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Stephen A. Smith: Time for Iverson to call it a career?

DALLAS - Now that Allen Iverson has elected to skip Sunday's NBA All-Star Game, reports circulating throughout the league have him retiring soon. According to those close to the Answer, there's no truth to that.

DALLAS - Now that Allen Iverson has elected to skip Sunday's NBA All-Star Game, reports circulating throughout the league have him retiring soon. According to those close to the Answer, there's no truth to that.

But considering the personal issues that Iverson has endured of late, combined with how they have affected his willingness to play, we have to wonder:

Is it time for Iverson to call it a career? It's a legitimate question, now more than ever.

The 59th annual NBA All-Star Game is scheduled to take place at the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. More than 80,000 fans are expected, which would break the NBA's attendance record. Consider that Iverson received more than a million votes to be an all-star starter - knowing that his statistics did not warrant the accolade - and his willingness to skip the festivities should speak volumes about his state of mind.

"I didn't know a damn thing about his decision to skip this weekend until this morning," one of Iverson's closest confidants said. "I'm stunned. Even with things the way they are, I could've sworn he'd be in Dallas by now. This doesn't feel good."

That person did not want to speak publicly because of the situation.

Messiah Iverson, the all-star guard's 3-year-old daughter, is ill. Iverson is worried sick. His wife, Tawanna, is feeling worse.

"The worst part of it all is that they're still trying to figure out specifically what's wrong with her," Iverson's confidant said of Messiah's medical treatment. A source said last night that her condition was worsening.

If this situation is not a parent's worst nightmare, it's pretty close. Iverson's family can use our prayers right now.

In addition to his most pressing issue at home, Iverson must ponder his career and what is left of it.

He has averaged just 14.7 points and 4.2 assists in 22 games since returning to the 76ers. The perennial all-star had spent a career scoring 20 a night in his sleep. Iverson has played in just 82 games over the last two seasons. However, he has been lauded for his elevated leadership skills, his willingness to play team basketball, adopting a cerebral game to pair with the explosive skills he displayed for years.

The problem is that folks are questioning how explosive Iverson really is anymore. The purpose of his coming back to Philadelphia was to return to a place he loved (and loved him back) so he could fuel his ascension back to the land of basketball relevancy.

There should be no complaints coming from anyone about Iverson, considering the circumstances he's faced with right now. But you've got to wonder if his absence is hurting his mission to resurrect his career.

When I spoke to Iverson last month at the Wachovia Center, all he could talk about was how excited he was. "I'm so happy to be back," he said. "It feels good to be loved and to be surrounded by it. But now I've got some things to prove. Folks are sleeping on me. I've got to address that, and I will. Most definitely."

At the time, Iverson seemed to understand what the rest of us were feeling: that there was uncertainty about his abilities, and maybe he indeed had lost a step. The constant banging in the NBA is too much for a 6-foot, 165-pound guard to take.

But does he understand that his career is in peril now? Does he care?

Iverson plans to return to the Sixers after the all-star break when they entertain the Miami Heat on Tuesday. But keep in mind that in this incarnation with the team, although Iverson has been solid most of the time, he has been average.

Nothing more.

Upon Iverson's return, team and league executives will talk about how difficult things have been for him. They will talk about how many spectacular moments he has given us over the years. But what will it really mean when it's time to add him to a roster and cut the check?

Inevitably, that time away from the game will be used against Iverson, along with the way he was playing before he departed.

Iverson will have to think about that, too. Eventually.

It's business for everyone else, regardless of the circumstances surrounding Iverson's family.