Allen Iverson(notes) had plenty to say during his recent trip to the Bay Area – most notably, that he isn't happy about coming off the bench for the Memphis Grizzlies – and his attitude likely won't change unless or until the Grizzlies start winning.
Say what you will about A.I., but he has no problem speaking his mind. From his free-agency experience this past summer to his future to even his hair, Iverson touched on a handful of topics – besides his role with the Grizzlies – during a one-on-one interview with Yahoo! Sports.
Q: After things went bad with the Detroit Pistons, did you feel like you needed to sell the Grizzlies on signing you?
Iverson: Nah. I talked with them and had a conversation with them about what I wanted for the rest of my career, what I can do for the squad. But I'm not playing basketball no more to make money or anything like that or fame. I've been there and did that. I just want to be happy doing what I love to do. If I felt I had to sell myself or sell out to be somebody that I'm not, then I wouldn't do it anymore. I'd be playing at the YMCA.
Q: Can you envision the day you walk away from the NBA?
Iverson: Hell yeah. I got a wife and five kids. I definitely can see myself walking away from basketball, walking away from [the media]. I don't have to talk to y'all every [expletive] day. There is a lot of y'all I don't dislike, a lot of y'all I love. But there is a lot of y'all I hate. But I understand that media people just do their job. Nobody wants to hear no positive Allen Iverson story about me giving out turkeys, doing something for the Boys & Girls Club. They want to hear stories about A.I. cursing the coach out and stuff like that. That positive [stuff] don't sell."
Q: Did you feel like the NBA and your skeptics left you for dead this offseason?
Iverson: Why not? Why not? I ain't never had a whole bunch of people running around saying "I love Allen Iverson" my whole career. If you say there is a million of them that love me, there is a million of them that love me. It's more that don't. There's more that would rather see me fail than succeed. You think I don't know that people left me for dead?
It's not because they've seen something deteriorate in my game. It's because they've been waiting for that day that it does happen. But they're going to be waiting for a long time if they think something has gone away with my game.
Q: Can you describe how free agency went for you this past offseason?
Iverson: It was horrible just not knowing where I was going to be or where my family was going to be – my kids and my wife not knowing. It was just a bad experience. It was an experience that I thought was going to be a good one, but it wasn't. It was tough on me.
When you get bad-mouthed by certain people, then it makes it that much more difficult. I understand. I've heard a lot of different things since the summer passed. If you get bad-mouthed in this league by certain people, it's hard to get over that – especially the stories that I heard about who I am as a person off the court and who I am in my teammates' eyes. At times, it used to bother me. But I've heard so many of them now that I don't even think about it no more.
Q: What would you say to those that say you lost a step?
Iverson: Just watch. Just watch. You know what's crazy about that? I've averaged 27 points my whole career. You see All-Star players that let a couple years go by and then they make it again. But you never hear after they don't make it one year that they lost a step. To the world, that one bad [last] season, 17-[points]-and five-[assists] mark, people hear that and say, "A.I. had an awful season." But you have guys with 17-and-five making it to the All-Star Game and people saying they had the greatest season ever.
That's what frustrates me because the people that have a chance to discuss it don't look at it that way. They only look at it like I went to a team that was already established. You got Tayshaun [Prince], you got Rip [Hamilton], you got 'Sheed [Wallace] and you got the young boy, [Rodney] Stuckey, that's trying to make his way. And the Denver situation? You saw how many guys we had. We had 'Melo [Carmelo Anthony(notes)], Nene, Marcus [Camby], Kenyon [Martin] and everybody, and my scoring goes down three, four [points] and they say, "He's losing a step." It's just going to be like that. That criticism will always be there for me. But if I can accept the praise, I damn sure can accept the criticism.
Q: You got rid of your trademark cornrows last year for a short haircut, but you returned to the cornrows this season. Why?
Iverson: I didn't like that other [stuff]. Nope. As a matter of fact, I couldn't stand it. It's hard to find a barber who can do it the way you want it done all the time. I just wanted my hair back. I've grown so used to it – and if my daughter [Tiaura] didn't beg me to cut it, I would have never cut it. But she gave me the OK to grow it back.
A.I. almost a Clipper?
Iverson can ponder what might have been when the Grizzlies visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. Back in July, the Clippers seriously contemplated offering him a one-year contract paying up to $4 million so he could be a "Vinnie Johnson-type" player, a source with knowledge of the talks said. Denver Nuggets assistant Tim Grgurich, who was considered for a job on Mike Dunleavy's staff over the offseason, also strongly recommended Iverson to the franchise.
