The Cavaliers may be the answer to Allen Iverson's prayers

By Michael Wilbon
Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I don't believe for a second we've seen the last of Allen Iverson. He may contemplate retirement. He might remain on this mysterious personal leave for a while. But Iverson, even though he has more mileage on him than a soccer mom's 1990 Volvo wagon and all the dents as well, has plenty of basketball left in him. Surely, the last line on his hoops résumé isn't going to be three games played for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Iverson-in-Memphis was terribly misguided from the time it was conceived, as was his statement the day he signed, "God chose Memphis as the place that I will continue my career." Iverson, not God, made that mistake. He should never have signed with the Grizzlies, though Iverson seemed to be the only person not to know that the club's owner, Michael Heisley, has no plan to spend money, no plan to actually contend for anything meaningful in the NBA.

Somehow Iverson got it in his head that Memphis was the place for him, even though the team already had Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and O.J. Mayo, all of whom need shots and will do whatever necessary to jack them up. The news that Iverson is unhappy in Memphis, hates the notion that he should start games on the bench, and now reportedly considering retirement is hardly surprising -- though I must say it's a little surprising to hear Iverson tell reporters, as he did Friday, that he has not talked to Coach Lionel Hollins about his role on the team.

"We've never talked to each other," Iverson said. "We've never even had a conversation."

So now, Iverson is reportedly tending to non-basketball-related "personal" issues and is simply gone from a team he never should have signed with in the first place. Meanwhile, the guessing game is on as to where Iverson will wind up, because it certainly can't be Memphis.

Before I get to the perfect landing spot for Iverson, it should be pointed out that he probably should be in Charlotte, playing for the Bobcats, being coached by the only coach who really understood how to structure a team around him, Larry Brown. Coach and player are much like high-maintenance quarterbacks with special skills and relationship needs. It doesn't matter than Brown and Iverson had some bumpy times in Philly; the relationship brought the best out of Iverson; the 76ers went to the NBA Finals in 2001.

Brown doesn't have a championship-caliber team in Charlotte, but he does have just the kind of complementary and in some cases deferential players (Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, Tyson Chandler, Gerald Wallace) who would play so well with and off of Iverson.

But that ship has sailed.

Still, A.I. needs to play with a contender. It's a good thing he didn't sign with the Clippers either, which didn't happen because the people who run the Clippers had the good sense to actually talk to Iverson about his perceived role, only to find out Iverson saw himself as the star of the team and they saw him coming off the bench. Iverson, no matter how many points he can score, is past the point of helping a bad team, or even a mediocre team. But he can significantly help a serious contender, probably by coming off the bench, certainly by providing energy at the end of games.

He needs to be on a team with players he respects enough so that he can be relatively happy to come off the bench because the rewards are so great. Iverson, frankly, needs a team that needs him, and there aren't so many of them. He needs a team where his ability to create his own shot will help a superstar, where he can also work the end of the game as a closer, a team where his reckless abandon and pedal-to-the-metal aggression in smaller doses will be an asset, not a liability.

I'm talking about the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Everybody who loves watching Allen Iverson play has a scenario which would put Iverson someplace of consequence, and no, I'm not talking about Madison Square Garden; thankfully Newsday is reporting the Knicks have no interest, not that anybody should be interested in them.

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