- The Washington Times - Friday, August 7, 2009

Allen Iverson is reluctant to be the Answer, given the way the NBA is posing the question.

That would mean accepting a bargain-basement salary and a significantly reduced role.

That does not fit well with Iverson’s vision of himself.

That vision, of course, is compromised by Iverson’s strong sense of entitlement and the blinders he still wears at 34 years old.

He never has played well with others or heeded the advice of those patrolling sidelines.

He plays fearlessly. That always has been his principal line of defense, and not an accurate one on the defensive end of the floor unless you count defending the passing lanes.

The Pistons sent Iverson home last spring. That is how the experiment ended there, with hurt feelings on both sides and one massively bruised ego.

That is how it always was destined to end with Iverson, the me-first shooting guard trapped in the body of a point guard.

Iverson always has believed that it was his tattoos that brought out the critics. It never was about the tattoos, which have not qualified as edgy since they became trite symbols of individuality.

When 20-something nerds are going around with ink on their bodies, you just know the tattoo movement has lost its capacity to jar.

What Iverson has been unable to grasp all these years is that not everyone loves a ball hog, no matter how gifted. He could ask Kobe Bryant.

So Iverson is feeling put upon anew in his sixth week of free agency.

He is up against a down economy, skeptical general managers and the Detroit-inspired fallout.

“I feel like I have to prove myself all over again,” he said recently on NBA TV.

That is his Napoleonic complex surfacing again, the chip jutting from his shoulder.

No one is questioning his ability to help a team. The question is whether he is in the mood to conform to a team, to accept a supporting role, to be what he never has been.

He said he never wants to experience another season like the one with the Pistons. His lukewarm suitors - in Miami, Memphis and Los Angeles - would concur. They do not want to be held hostage to his 25-shots-a-game-or-sulk mentality.

That leaves Iverson with the Greek team Olympiakos. The club has offered him a two-year, $10 million contract - not a bad pitch since it is the only one he has.

Not that Iverson is itching to go to Greece, even if he would get his 25 shots a game there.

Iverson has prospered in the past because of his “I’ll show you” mindset. That spirit is now working against him. He is no longer who he once was, a reality that seems lost on him.

The wisest NBA players adjust with age. What they no longer can do with their legs, they compensate in part with their gray matter, with what they have gleaned from the game over the years.

Iverson is as he ever was, just not as fast and quick.

It must grate on him that even the combustible Rasheed Wallace has found a new venue in Boston. Wallace, at his best, was not Iverson’s equal. But an NBA team found potential value in Wallace, who never has wanted the responsibility of leading a team.

Iverson eventually may land an NBA contract if the money and years are right and his role ever can be satisfied. Charlotte, anyone?

That is the latest home address of Larry Brown, who cultivated as good a relationship as possible with Iverson in Philadelphia. It had its share of spats. It also produced an appearance in the NBA Finals and a hard-earned respect between the two.

Iverson, still popular, would put fannies in the seats in a challenging NBA market. He might even adjust to his age. Or not.

His continued availability is a testament to the doubts.

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