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Iverson’s sour grapes

From the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

Nothing clicked with the Pistons. With Iverson on the court, their offense often degenerated into 1-on-5 sets, and Curry could never figure out how to incorporate him. In 54 games, Iverson averaged a career-low 17.4 points on 41.6 percent shooting, 4.9 assists and 3.1 rebounds.

"He went there, and he couldn't really trust what people had told him," said Gary Moore, Iverson's business manager and grade-school football coach. "People in Detroit weren't very truthful with him."

According to Moore, Iverson had been told that he would be the leader of the team when he arrived, and that was not what played out. The players were upset that the front office had traded away Chauncey Billups, Moore said. Iverson was persona non grata before he even showed up.

"Allen couldn't do anything about that," Moore said. "When you lie to him, that affects him."

Can a 13-year vet really be so oblivious that respect is earned, not promised? That leadership is recognized, not assumed?

Even so, Iverson can hardly fault the front office for not having his back -- Dumars shocked everybody by presenting Iverson with the No. 1 jersey the day he was introduced, a decision that a lot of people -- not only fans, but also Palace employees -- considered needlessly disrespectful to the six years Chauncey Billups gave the organization.

Besides taking Billups' jersey number, Iverson also took his spot in the locker room, prime real estate in the corner of the room that afforded Iverson three stalls -- two more than anyone else on the team -- to sprawl out.

And while most players awkwardly answer post-game questions in various stages of undress in front of their locker, Iverson was the only player on the team to address the media down the hall at the same podium as Michael Curry. If he didn't feel like he was a part of the team, it's because he physically maintained the distance.

Because he spoke to the media before his teammates, reporters on deadline used his quotes most often, allowing him to become the de facto voice of the team is most game recaps (in fairness, a responsibility Rip Hamilton never seemed interested in assuming).

Of course, it's one thing to talk for the team and another altogether to lead it -- and early in his time with Detroit, Iverson proved he wasn't up to the latter. I remain convinced that Iverson lost any chance at earning complete acceptance by his teammates the moment he decided to skip practice on Thanksgiving Day, a practice necessitated solely because the team remained out of sync following his arrival. His credibility was shot; his selfish reputation confirmed.

But even if he shot himself in the foot, Iverson can't complain about a lack of organizational support: instead of truly holding him accountable, Michael Curry slapped Iverson on the wrist, benching him for a few minutes at the start of the following game.

Curry continued to bend over backwards to appease Iverson (often at the expense of long-time Pistons) the rest of the season, trying ridiculous lineups that featured tooth-pick thin Tayshaun Prince at power forward and Rip Hamilton at the three -- and when that didn't work, shoving Hamilton, the team's leading scorer from the day he arrived in 2002, to the bench. When Iverson was eventually moved to the bench, the team never called him out when he had a hissy fit and sat out the rest of the season, never questioned the severity of his "back injury," even as he ignored the advice of the team's own medical staff, renowned as one of the best in the league.

And Iverson is the one who felt cheated? How about the rest of the team, who watched the front office position Iverson into the spotlight while showing little regard for those who came before? How about the fans who bought into the hype early in the season, picking up ticket packages with the expectation they'd see a Hall of Fame talent put everything on the line in pursuit of a championship?

Iverson is what he is: entertaining to watch so long as you don't have a genuine rooting interest in the team he represents. He's a peculiar enigma: a legitimate NBA superstar but a fraud as a team cornerstone.

Now he's with the Grizzlies, perhaps the only team in the league that would have him, a team he claims to have chosen because he's "trying to win a championship."

And we're supposed to believe that the Pistons are the liars?