Now that Allen Iverson is no longer under contract with the Grizzlies, more details of his brief, tumultuous tenure with the team are starting to come out, starting (but probably not ending) with a couple or interesting pieces today.
Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins comes clean — at least from his perspective — with the Philadelphia Inquirer's Phil Jasner:
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins, a onetime Sixers guard who won a championship with the Portland Trail Blazers, views the situation as "strange."
"He got hurt in training camp, so I hadn't even had a chance to fit him in," Hollins said. "But I do know that every issue was addressed before we ever started. Our owner told him he was being brought in to mentor the young guards, to come off the bench. He didn't blink.
"I said he could compete [with Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo] for a starting spot, see whether it works. I asked him if he could handle it if it turned out he would be coming off the bench. He didn't blink.
"I told him I wasn't out to prove I was the boss; I wasn't out to break him. I told him, 'You're stubborn, and I'm stubborn, but if we react to each other like that nobody wins.' He laughed."
These comments from Hollins echo some off-the-record info that began to drift around FedExForum in the past week, push back against the idea that the team hadn't fully discussed potential roles — including coming off the bench — with Iverson. But as long as Iverson was under contract, team officials were always vague about their meeting with Iverson. That has clearly changed now.
The Philadelphia Inquirer article also contains a tidbit of advice offered by from someone who knew Iverson well:
Pat Croce, the Sixers' former president and part owner, tried to tell the Memphis media what to expect.
"I told them I love Allen, that I'll never forget him, that he's special," Croce said before the news of the contract termination broke. "But is he going to change? No. I told them he'll pass the ball to teammates once, twice, but if they can't score he won't pass the third time. He gets frustrated when things don't go his way.
"I told them I sat him down to talk a lot, probably more than my two kids together. To me, the secret is twofold; he has to believe in you, and you have to stay on him all the time. You can't give an inch. Look back at the people who have given an inch; he's run them over. He has to know you're not giving in. When you give him a contract, you also have to give him your rules."
There's also an Iverson-related piece today from Yahoo!Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, which contains the following anecdote from Iverson's rocky West Coast trip with the team:
During Allen Iverson’s final days in Memphis, the Grizzlies owner should’ve had to sit and listen to A.I.’s voice bellowing in the back of the bus. On his way out of the Staples Center one week ago, on his way out of the NBA, Iverson made sure his bosses could hear him in the front. Lionel Hollins let it go, the way the coaches in Philadelphia once did, too.
Just let A.I. rip, let him go. Sources say Iverson started to speak louder and louder about how he had played for one dumb bleeping coach in Detroit a year ago, and now had come to play for another dumb bleeping coach in Memphis. He never dared speak this way on the Detroit Pistons’ bus because he feared team president Joe Dumars and respected the championship players on board.
With Memphis, forget it. The Grizzlies are a joke, signing Iverson for pure box-office reasons, and he made sure everyone — especially Hollins — could hear his frustration. Within 36 hours, Iverson was on “leave,” never to return to Memphis.