Latest News, NBA / Jan 29, 2013 / 3:30 pm

Allen Iverson Declines A D-League Offer, Making His Next Step Uncertain

Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson (photo. Reebok Classics)

Allen Iverson still wants into the NBA, but he won’t be making it via the NBA Developmental League’s Texas Legends. Iverson turned down the offer by Mavericks executive Donnie Nelson today to play for Legends head coach and former NBA journeyman Eduardo Najera. If there was a D-League-NBA connection more willing to take a chance on Iverson, it’d be hard to find it outside of the Legends-Mavericks combination. The two have a partnership that’s arguably the closest of the two leagues; Mavericks owner Mark Cuban likes publicity, even from a fading star’s comeback; and what does Dallas have to lose at six games under .500 and with the 11th-best record in the West? (Between the team’s offseason strategy of signing multiple one-year deals and then Dirk Nowitzki‘s injury, the Mavericks’ goal has been to strictly make it to July’s free agency period — where the team will have lots of cap space — in one piece.)

Nonetheless, Iverson declined the offer via Twitter, a message his manager later confirmed to The Associated Press. Here were his reasons:

It’s strange to write it, but Iverson is now 37 years old. There isn’t such a thing as a “young” 37 in basketball, no player whose mileage from 30-plus years of basketball hasn’t taken its toll. There are, however, players whose ages don’t match the wear they’ve put on their bodies and Iverson qualifies. He played through every injury and averaged 41.1 minutes per game in his career. He would beat you and run you into the ground. He’s a guard whose legend was built on top of his catch-me-if-you-can first step and jump shot he could get off anywhere on the court. But at least one of those is in decline, and he hasn’t compensated to change. This last offseason the most intriguing storyline, for me, was how much confidence front offices showed veteran players by rewarding Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd with three-year contracts despite nearing 40 and Grant Hill and Ray Allen with two-year deals. Each of those players, however, has altered their game to fit their age and physical limitations.

What’s Iverson going to do differently to finish his legacy in the NBA, as he says? What is he willing to sacrifice? Is it his shooting? Well, if a team brings him in it’s likely because of his shooting, not in spite of it, but who’s ready to give him his career low of 11.3 shot attempts per game — let alone anything approaching his career average of 21.8? If it’s a starting role, you can forget about it. He’s played 914 career games in the NBA and started all but 13 of them. Remember what he said after his debut with the Grizzlies in 2009, only seven months after leaving Detroit because he said they “lied” about not having to play as a reserve?

“I had a problem with my butt from sitting on the bench so long,” Iverson said. “That’s the only thing I had a problem with.”

I don’t believe Iverson has a place still in the NBA. He’s a prideful player who hasn’t changed the way he plays as he’s gotten older to be valuable enough to bring in. He sees a “next” stop as his last, not realizing that his short stays in Detroit and Memphis were the final tryouts of his career, times when he should have and could have shown how he could benefit a roster by playing differently. And I write that even though I absolutely loved watching Iverson in Philadelphia take a team with the Tyrone Hills, Aaron McKies and Eric Snows of the world and turn them into a Finals contender. Iverson’s done the China route already, the path past stars — Tracy McGrady, Stephon Marbury — take to turn back the clock 10 years on both their superiority and adulation. Iverson doesn’t need the D-League, doesn’t need to live on $25,000 or less in Boise like Antoine Walker. The Answer has spent 37 years playing the way he wants with a pride that hasn’t bent for no man or system. Why change that now? There’s no shame in going out on his own terms, even if it means going out with a whimper and short of the NBA.

What should he do?

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