By FRANK WARD
Allen Iverson struck gold this week.
Once the most dazzling player in the NBA that everyone admired for his willingness to take his small stature straight into the Land of the Giants, Iverson has become an afterthought in NBA circles. And, rightfully so.
The man has been banished from two teams publicly and one privately in the last fourteen months. His career was on the brink of busting quicker than any blackjack hand he’s had at the casino. While he’s stated his desire to play next year, the overlying question is this: Will a team take a final chance on The Answer?
LeBron James may have cracked the door open for AI to not only play in 2010-11, but cap his career with the ring he covets.
With LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh all signing with the Heat, and Michael Beasley being driven to the airport with a paper bag on his head, Miami now has four players under contract for next year. Even with their three second round picks, that gives the team seven players. They need more and don’t have much cap room to do it.
Sure, Mike Miller is close to joining the Three Amigos in South Beach. Yes, rumors now persist that Derek Fisher is exploring playing fourth fiddle to James. But, they still need bodies.
Iverson is sitting at home waiting for phone calls. He was sent home from Detroit when the Pistons were struggling for their playoff lives in 2009 because he didn’t see himself as a bench player. He went all summer practically begging for a chance to play. He lasted just three games in Memphis for the same reason.
Rumors of retirement were put to sleep because of a Lou Williams broken jaw. He came back home to Philly — for 25 games anyway. His daughter’s medical condition and his own marital issues apparently kept AI from finishing the season.
In recent weeks, Iverson has restated his quest to grace the NBA hardwood with his sweat one last time.
“I want to return to the NBA this season, and help any team that wants me, in any capacity that they feel that I can help,” Iverson tweeted on July 5. “I’m disappointed, and I owe my fans more than what they have seen of me the last couple seasons. However, now that my family is healthy and rock solid, I can concentrate fully on doing what I do best! At the camp, I will help teach kids some of what it takes to be successful in life. On and off the basketball court.”
When tweeting that statement, Iverson was beginning his second annual summer reality show “Groveling for a Job.” Honestly, nobody was going to take a chance on AI at this point.
Then, he struck gold Thursday with The Decision.
The Heat need AI and AI needs the Heat. It’s a marriage made in Leon Rose’s office.
See, Leon Rose is the agent for Dictator James; he’s also AI’s agent. In fact, Leon rose to the top of the NBA agent profession based on his recruitment of Iverson from David Falk, the former King of the Agents.
You don’t think Rose wants Iverson back on the court? You don’t think he’s going to talk to James about AI joining the team?
If there is one team out there that can control Iverson’s ego at this point, it’s the Heat with James, Wade, Bosh and Pat Riley. If Iverson’s serious about just wanting to play and helping a team in any way possible, the Heat is his best option.
Aside from the agent connection, AI playing in Miami makes basketball sense. If nothing else, Iverson showed that he is willing to pass and doesn’t need to hog the rock during his brief layover in Philly last year. He was clearly a different player from the 2001 Iverson we all fell in love with.
If he has the mentality to come off the bench, sign for the veteran’s minimum and be one of the guys, Miami is where he must end up. If he truly wants that elusive NBA Championship, he knows where to go.
Thursday presented Iverson with a golden opportunity. Now, will he sacrifice the way he says he’s willing to? Will he sacrifice like Wade, Bosh and James have? And, more importantly, will Miami give him the chance to make that sacrifice?