving practice, skipping corporate events. Fined for criticizing refs in Denver. Booted for refusing to be a bench player in Detroit, and again in Memphis.
Credit goes to Iverson for not playing the victim card; he either knows or fears that wherever he plays, no matter the team or league or country, he's going to get into trouble. Trying to limit what he can be fined is him sending a message to Beşiktaş, and admitting to himself, that he's not about to change who he is.
Not changing who he is won Allen Iverson fans. It won him starting gigs in All-Star games that nobody really remembers a week after they're played, and it won a repeated series of questions about his future in weekly NBA chats.
But at this point, with everything else sliding away, that's about all it has won him.