Iverson, another chance?
Allen Iverson back in the NBA, could it happen? Should it happen? Can he help a team win? Is it good for the NBA?
There are enough loyal fans and basketball purists, author included, who would want to see this happen. The critics will argue, however, that Iverson has had enough opportunities, and failed to capitalize on them.
A valid point, however, the circumstances that led to Iverson’s exit from the league, are not his doing alone. Regardless of public opinion, his time with the Denver Nuggets, was not a bust. After joining the team, during the 2006-07 season, Iverson shot a 0.454 field goal percentage, second best of his career up to that point, averaged 24.8 points and added 7.2 assist per game, and the team won 45 games. Unfortunately, the team did not have the same success in the playoffs, falling to the Spurs, the eventual NBA champions, in five games.
Iverson’s full season with the Nuggets, 2007-08, went well, shooting a 0.458 field goal percentage, second best of his career not including the three games with the Grizzlies, averaging 26.4 points and 7.1 assist per game. The team averaged 110.7 points per game, second only to the Warriors, and won 50 games, a feat not achieved by the franchise since the 1987-88 season. Unfortunately, a better result wasn’t achieved in the playoffs, being swept be the Los Angeles Lakers, the eventual western conference champions.
While the team’s success was limited to the regular season, Iverson’s numbers proved he was still playing at a high level. Being the more veteran of the two stars, however, meant that in order to make changes for deeper playoff runs, it made sense to build around Carmelo Anthony.
Thus the trade to the Detroit Pistons came about, shortly into the 2008-09 season. While the Pistons pulled off the trade partially for salary cap reason, there must have been hope for success.
Unfortunately it didn’t work, the offense was not designed for the two-guard to dominate the ball, and be a volume shooter. And of course, redundancy was another issue, Richard Hamilton was already at the position. The consequence was a decline in numbers, and while there was only a slight dip in field goal percentage at 0.416 percent, scoring fell to 17.4 and assists to 4.9 per game, respectable, but also a big drop.
Iverson would go on to play 54 games in Detroit, missing 16 games towards the end of the season, due to a back injury, and was inactive for the playoff series versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. A consequence of having a problem with being asked to come off the bench by coach Michael Curry, stating he would rather retire.
The aftermath of course was Iverson’s fall from grace, leaving the Memphis Grizzlies three games into the 2009-10 season, as a reduced role on the team was not to his liking, just over 20 minutes a game and coming off the bench. A second stint with Philadelphia 76ers started well, a spot on the starting line up, playing 30 minutes per game. And while no longer a volume shooter, Iverson appeared good with how things were going, shooting 0.417 percent from the field, putting up 13.9 points and dishing out 4.1 assists per game. After 25 games, however, Iverson left the team, to take care of his daughter’s health.
The door closed on Iverson, and while it’s true his lack of acceptance for coming off the bench, and less minutes, was a problem. The trade from the Nuggets to the Pistons, has to be recognised as the largest factor in his fallout, but unfortunately the consensus was that Iverson lost a step, is no longer the same player, and it is often not mentioned that the offense did not fit his game, or that there was redundancy in the backcourt.
The following year Iverson headed overseas, signing with Turkey Besiktas a two year $4million contract. His time in Turkey did not last, after 10 games he left the team due to a right calf injury, and did not return.
In a recent Slam interview, Iverson owned up to not handling past circumstances well, and would like to finish his career with an NBA team, playing any role. It would be hard to argue, that Iverson doesn’t have the talent to help a team as a role player, and it could be good for the NBA, a gesture to show loyalty to a former elite player, who helped draw fans after the Jordan era, as well as any active player at the time.