Once you've been told "no" by the Knicks, I'm not sure where else there is to go. But I hear Europe is pretty nice this time of year.
The sad decline of Allen Iverson's once-brilliant career continued Friday when he was informed that, yes, there is an NBA player too controversial, too high-maintenance, and too wrong for the Knicks. And he was handed a mirror to help him figure out who that player is.
This isn't good news or bad news for the Knicks, who aren't going anywhere before July 1, 2010 with or without Iverson. But it's terrible news for Iverson, because New York might've been his last hope for a dignified exit from the NBA.
After the Knicks, the line of interested parties appears to be shorter than the line outside Edward Scissorhands' barber shop. The two most recent members of the cutting-off-nose-to-spite-face club -- Detroit and Memphis -- serve as Exhibits A and B in the perils that accompany one of the most talented, unique, and maddening players ever to suit up in the NBA.
What about the Magic, who just lost point guard Jameer Nelson for at least a month due to a knee injury? "I like where my team sits right now," GM Otis Smith told me Friday. The Nuggets, who enjoyed a mostly positive experience with A.I.? "Zero interest," said a person familiar with their plans. Iverson's former coach, Larry Brown, has been quick to call every team on his speed dial and recommend his former point guard/nemesis. But that says everything you need to know. Imagine getting a call from a colleague recommending that you hire someone. Aren't you just dying to ask, "If this guy's so good, why don't you hire him?"
The Knicks' decision to back away came hours after Iverson, released by the Grizzlies after playing only three games, cleared waivers Thursday night. At one point during the Knicks' deliberations, some members of the team's hierarchy, including coach Mike D'Antoni, were willing to take a chance on the multiple-time scoring champion as a way to infuse some life into a 2-9 team that is struggling to score points.
The tipping point was that the baggage and controversy Iverson would bring with him to the Knicks, a franchise trying to emerge from years of drama and negative publicity, outweighed the potential gains.
"I've always admired him," Knicks president Donnie Walsh told reporters at the team's Westchester County practice facility. "I think he'd be a great addition for a team that's in a different position than we're in, and I hope he gets picked up."
D'Antoni said Iverson's desire to play 40 minutes a game, which was his undoing in Detroit and Memphis, wouldn't have worked.
"We just didn't think right now we wanted to have that dominant force on the team," D'Antoni said. "We're going to stick with the plan and it just wasn't the right situation. Allen is a great player, no doubt about it, but that's not the route we're going to take right now."
For the Knicks, that route is something that resembles sanity, which has been in short supply at Madison Square Garden for the past decade. If the Knicks had gone through with this with Iverson, you wouldn't have heard one word of criticism from me. Iverson would've made the Knicks watchable for the rest of this miserable season, and signing him wouldn't have affected the plans to clear cap space for 2010.
But I also have no problem with Walsh and D'Antoni looking into the eye of a franchise wrecking ball and concluding that the Knicks couldn't afford any more scrapes. If Isiah Thomas were still running things, the buzz up in Greenburgh, N.Y., would've been generated by an Iverson press conference capped off by his first day of practice. Under Walsh and D'Antoni, short-term fixes and moves motivated by short-sighted desperation are no longer requirements for the job.
Iverson, 34, would've provided a spark for the Knicks' moribund offense and generated fan interest in a team with no marquee star as the franchise limps through the last season of a salary-cap purge to prepare for the free-agent bonanza of 2010. But the Knicks, who've endured years of dysfunction, also are trying to turn the page on the kind of controversy, headlines, and distractions that have accompanied years of losing.
While the team was deliberating Iverson's value over the past few days, a second source with knowledge of the team's strategy said it appeared likely the Knicks would go forward with a contract offer. But the source cautioned that there was the potential for "hang-ups" in the process. In the end, there may have been cause for concern on both sides. If Iverson didn't hear what he wanted to hear about his potential role with the Knicks, it was for the best that this didn't work out.
So where else can he go? The Miami Heat have been mentioned as another potential suitor, but Dwyane Wade would have to sign off on such a controversial addition. A prolific scorer when in his prime, Iverson can still get to the basket and put up numbers. But it appears that his hopes of landing with a contending team are over; there were no takers over the summer when he opted to sign with the Grizzlies.
The Bobcats? Again, if Brown thinks signing Iverson is such a great idea, then he should go ahead and do it. The only problem is, Charlotte just acquired Stephen Jackson, another controversial scorer, and there's little reason to believe Iverson would be any happier in Charlotte than he was in Memphis.
Iverson's personal manager, Gary Moore, said recently that A.I. is determined to hook up with another NBA team this season and conclude his career on a positive note. But I keep going back to the moment last season in the visiting locker room in New Jersey, when Iverson vowed to retire before coming off the bench for another team. I've known him for nearly 14 years, so that statement didn't surprise me. "Playing every game like it's my last" has been the mantra that's sustained him. Now, that last game might've already come and gone.