A.I.'s awesome talent can't cover up rotten attitude

FRANK ZICARELLI

, Last Updated: 3:05 AM ET

Allen Iverson no longer is the answer.

He's become a question in the wake of questionable comments and an attitude that hasn't exactly endeared him to NBA teams, let alone his current team in Detroit.

A free agent this coming summer, it's anyone's guess where the former league MVP and leading scorer will end up next season.

All that is known is that Iverson will earn nowhere near the $29.9 million US stipend he's receiving this season, making him the second-highest overpaid player in the NBA behind Kevin Garnett.

Much like Shawn Marion, who is also a pending free agent, Iverson may well have to settle for the league's mid-level exception of roughly $5.6 million.

The Pistons knew what they were getting when they traded Chauncey Billups to Denver for A.I. in what clearly has turned into a salary dump.

If, as expected, the Pistons part ways with Iverson and Rasheed Wallace, another veteran whose salary comes off the books this summer, the team will have all kinds of flexibility.

When Iverson came out of Georgetown as an underclassman back in 1996, then-Raptors GM Isiah Thomas wanted to take the explosive guard.

If you recall, the Raptors won the lottery that season, but the league's ridiculously short-sighted expansion rules prevented Toronto from selecting first overall. The team was given the second overall pick and chose Marcus Camby.

Word was Iverson had no intention of playing in Toronto, where Thomas wanted to put him in a backcourt with Damon Stoudamire.

Not that Iverson is the kind of player current Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo covets, but his edge and ability to break down defenders are attributes sorely lacking in Hogtown.

One now has to wonder, though, why any team would take a flyer on Iverson, who still is quick, but not quick enough to outrun the baggage he continues to pile upon himself.

Following a loss to the host Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, Iverson groused about his playing time (he played 18 minutes) and questioned why the Pistons had the audacity to "rush him back'' from a back injury.

Iverson's rants over the years have become as famous, or depending on one's perspective, infamous, as his cross-over dribble and toughness.

"He probably would've complained after the first game (when he played 21 minutes) had we lost," rookie Pistons head coach Michael Curry said.

The Pistons are a better team without Iverson, who can't accept his new-found role as a backup.

After playing 17 minutes in New Jersey on Wednesday, Iverson said he's prepared to pack it in if he's not a starter next season.

"I'd rather retire before I do this again,'' he said. "I can't be effective playing this way. I'm not used to it."

The sad truth to Iverson is that he'll one day be referred to as a hall of famer.

A guy that size who plays big and is so mentally and physically tough just doesn't get it.

He can't win on his own and his me-first mentality is front and centre in Detroit.

The answer, it turns out, lies within.

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.COM


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