Iverson has back pain, becoming a p-AI-n

Allen Iverson has been a nuisance for the Pistons this season.

He bogs down their offense and is a defensive liability. But he’s playing the way he has for his entire 13-year career, so it’s tough to place all the blame on him. He’s simply doesn’t fit in Detroit’s system, and there isn’t much to do about it.

But he’s quickly becoming a serious problem.

In the latest twist in a strange injury saga, the Pistons announced today that Iverson would miss two weeks with a sore back.

He has missed the last three games after the Pistons decided to make him their sixth man. The last time a coach asked him to come off the bench, Iverson took offense.

“A lot of people might look at it like it’s a selfish thing or something like that,” Iverson said. “Why wouldn’t I start? I’m the franchise player here. I don’t know any franchise players that come off the bench. I don’t know any Olympian that comes off the bench. I don’t know any All-Star that comes off the bench. I don’t know any former MVP that comes off the bench. I don’t know any three-time scoring champion that comes off the bench.

“I don’t know any first team All-NBA (player) that comes off the bench. Why Allen Iverson? Why should I come off the bench? … I think it is an insult to me. Who I am as a player, who I am to this organization, who I’ve been to this organization, that’s an insult to me to come off the bench if I’m a starter.”

So, there’s plenty of doubt about Iverson’s intentions. But Detroit hasn’t missed him.

In the last three games Iverson has been out, the Pistons have beaten three first-place teams — Orlando, Boston and Denver. They moved the ball well, played tight defense and hustled. The evidence Detroit is better without Iverson  is piling up.

Pistons’ record with Iverson: 23-28.

Without: 7-1

Everyone’s spirits seem higher with Iverson out. Although I don’t think anyone dislikes him, it’s clear Iverson hasn’t earned the respect of this team.

It’s the classic chicken-and-the-egg scenario. Did the Pistons play better because because they were winning, or were they winning because they were playing harder?

At this point it doesn’t really matter. Iverson being a chicken about coming of the bench will likely mean egg on his face once he sees the contract offers he gets as a free agent this summer.

This type instability hasn’t been common in Detroit lately, but this situation certainly isn’t the first issue.

Ben Wallace once refused to go back in a game. And Rasheed Wallace’s constant whining to refs and clashes with coaches have been a distraction. But they helped the Pistons win a championship. Fair or not, most fans and their teammates give them a pass.

Iverson, on the other hand, is a guest in Detroit. He was probably going to be a one-year rental when he was acquired, and that fate is almost certain after the previous week.

Last Wednesday: Iverson left Detroit’s game against New Orleans in the first quarter with a sore back.

Thursday: Iverson was described questionable for Friday’s game against Orlando, according to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.

Friday: Pistons coach Michael announced that Richard Hamilton would permanently replaced Iverson in the starting lineup. Iverson tested negative on an MRI. Later that day, he flew back to Detroit for further testing, according to Ellis.

Saturday: Iverson saw a doctor in Detroit and told Curry and strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander that he felt better. The expectation was he’d play against Denver on Tuesday, according to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.

Sunday: Iverson missed the Pistons’ game against the Celtics.

Monday: The Pistons said Iverson had flown to Washington D.C. to get another opinion on his back, according to McCosky.

Yesterday: He missed the Pistons’ game against the Nuggets.

Today: He had additional testing at Georgetown, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of Booth Newspapers. And, of course, the Pistons announced his two-week absence.

Quite the week for the the future Hall-of-Famer. Of course, Iverson’s injury might actually be the reason he’s out. From Blakely:

Curry’s son, Deon, plays football at Michigan State, and suffered a back injury in which the MRI didn’t reveal the extent of the injury.

“Four months later, we realized after a bone scan that he had a fracture in his back,” Curry said. “So you take everything that a player says when they say they’re injured, seriously.”

But Jackie MacMullan said on today’s episode of “Around the Horn” that sources in the Pistons’ front office have their doubts. So does McCosky.

He’s very talented, but at this point, the burden should be on Iverson to prove to Pistons president Joe Dumars that shutting him down for the rest of the season isn’t the Pistons’ best option.

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