Allen Iverson doesn't need to worry about coming off the bench anymore. The four-time scoring champion and disgruntled bench warmer will miss the rest of the season due to what the Pistons described as ongoing back discomfort. But the discomfort for both sides clearly originates from an area a bit lower on the body.
Iverson in Detroit has been nothing but a pain in the ___ for both parties. Now, their brief and stormy marriage is over.
Britney Spears has had relationships longer than this.
It's come to a merciful end for A.I. and the Pistons, who never found any sort of common ground after Iverson was acquired from Denver in the Chauncey Billups trade.
UPDATE: Despite the wording of a Pistons news release that blames the decision to shut Iverson down on his back injury, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com that the decision also was related to Iverson's escalating rants about playing time and being removed from the starting lineup. And given Iverson's obvious dissatisfaction -- "I'm not happy. At all," he said recently -- the decision can obviously be described as mutual.
The Iverson trade has been an unmitigated disaster, at least in the short term. Iverson couldn't play with Richard Hamilton or Rodney Stuckey, and he couldn't stomach coming off the bench after he returned from a back injury last week. He went so far as to unleash an impressive tirade after the Pistons lost to the Nets Wednesday night, saying he'd retire before he ever played a reserve role again.
Iverson's contract is up after the season, providing the Pistons with about $20 million in cap space. He turns 34 in June, three weeks before the start of free agency, and clearly won't be re-signing with the Pistons. Perhaps the only surer thing in NBA history was that Latrell Sprewell would never play for P.J. Carlesimo again.
Now, given Iverson's guarantee that he'll won't play again unless he's starting -- "That's 100 percent fact," he said -- you have to wonder whether A.I.'s wonderful, combustible, eventful career has come to an end after 13 seasons.
Here's the sanitized version from Pistons president Joe Dumars:
“After talking with Allen and our medical staff, we feel that resting Allen for the remainder of the season is the best course of action at this time,” Dumars said in a news release. “While he has played in our last three games, he is still feeling some discomfort and getting him physically ready to compete at the level he is accustomed to playing this late in the season does not seem possible at this point.”
UPDATE: Not only has the trade bombed for the Pistons, but Billups has been the key factor in elevating the Nuggets from their previous status as an inconsistent, immature pretender into a solid contender. Denver has a one-game lead on San Antonio and a 1 1-2 game lead on Houston for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Iverson finished the season averaging 17.5 points, by far the lowest of his career. The previous low came in his second season in the league, when he averaged 22.0 for Philadelphia in 1997-98. When Iverson's contract comes off the books, along with possibly Rasheed Wallace's $13.7 million, the Pistons will have more than $30 million in cap space to be allocated over the next two summers if they choose.
Aside from winning four scoring titles and leading the 76ers to the 2001 NBA Finals (where they lost 4-1 to the Lakers), Iverson (6-feet) became the shortest player to attain two of the biggest individual accomplishments in the sport -- lead the league in scoring and win MVP. But as much as Iverson redefined the guard position with his explosiveness and durability, his individual accomplishments overshadowed team performance for much of his career. He clashed with numerous coaches -- most notable Larry Brown in Philly -- and his need to dominate the ball made it difficult to find complementary talent to pair with him. He enjoyed moderate success with Carmelo Anthony in Denver, but the closest he ever came to coexisting with a running mate was when he played with Toni Kukoc in Philadelphia. That didn't end well, either, as the Sixers eventually saw no recourse but to deactivate Iverson in December 2006 and trade him to the Nuggets along with throw-in Ivan McFarlin for Andre Miller, Joe Smith, and two first-round picks.
Ironically, Miller is leading the Sixers to their second straight playoff appearance without Iverson. The Pistons' announcement Friday that Iverson will miss the rest of the season came a little more than 24 hours before Iverson would've suffered the indignity of sitting on the bench in the arena he used to own; the Pistons are at Philly Saturday and face another must-win game at home Sunday against Charlotte, which is threatening to knock them out of the playoff picture. Smith is part of a Cleveland team that is a strong championship contender. And Billups, of course, appears to be orchestrating a long postseason run in Denver.
Iverson also will go down as the player who personified the introduction of hip-hop culture to the mainstream of the NBA. His tattoos, corn rows, and do-rags were a mainstay for more than a decade. Iverson, more than anybody, was the target of commissioner David Stern's decision to institute a dress code for players on league business in 2005. Iverson also drew Stern's ire for some distasteful rap lyrics, among other things.
Times have changed. Now the vast majority of players willingly wear suits on road trips, and even Iverson acquiesced recently when he shaved his trademark braids just before All-Star weekend. There's no telling whether he'll keep the new look when -- or if -- he ever surfaces again.
"I'm happy with my career and the things that I've done in my career," Iverson said this week. "If I hung 'em up today, I'm blessed."