Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Allen Iverson: Their Burden to Bear (Grizzlies Bear that is...)

The Memphis Grizzlies have just signed Allen Iverson to a one year, $3.5 million contract and I can almost hear Regis Philbin in the background, bemoaningly asking the Memphis front-office, "Is that really your final answer?"


So it seems as though Allen Iverson's past forays of chemistry tampering with his recent teams were just mere 'practice' (had to) for the true challenges that lay ahead for him and the Memphis Grizzlies. Whether or not these Grizzlies will be forced to 'bear' the burden of having to coddle and cater to an aging superstar who seems to be tightly hanging onto the laurels of his 2001 glory days will depend primarily upon what Answer they get on and off the court.

In recent years, Allen Iverson has been degraded and resigned to an almost Starbury-like status, in which every team he's been traded to has significantly gotten worse, while every team he's left behind has significantly gotten better. Even the USA Team faltered under his leadership - or maybe we can just blame Marbury for also being on that team. Luckily for Iverson, the comparisons (we hope) start and end with basketball, for he has yet to fully fall off the edge of sanity like Marbury has. Although the two do share an eerily similar love for...crying. Unlike Iverson however, who's emotional breakdowns are usually backed up by sentimentally humanistic triggers, Marbury enjoys videotaping his weep-fests and syncing it up to background gospel music without giving us any explanation whatsoever as to what's going on or why he's even crying. The Grizzlies can only pray that Iverson's final bow takes on a vastly different route than that of Starbury's - or there will be a lot of tears and gospel music (or Elvis music) to go around in Memphis.

Overall though, Iverson has always remained a fan favorite - the small, gritty player that everyone loved to root for because he seemed to represent every underdog's struggle. He always carried this 'prodigal son, bad-boy' image, but because he's always been so open and real about himself, these characteristics made him a more relatable player to the normal everyday person who struggled to live up to the expectations of the world. And though on the court, people like former coach Larry Brown may have continually questioned his shot selection, no one ever questioned his heart and fight. But now as a newly signed Memphis Grizzly, the 'toughest pound-for-pound player' in the league must show that he can be the toughest mind-for-mind player in the league by keeping his mental composure in check if he has any chance at resurrecting his career.

What? You're saying I need practice on how I answer my own questions?

Yes, there will be lots of practices involved - and not just the ones that happen on court, but the ones that will involve relational patience and amiable coexistence with teammates and coaches. And no, Allen Iverson will not be able to jack up the same number of shots that he was able to when he once iterated the word 'practice' in a post-game interview approximately 24 1/2 times (which is already a low in terms of shot-attempts for a man who once led the league in scoring on several different every 1/2 counts). Can he develop a more consistent outside shot that will allow the real future cornerstones of the franchise to have more of the ball in their hands? Can he become a Rip Hamilton player and play off screens and cuts? Can he actually become a pass-first 7 apg point-guard rather than the shoot-first 7 apg point guard that he's always been throughout his career? All these questions and more will continue to loom over all our heads until the season begins, but more than anything, Iverson's real battle will happen internally between himself and his ego and whether or not he's willing to sacrifice his own decorated resume for the betterment of his impressionable young teammates.

It will be interesting to see how a backcourt of Allen Iverson, O.J. Mayo, and one ball will all fit, but the bigger question lies on whether or not Iverson will hamper the promising developments of the Grizzlies other burgeoning young players - Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Hasheem Thabeet. Oh yeah, and there's that Zach Randolph guy too, but one can only wonder if that guy's fate will only end up quickly crumbling down like that of another New York Knickerbocker's - Eddy Curry. Either way, if Iverson's truly ready to prove the world wrong, he'll need to re-develop his game as quickly as his young teammates have theirs, or else we could truly end up seeing not one, but several, NBA players' careers die-out because of...'canswer'.

The Fridge has the final answer,
Jonathan Hernandez
(Chick's Fridge)

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