Hennessy? Hubris? Desperation?
Iverson himself portended the mess in July when he returned to his native Peninsula for a week of charity events. A 10-time all-star and first-time free agent, he spoke of what he wanted in a new team after a disastrous season with the Detroit Pistons.
"I'm talking about a steady diet of happiness all the way through," Iverson said during our conversation. "That's all I want at this point in my career. Obviously I want a championship, but I don't care about statistics anymore like I did when I was younger. I don't care about All-Star games. I don't care about scoring titles, MVPs, none of that.
"I just want to play basketball, be effective and be happy. Be a great teammate. I don't even care about being dominant on the court like I used to be. I don't have any more individual goals. I've done basically everything you can do in a basketball game."
Perfect, right? At 34, Iverson realized he had lost a step or two, that he was no longer the must-see, get-outta-my-way, greatest-scoring little man in NBA history.
No he didn't. Iverson virtually recoiled when asked about playing limited minutes as a reserve.
"Me playing 15 to 20 minutes a game? I might as well just stay home and play with my son for 15 or 20 minutes," he said. "You earn (a starting position). I'll go to (training) camp, and may the best man win. … I'm not losing that battle."
Few if any teams, however, projected Iverson as a 40-minutes-a-night starter. With millions invested in 21-year-old guards Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo, Memphis certainly didn't.
But the Grizzlies needed to sell tickets, and Iverson needed a team. So off to the altar they went, sans forethought and prenup.
Perhaps Iverson could have accepted a secondary role if the Grizzlies were playoff-caliber, if they had a chance of returning him to the NBA Finals for a second time — Iverson carried the Philadelphia 76ers to the brink of a championship in 2001 before losing to Shaq, Kobe and the Los Angeles Lakers in five games.
But Memphis is years (decades?) away from competence. The Grizzlies were 24-58 last season, 22-60 the previous two, and the addition of first-round draft pick Hasheem Thabeet — the 7-foot-3 center from Connecticut sustained a broken jaw in Tuesday's home loss to Portland — will not make them a playoff threat in the Western Conference.
Memphis also lacks the authoritarian coach that Iverson needs — he was at his best playing for Larry Brown in Philly and John Thompson at Georgetown. Yes, Lionel Hollins was the starting point guard on Portland's 1977 NBA champions, but prior to this season, his head-coaching experience was limited to three interim stints with the Grizzlies.
Hollins took over the team in January when ownership fired University of Virginia alum Marc Iavaroni after 11/2 seasons. Memphis was 13-26 thereafter and looks worse now — Tuesday's defeat dropped the Grizzlies to 1-7 and attracted 10,589, barely half of capacity.
Iverson missed the exhibition schedule with a cranky hamstring and upon debuting in the regular season immediately complained about his playing time, 18 minutes in a loss at Sacramento. He tolerated two similar slights — in his mind — before bailing.
Iverson averaged 12.3 points, 3.7 assists and 22.3 minutes while shooting 57.7 percent, stellar numbers for a role player, pocket change for someone who began the season with a career average of 27.1 points, fifth all-time behind Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James and Elgin Baylor.
How does this foolishness end? A temporary truce and return to Memphis? Retirement? A trade? Your guess is as good as any.
Dime magazine proposes a deal that sends Iverson back to the Sixers, fringe contenders in the East. Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon suggests a trade to Cleveland, where Iverson might defer to LeBron and Shaq in pursuit of a championship.
The operative word is might. Iverson is as delusional now as he was skilled during his 2000-01 MVP season.
"I honestly feel like I'm not slowing down," he told me in July. "I'm just thinking I don't want to (play) past 40. I'll push it to the limit. I hope God gives me six more good years."
At this point, six more good months would be an upset.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime
12.3Points averaged in three games with Memphis.
33Average points per game, a season career-high, in 2005-06, his last season with Philadelphia.