- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2009

It has to end badly for Allen Iverson. That is his destiny. There can be no other way.

It comes down to the essence of who he is, as the petulant little man forever showing it can be done his way, as the shooting guard stuck in a point guard's body. He is the 10-time All-Star who plays with a chip on his shoulder and a fire in his belly. He will show you. Just you watch.

The indifference to convention served him well at one time. It will subvert his cause in the downside of his career.

That is what happened to him with the Pistons. He was unable to adapt to a scaled-down role. He was unable to grasp that he no longer is the player he once was. Not at 33 years old. He still has a place in the NBA if he ever eschews his need as a high-volume shot-taker, if he ever sees that he has morphed from being the “Answer” to the “Question.”

He is merely a piece of a team's puzzle now, and how important a piece depends in part on his attitude.

Before the Pistons and Iverson agreed to call it a season, Iverson could not help but squawk about his newly defined role.

“Eighteen minutes - come on, man,” he said last week. “I can play 18 minutes with my eyes closed and with a 100-pound truck on my back. It's a bad feeling, man. I'm wondering what they rushed me back for.”

After he played only 17 minutes in his next outing, he said: “I'd rather retire than do this again.”

Iverson might have cost himself a few million dollars with those observations as he heads into free agency this summer.

As it is, Iverson is looking at a considerable pay cut from the $21 million he earned this season. An uncertain economy won't necessarily help his bargaining power either, although he still puts fannies in the seats.

Iverson has said he wants to play until he is 40. If so, he will have to learn to put the team ahead of himself - a questionable proposition, given his history.

He could not adjust to the hard reality with the Pistons, starting with the team's 24-30 record with him on the floor. He could not accept that it was not working and that he was a trace of his former self. His shooting was down to 41.7 percent, his turnovers at 2.56 a game. And, of course, the Pistons had to protect him on defense, which always has been the case with him.

Iverson never has been a highly motivated straight-up defender. What he has been is an opportunistic passing-lane defender.

His potential suitors this summer - and there will be fewer than you think - will be obligated to ask one fundamental question: Can Iverson reinvent himself, or will he suck the life out of a team if he is not receiving 40 minutes and 20-plus shots a game?

That is the duality of Iverson, one of the NBA's most polarizing figures. Fans either love or hate him. Fans embrace his pugnacious spirit and toughness. They detest his selfishness and self-absorbed manner.

The other dimension to Iverson - and one rarely recognized - is that he has managed to overachieve in his career. This wisp of a 6-footer dared to attack the basket with an uncommon ferocity.

That mentality threatens to be his bane now. Guards who last well past their prime in the NBA are the ones who can be 3-point specialists. That is not Iverson, a career 31.3 percent 3-point shooter whose scoring prowess was based in part on his ability to get to the free throw line.

That ability is diminishing, if his 5.9 free throw attempts average with the Pistons is an indication.

So Iverson is left to find a new venue this summer, a new love.

Wherever he lands, it won't end well. It just can't.

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