There was a time — just a couple years ago — when Allen Iverson was not willing to accept a bench role in the NBA. A time when he became a distraction for the Grizzlies then 76ers, his play and attitude deteriorating to the point no team offered him a deal last summer.
Now, back from a season Turkey and getting healthy, Iverson sounded humbled but still wanting a chance in an interesting interview with SLAM Magazine (you should go read the entire thing).
I want to finish my career out in the NBA, if that’s possible. And that’s in any capacity. I did a lot of things, I made a lot of mistakes as far as my actions and things that I’ve said, and I think that was the reason for me not being in the NBA. My whole thing now in trying to get back is letting any organization know that I’m willing to play any part that they want me to play.
SLAM: What’s drawing you back out on the court? Just a love for the game?
AI: [Long pause; starts to choke up] I love to play basketball. I’ve always said, If I can’t do what I’m accustomed to doing out there on the basketball court, I’ll leave it alone. If I can’t be effective and help my team win basketball games out there, than I don’t want to do it… I’ll play for a team in any capacity just to get back out there doing what I love to do.
I’m not sure he will get that chance.
There are a lot of questions out there from team executives. In the SLAM interview — again, go read the whole thing — Iverson denies having any drinking or gambling problems. That is still not the reputation around the league and some GM would need to be convinced.
The next question is does he still have the game, after an injury that he described as the worst pain of his career while playing in Turkey? Can he bounce back? Is he still explosive enough to get to the rim in the NBA, facing young athletes (who idolized him when they were growing up)? The role for Iverson at this point in his career would be as a scoring guard off the bench, a guy who could come in and change the pace and get 10 or so points in limited minutes. Can the former All-Star, All-Everything really accept that?
Finally, can he convince a team that he will not be a distraction? Iverson will be a draw at the gate, but will he be too big a distraction in the locker room? Media will flock to him; will Iverson clash with the coach and demand a larger role publicly? He sounds like a player who has accepted his place, who just wants to be a good team player. But GMs can be risk averse at times, so who knows if one will give him a shot.
But you can bet Iverson will be working this summer to see if someone will give him that chance.