The Clippers, however, were concerned about how Iverson's addition would affect the development of second-year shooting guard Eric Gordon, along with other chemistry issues. The Clippers cooled on the idea after Iverson told Dunleavy in a phone conversation that he would have a serious problem with coming off the bench.
The possibility of signing Iverson became a dead issue once the Clippers acquired guard Sebastian Telfair and swingman Rasual Butler. But had A.I. been fine with coming off the bench, he could very well be with the Clippers now.
New deal for Kobe?
It's been more than four months since Kobe Bryant announced his intentions to sign a contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers and pass up a chance to join the 2010 free-agent market. So why hasn't he signed anything?
Sources with knowledge of the talks say the Lakers continue to meet with Bryant's camp and that both sides fully expect the deal to get done, though neither wants to commit to a firm timetable. The initial hope was that the extension would be completed by the start of the season.
Bryant is scheduled to make $23 million this season and $24.8 million next season. He can opt of the final season to become a free agent in July. He is eligible to sign a three-year extension that could pay him more than $90 million, depending on the league's salary-cap figures.
Russell still waiting on Jordan
Bryon Russell thinks he's lined up enough cash and TV interest to lure Michael Jordan into a one-on-one exhibition.
Jordan called out Russell during his Hall of Fame speech, saying the former Utah Jazz swingman motivated him with his trash-talking. He challenged Russell, saying: "From this day forward, if I ever see him in shorts, I'm coming at him."
Russell responded by telling Yahoo! Sports he would play Jordan anytime.
Russell now says he has substantial financial backing to stage a public one-on-one game, but declined to give details. He hopes to talk to Jordan soon in person and seek his approval.
"I am hoping it can get done because everybody wants to see it," Russell said to Yahoo! Sports. "I wasn't the one that called me out. I'm just returning the favor. I think people will fall in love with it to see M.J. and Bryon going at it again.
"I just need him to see what I got. And I guarantee you he will fall in love with what I got. It could be a very lucrative event for him that could put a smile on his face even after he loses."
Randolph squeezed out of Warriors' rotation
Anthony Randolph is the latest player to find room in Don Nelson's doghouse.
The Golden State Warriors' promising young forward played in USA Basketball's minicamp over the summer and was expected to start at power forward. But after Randolph was limited by a preseason back injury he was slow to report, Nelson recently moved swingman Stephen Jackson to power forward because he is "240 pounds" and moved Randolph to backup center behind journeyman Mikki Moore.
"He's not necessarily a good shooting [power forward], but he can be a good shooting [center] because [centers] can't shoot very well," Nelson said of Randolph.
Randolph, who has averaged eight points, 4.7 rebounds and just 14 minutes in three games, is extremely frustrated by the move.
"Nellie is playing games with him," a source close to Randolph said.
Before totaling 27 points and 14 rebounds in Utah's runaway victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday, Carlos Boozer had already drawn the ire of Jazz fans for the team's struggles. Still, league sources say the Jazz don't appear to be engaged in any substantive trade talks for the power forward. … Rajon Rondo officially signed his five-year, $55 million extension with the Celtics about four hours before the NBA's deadline. Rondo, however, was also facing his own time crunch. He wanted the Celtics to hurry up and fax the contract papers to him at his hotel in Philadelphia so he could attend Game 5 of the World Series. The Celtics were in Philadelphia on Monday night for a game Tuesday against the Philadelphia 76ers. "Even though Rondo was ready to play out this year, it was a big relief for him to sign the extension and the burden is gone," said Celtics president Danny Ainge. "Now he can concentrate on playing and focus on working to be the player he can become. We never doubted his talent." … One NBA general manager said the Philadelphia 76ers are still actively trying to move center Samuel Dalembert. A league source said the Sixers contacted the Warriors to see if they had any interest in Dalembert, but talks never progressed. The Warriors are still trying to trade Stephen Jackson but have yet to field a suitable offer. The Cavaliers remain interested in the veteran swingman. … Since having surgery to repair his fractured right thumb on Oct. 27, Celtics forward Glen Davis has been working out twice a day to improve his conditioning. Davis is still expected to be out six weeks, and is wearing a cast on the thumb. Ainge said that one recent morning, he walked into the team's practice facility and found Davis running lines in the dark. … Desmond Mason, who was waived by the Sacramento Kings this week, is expected to join a fairly deep pool of free-agent guards. Among those still available: Wally Szczerbiak, Antonio Daniels, Jerry Stackhouse, Jamaal Tinsley, Rashad McCants, Gabe Pruitt, Stephon Marbury and Earl Boykins. Oh, and Bonzi Wells is still out there too.
- Allen Iverson