Does anyone remember when the word Iverson was synonymous with unstoppable? When Iverson could go coast to coast making defenders look like pylons?
Those were the days—the days when Iverson could say or do whatever he wanted and it never mattered because he was just too good to sit on the bench.
Eight years removed from his 2000-2001 MVP campaign Iverson entered the Memphis training camp a different man. Now in season 14, the 34-year-old veteran is not looked to to lead on the court, but to be a character player that a young Memphis squad could look to for mentoring.
"That's the fun part about being a veteran is that you get a chance to lead guys to places they've never been before and give them some things they've never had in the league," Iverson said, suggesting the team would be successful in the upcoming year.
Whether Iverson comes off the bench or gets his preferred way and starts, you can be sure on one thing—Iverson will be happier in a Memphis setting.
The difference of being a sixth man in Detroit and Memphis is that Iverson is a leader in Memphis, and being in a role where it at least seems that he is in control is right up his alley.
For Iverson to be a success he is going to understand, he cannot be the man that he once was. As much as controlling the ball 75 percent of the time sounds nice, Iverson is now playing on a team filled with guys who need touches to be successful.
So, can this work? Iverson averaged less than 40 minutes per game last year for just the second time and was not happy about it.
With a crowded back court in Memphis it is likely AI will be getting minutes similar to Detroit at 36 per game.
We all know the kind of numbers Iverson is capable of even with 36 minutes, but can he put up these numbers while still keeping a positive attitude about the team and keep mentoring the guys who will essentially be cutting his time?
For Memphis’ sake let’s just hope so. OJ Mayo is already a proven scorer. Mayo is the type of player that is going to form in to an all-star with or without Iverson.
But Mike Conley Jr., who has essentially under-achieved, could be getting just the type of mentor he needs in Iverson. If Iverson could share his knowledge without the attitude, it could be just what Conley and the Grizzlies need for a jump start.
Iverson is going to enter the 2009-2010 season with one single purpose—to prove that he is still relevant. Even the haters can’t deny that Iverson is still good to put up 18 points per game, adding a few assists and maybe a steal.
But the real measure of success that Iverson will be judged and remembered for is the progress of the Memphis Grizzlies youth. Either he holds Mayo and Conley back for a year or potentially pushes both ahead a few years.
This season isn’t just about Iverson. This will define Memphis for years to come. A positive attitude in the preseason and carrying over on through 2009-2010 can not only prove Iverson isn’t broken.
It can also prove that Iverson is back.