- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2006

The 31 years of Allen Iverson are no small detail, considering the kind of player he has been in his 10-plus seasons in the NBA.

He is in large measure a product of his quickness, explosiveness and jumping ability, three qualities that decline precipitously with age. He also is a player who has taken a considerable beating in his career.

His pugnacious manner — long viewed as a positive — is now possibly a negative.

Wiping up the floor with your body, however celebrated, is rarely part of the longevity model.

Iverson lacks pure shooting ability and the pass-first instinct. He is what he is, even if his numbers indicate no startling slippage on his part this season.

His numbers are in line with his career scoring averages, although his turnovers are up. The latter merely could be an indication of a player believing he has to do more because of the limitations of his teammates.

Iverson’s athletic gifts also are essential to his production because of his lack of size. He is generously listed as a 6-footer and never has felt a compulsion to lift weights.

His resilience and high pain tolerance are unquestioned, and when the ball goes up at the center circle, he is determined to give a good night’s effort.

You can’t say that about all NBA players, some of whom elect not to play with conviction on certain nights, as was the case with the Nuggets earlier this week on Fun Street.

The personnel gurus interested in acquiring the services of Iverson are having to deal with the age question, for he will be 33 in the last season of his contract.

No team president likes to be stuck with a player who is being paid for what he did in the past as opposed to what he is doing in the present.

That is the risk the Bulls took with the 32-year-old Ben Wallace last summer, and at this early point in his four-year deal, it appears as if the gamble will not reap sufficient dividends. Of course, an extended playoff run by the Bulls in the spring could change the thinking to an extent.

The emergence of Pat Riley and the Heat in the Iverson sweepstakes is the first to make a modicum of sense.

Riley has not built the Heat with the future in mind.

The prospect of another championship run by the Heat would be the impetus to accept Iverson’s bloated contract.

The life of the contract would be merely part of the misery that is poised to come to the Heat in the seasons ahead.

As it is, the Heat’s championship hopes remain viable only because of the egalitarian nature of the Eastern Conference. If the Heat were stuck in the top-heavy Western Conference, their championship considerations would be negligible.

It could turn out that Iverson finds a way to defy Father Time.

But he would be the exception to his player type.

The guards who age nicely tend to be the ones who play close to the floor and have impeccable shooting and passing skills.

The obvious role model is the 32-year-old Steve Nash, who is having his best seasons in his post-30 years, absurd as that is.

Yet Nash retains two skills that do not diminish in a player’s 30s — great shooting and passing ability.

Players who last well into their 30s are either large or possess an exceptional skill in one area of the game, often shooting ability.

When he retired at nearly 40 years old, Reggie Miller was, arguably, still the most valuable player on the Pacers because of his shooting ability.

Riley is one of the few NBA gurus who can dismiss the prospect of Iverson aging gracefully.

He can check the birth certificates of Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning and Jason Williams and see that his team’s time is nearly up.

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