Word that the Detroit Pistons decided to park Allen Iverson in the garage for the remainder of the season and the playoffs prompts the question: Have we seen the last of Iverson in an NBA uniform?
Put another way: Is Iverson, the Peninsula native and one of the most fearless competitors ever to lace 'em up, willing and able to remake himself in the twilight of a Hall of Fame career?
Iverson himself used the "R" word — retire — last week in a lengthier vent about the limited minutes he was playing following his return from a back injury.
A couple of days later, the Pistons announced that they were shelving Iverson for the duration due to said back injury. Decide for yourself if that's coincidence or not.
Whether Iverson's remarks were simply heat-of-the-moment frustration or a sincere move toward the exit door remains to be seen. Regardless, change is coming.
Iverson almost certainly is one-and-done in Detroit, where the Pistons are unlikely to re-up for a 5-foot-11, 33-year-old shooting guard with a cranky back and a $20-million salary-cap tag.
Even if Iverson were to agree to a massive pay cut, he hasn't provided the spark that Pistons general manager Joe Dumars proclaimed when he sledgehammered the team's previously stable and successful nucleus last November.
Detroit and Denver essentially traded All-Star guards — Iverson for Chauncey Billups. Iverson averaged the lowest point total in his career (17.4 ppg), and Detroit is under .500 and clinging to the final playoff spot in the East one year after posting the second-best record in the conference.
That's not entirely Iverson's fault, but he has become the poster child for the Pistons' decline, especially when compared to the flip side of the trade. Billups has played impeccably and has helped the Nuggets to the second-best record in the Western Conference, behind the Lakers.
Want more smoke signals that Iverson's time in Detroit is short? By shelving Iverson, management is saying that it's more comfortable heading into postseason with a pair of second-year pros in the guard rotation — Will Bynum and Rodney Stuckey — than with a 12-year pro who averages double figures and who leaves every ounce of himself on the floor.
Iverson missed 16 games between late February and late March. Upon his return, the goal was to bring him off the bench as sixth man while grooming the younger guards.
Before Iverson came back, he said all the right things about playing a reserve role: He was willing to do it; he wouldn't cheat the game; another obstacle to overcome, blah blah blah …
But after playing limited minutes in three games, the role of sixth man clearly didn't suit him. The man who averages 41.4 minutes and 27.1 points per game for his career averaged 7.7 points and 2.7 assists in just less than 19 minutes per game.
After Iverson was told that he played just 18 minutes in a loss to Cleveland, he said, "Eighteen minutes? C'mon, man. I can play 18 minutes with my eyes closed, with a 100-pound truck on my back. That's a bad feeling. I'm wondering what the rush was to get me back, for that?"
One night later, after playing 17 minutes in a loss to the Nets, Iverson told reporters: "I'd rather retire before I do this again. I can't be effective playing this way. I'm not used to it. It's tough for me, mentally and physically."
Two days later, the Pistons pulled the plug.
Which brings us to next season and beyond. Again, there's no telling if Iverson amends his thoughts and remarks as his back heals and this season fades into the distance.
Whatever happens, Iverson doesn't have complete control over his NBA endgame, not unless he says "Sayonara" and walks off into the sunset.
If he wants to continue playing, the first question: Is anyone interested?
If the answer to The Answer is yes, the questions multiply. If Iverson decides that he's comfortable with a sixth-man role, would he accept sixth-man money? How badly does he want a ring?
Would a team, specifically a contending team, be willing to take the leap that a player who has been a high-minutes, ball-in-his-hands player his entire career can change his spots (Stephon Marbury and the Celtics)?
Might Iverson go the mercenary route and sell himself to the highest bidder? In that instance, would he be willing to become a marketing tool in high-tops in some Memphis or Oklahoma City purgatory?
What's unclear, as well, is how much Iverson has left in the tank. He turns 34 in June, and given the fierceness with which he competes and the punishment that his 175-pound frame has absorbed through the years, you have to think that the needle is plummeting toward "E."
The qualities that made him great — toughness, relentlessness, complete disregard for his body — don't lend themselves to a gradual decline or a willingness to fill a complementary role. It's like expecting a shark to wait until dinner time.
Though Iverson's best days are behind him, he insists that he can still go. Only he knows how much and how far.
Put it to a votePut it to a vote Will Allen Iverson retire from basketball following this season?
Do you want him to walk away from the game?
Go to dailypress.com/sports to vote.
Dave Fairbank can be reached at 247-4637 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Fairbank, read his blog at dailypress.com/fromthetarpit.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun