Iverson not ready to age gracefully

image from fingerfood.files.wordpress.com Getting old isn’t easy. Things that didn’t hurt now hurt for no logical reason. Moving around in the morning is difficult, again, for no logical reason. Worse, the ol’ recovery and bounce back time is impossible to pinpoint.

Basically, your body gets a mind of its own. The worst part about this is your body has bleep for brains.

Oh, there are a few folks out there who have aged gracefully. Just look at Dara Torres, or Jamie Moyer. Torres is 42 and set an American record in the 50-meter freestyle at the Beijing Olympics when she was 41. Moyer, as we know, has kept one step ahead of the clock for at least a decade. Over the last three seasons, the soon-to-be 47-year-old lefty has won more games than any other Phillies pitcher.

Better yet, Moyer still has the fire to compete. He didn’t have the best season in ’09, but he fought like hell even when he was bumped from the rotation. Out of the bullpen, Moyer gave up four runs in five appearances and helped solidify an inconsistent corps of pitchers.

A couple of years ago Moyer told me that he can still do the same things he always did, only slower and with more breaks.

Perhaps the secret to Moyer’s ability to avoid the pitfalls of age is the page stolen from Satchel Paige. You know, “Don’t look back because someone might be gaining on you.”

“I always felt that I had a burning desire to play,” Moyer said last summer. “In those years I always thought that you’re going to have to strip the uniform off my back. I’ve been released a couple of times, but all that did was fuel the fire for me a little more.”

Then there is Bernard Hopkins, who will fight Enrique Ornelas next month just a few weeks shy of his 45th birthday. And, of course, there’s always the ageless wonder himself, Don Wildman.

Wildman and his Malibu Mafia make everyone look old.

The truth is there is no correlation between age and athletic performance. The difference in why the older athletes struggle so much is desire, changing priorities, wear-and-tear and lack of fitness.

Maybe that’s where Allen Iverson fits in.

Iverson is not old by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, he’s just 34, which is younger than Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Anthony Parker, Ben Wallace, Derek Fisher, Grant Hill, Jason Kidd and Shaquille O’Neal. The difference between Iverson and those players is that they all made adjustments in their game and training regimens, while coming to terms with their age, while Iverson has not.

Iverson, apparently, hasn’t learned that he is 34. He hasn’t figured out that 14 years into the league he needs to hone different skills and can’t just go running into a brick wall every time down the court.

Oh yes indeed, we’re still talkin’ ‘bout practice.

To say Iverson is at a crossroads doesn’t begin to explain it. In fact, Iverson is about to be wiped off the map so completely that he’ll need a GPS to find his way. In his first season playing for the Memphis Grizzlies—his third team since being traded from the Sixers in 2006—Iverson has left the team after playing in just three games.

The reason? He doesn’t want to come off the bench. Worse, he doesn’t want to be a wise, mentoring veteran on a team with seven players in their first or second years in the NBA, and 10 players with no more than three years of experience. It’s kind of ironic that the oldest guy on the team is also the biggest baby.

When one of his younger teammates apparently didn’t see that Iverson was wide open during an overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings, Iverson lashed out at the inability to get him the ball and his reduced role on the team.

“I’m not a reserve basketball player,” Iverson said. “I’ve never been a reserve all my life and I’m not going to start looking at myself as a reserve.”

Nope, Iverson wants to get his. Otherwise he’ll just go home.

That quote from Moyer in which adversity and professional slights only served to make him work harder, make smarter moves and change his tactics is completely lost on Iverson. The only thing fueling the fire within Iverson is his massive ego.

And so he’s gone home.

Worse, he sounds like a cranky old man. In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Iverson complained that no team aside from Memphis wanted him during his summer of free agency. In fact, he’s so disillusioned that no one wanted him and the only team that made a bid last summer sees him as a reserve, that retirement seems like a real possibility.

That’s too bad. It’s too bad because Iverson is a tremendous talent and was one of the few players in the NBA that was worth the high-price of a ticket. But in the NBA, there just aren’t too many players who can do at 34 what they did at 29 or 30. Oh sure, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar continued to be an effective ballplayer through his mid-30s, but Michael Jordan retired for the second time when he was 34. Even Wilt Chamberlain was primarily a role player when he turned 34.

Then again maybe Iverson gets it. Maybe we can save the psycho-babble and simply chalk up Iverson to being a grouchy old man who sees a bunch of kids running past him? But rather than thinking up new ways to keep up, he'd prefer to snatch the ball when it gets kicked into his yard with the loud, sad bellow:

"Get off my lawn!"

As for aging gracefully, well, that doesn’t seem too likely with Iverson. Plus, if he returns to the Grizzlies, coach Lionel Hollins (an ex-Sixers guard like Iverson) says there are some lines that must be toed.

The Answer must abide.

“Allen has his own interpretation of things. I know the truth. He knows the truth,” Hollins told the AP. “What I would like to do is let Allen handle his (personal) issues, make a decision on whether he’s coming back or not and concentrate on what we have to do as a team, both if he’s not here and if he is here.”

Yes, it’s a hard thing getting old. Especially when it takes much more practice.