/ |

Iverson continues to be own worst enemy


NEW YORK — For a New Yorker who three years in a row purchased season tickets a section removed from the 76ers’ bench just to be assured of the opportunity to be entertained by Allen Iverson whenever in Philadelphia, it’s distressing to see his career tumbling (bouncing out of Graceland) so unhappily and dishonorably.

Two seasons ago, Iverson was an All-Star, averaging 26.4 points for a Nuggets team summarily swept by the Lakers in the opening playoff round. Since, if you’re scoring at home or sponging off someone else, he’s been run out of more towns — Denver, Auburn Hills and Memphis — believe it or not, than Larry Brown.

Sad to say, in actuality, Iverson quit his last two pit stops. The same stubborn snag — an unbecoming, uncompromising repudiation to accept reservist duty — has served to reinforce the popular perception he’s a bad guy.

I know different, as in completely the opposite. During his 10 years as a 76er, never once wasn’t Iverson straight up with me, never once did he lead me astray, as so many other NBA people are inclined to do, never once was he remotely disrespectful to my wife and children who were often around the team on and off the court.

Regrettably, I failed to abide by his rigid scruples regarding family.

In the summer of 2002, I believe, Iverson was indicted on roughly 17 counts of this, that and other nasty stuff — breaking and entering, wielding a weapon, throwing his wife into the street naked, etc. A court trial judged him to be innocent on all charges.

Prior to that, I had authored an attempted stab at humor at his wife’s expense. A month or so later, our paths crossed in Memphis, of all places; Hubie Brown had just been hired to coach the Grizzlies and I was on the case.

When I walked into the 76ers’ locker room before the game I sensed some serious tension. Iverson shouted something derogatory in my direction and, forgetting the unflattering one-liner, I went over to find out what was up.

Without getting the attention of too many teammates (Eric Snow was nice enough to turn away and lower his head), Iverson let me know flat out how disappointed he was that I would write something like that about his wife, and reminded me how considerate he’s always been of mine.

“You mean to tell me that one lousy line is worth ruining our relationship,” Iverson concluded.

It was valuable lesson well learned. Too bad Iverson never has had any hangers-on capable of offering him constructive criticism or willing to tell him something he doesn’t want to hear.

“Allen has one speed in life and on the court and his beliefs are very high and unbending,” someone on his periphery emphasizes. “He could be murderous as a sixth man, but he sees the role as a nothing but degrading.

“The same thing that makes him great is the same thing that’s killing him. His tombstone will read: Died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

When you’ve got the kind of talent Iverson is blessed with, it’s easy to fathom where he’s coming from. Even at 34, he’s consumed with conceit. He can’t imagine any defender being able to stop him.

Is Iverson convinced or confused?

Yes, he still might have what it takes to be the top scorer or two for a fading franchise like the Pistons were last season, and shanty towns like the Grizzlies and Knicks.

On the other hand, his scoring sprees in Denver didn’t help the Carmelo Anthony-led Nuggets to get out of the first round. Moreover, not a single championship contender, well aware he wasn’t going to settle for super sub status, reached out to him this past summer.

Who knows, maybe the realization he was unwanted by the elite explains why he keeps talking about winning being all-important at this point in his career.

* * * * *

I’ve made it pretty clear how much I think of Brandon Jennings’ game, but Sports Illustrated went to extremes when it tagged him as the Bucks best draft pick since Lew Alcindor.

Shouldn’t a national magazine show a tad more restraint than us tabloid tally whackers?

You would think their highly recruited authors would display a little better sense of history.

I mean, does the name Julius Erving ring a bell?

Drafted by the Bucks in 1972.

Are you telling me SI fact checkers didn’t discover Dirk Nowitzki was taken by the Bucks with the ninth pick in 1998 before being re-routed to the Mavericks for Tractor Traylor.

Isn’t nine games into Jennings’ rookie season a bit premature to label him better than Sidney Moncrief . . . and Marques Johnson . . . and Michael Redd?

Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.