- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Anyone who paid attention to Allen Iverson’s me-first carping with the Pistons last season should not be surprised that his stopover in Memphis soured in about a nanosecond.

Iverson balked at coming off the bench with the Pistons, just as he is balking now with the Grizzlies.

It does not matter that he has slowed down at 34 years old. It does not matter that he attracted scant interest as a free agent last summer. It does not matter that Memphis looms as his last stop in the NBA.

Iverson has too much pride, ego and hubris to be content with coming off the bench.

He apparently would rather sabotage what is left of his NBA career than accept the reality of his birth certificate.

“It’s something that I never did in my life, so obviously it’s a big adjustment,” he said last week about coming off the bench. “I’m so tired of discussing that, talking about that, every single day. It’s just not something I want to discuss.”

He does not want to discuss it now after letting everyone know that he objects to anything but a starting role with the Grizzlies.

And so, conveniently enough, Iverson has been granted an indefinite leave of absence to tend to a “personal matter.”

That personal matter is whether he will step from the abyss and return to the Grizzlies or retire in a snit.

The Grizzlies also could seek to trade Iverson, except that potentiality begs an obvious question. Which general manager would be foolish enough to take a chance on the petulant one, given his limited upside?

Iverson is not about to lead a team deep into the playoffs at this point in his career. He is not about to be a mentor to a team’s up-and-coming players. And he is not about to accept a subservient role, even if he is in the starting lineup.

That is the other thing with Iverson. It is not just about being a starter with him. It also is about his unwillingness to recognize his limitations. He still wants to dominate the basketball. He still wants to take 20 to 25 shots a game. He still believes it is his world and that his teammates are mere conduits to his needs.

If Iverson is mulling retirement, as the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports, it would be, in a way, a fitting end.

Iverson always has been a lightning rod wherever he has been in the NBA. He always has feuded with coaches and general managers. He always has done things his way, which is not necessarily the team way.

He was coddled and indulged because of his talent, because on some nights he could hoist a team on his narrow shoulders and lead it to victory.

Those days are forever gone, though, and Iverson is the only person who fails to see it.

If he were not so short-sighted, Iverson would have transitioned to the role of wily veteran by now. That is what the smart ones do. Their minds compensate for what their bodies no longer can do. And they end up milking a few more seasons out of their careers, sometimes unearthing an unlikely reward.

That was the case with David Robinson in San Antonio. Long the alpha male of the Spurs, Robinson deferred to Tim Duncan late in his career and ended up securing two NBA championships.

But not Iverson. There is no deference in him. He is going out kicking and screaming.

“I’m not trying to figure out how to contribute to no team,” he said. “I contribute to a team by just playing. That’s it. I don’t have to figure it out.”

That threatens to be to his everlasting regret.

He has nothing to figure out.

He just needs the freedom to be who he is - a fading star who hoists 20 to 25 shots a game.

That sounds like a ticket to Europe.

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