It was announced today that 34-year-old combo guard Allen Iverson will be joining the Memphis Grizzlies, one of the NBA's smallest markets, for a deal worth approximately $3.5 million for the upcoming 2009-10 season.
The basketball world wants to know how this will affect the Memphis Grizzlies, their sky-walking small forward Rudy Gay, and the newest acquisition of Zach Randolph.
However in all seriousness, the question in my mind is how this acquisition will impact the development of O.J. Mayo.
No offense intended to Rudy, Z-Bo and other key players like Mike Conley, Jr., Marc Gasol, and rookie Hasheem Thabeet, but O.J. is clearly the future of the franchise. Gay is an exceptional athlete capable of becoming an All-Star, but I believe the future of the Grizzlies is tightly intertwined with the end product of Mayo's development.
First and foremost, let's be clear about the motive of bringing Iverson to Memphis.
This move was strictly financial. Management did this with the aim of improving the market for basketball in Memphis in addition to filling seats and gaining more season-ticket holders.
Adding Iverson to a somewhat athletic and intriguing core of O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, and Marc Gasol is sure to attract the fans.
After all, who wouldn't want to come and see one of the all-time greats playing with a bunch of young'uns who could develop into elite players in this league?
However all positives aside, will Iverson really help Mayo's development?
We're talking about a guy, in Iverson, who is renowned for being the toughest "little" guy in NBA history and an elite scorer. At the same time we're talking about a guy who did little else than score, and is distinctly known for his off-court issues and well documented poor attitude when it comes to team play.
In recent years team play has been highlighted as the key to winning in the NBA. The Detroit Pistons did it in 2004 and the San Antonio Spurs have put on a clinic with four titles in the last decade—all which can be attributed to unselfish play.
Even the most recent NBA champions are a testament to team play, highlighted by the way Kobe Bryant has matured and shown the ability to play for his team, not himself.
Mayo has worked for everything he has gotten, even after questions were raised about his athleticism and ability to compete with guys like Derrick Rose in college. Last season he proved doubters wrong with an exceptional rookie season, posting 18.5 PPG and showing a willingness to compete and hustle on the defensive end of the floor.
For a hard-worker like Mayo, the sky is the limit. However he will need to show the maturity of a real team leader if he hopes to make his mark in the NBA.
If he takes anything away from Iverson hopefully it is his intensity, determination, and fight. Anything other than that might leave O.J. without a ring when his career is over.