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Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Updated: December 13, 2:02 PM ET
No no-trade contract? No problem for The Answer

By Marc Stein
ESPN.com

What they're saying on the Allen Iverson grapevine: The Answer has let it be known that he doesn't want to play in Charlotte.

What they're also saying in front office circles: Iverson's camp got word to Sacramento and Golden State that he's not in a rush to relocate to Northern California, either.

What I find myself saying whenever I hear such sentiments: Amazing, isn't it, how quickly some players scare teams off when pretty much none of them possess a no-trade clause?

The Bobcats, let's face it, would be skittish about trading for A.I. even if he welcomed the move, given owner Bob Johnson's obvious comfort level with a roster that doesn't pay a single player more than $5.5 million. Although he badly wants to fill up his building and ranks as one of the league's most outspoken owners regarding the struggles of small-market teams, Johnson's hesitancy to sanction an Iverson deal doesn't surprise anyone. You can safely surmise that the little man's knack for selling tickets doesn't stand out to the Bobs as much the $39.8 million left on his contract after this season and Iverson's hard-to-handle history.

But here's the thing.

Iverson doesn't possess the ultimate hammer. NBA front office sources confirmed Tuesday that his contract does not contain a no-trade clause.

In fact, as far as I know, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant is the only NBA player who has one.

Why?

This simply isn't baseball, where no-trade clauses or partial no-trade clauses are routinely built into player contracts … and where the famed 10-and-5 rule automatically enables veterans with 10 years of service time and five with a player's current team to veto trades.

In the NBA, only players with at least eight years of service time and four with the same team are eligible for a no-trade clause.

The problem?

Very few players get to that point with one team and then have the opportunity to negotiate a no-trade clause through free agency.

Star players like Iverson, for starters, generally sign their first big-money deals well before their eighth season.

Star players like Iverson, furthermore, often sign extensions to those big deals … and NBA extensions do not allow players to add major changes in contract terms, such as a no-trade clause. A player must enter free agency to change major terms in a contract.

That's how Bryant put himself in the rare position to negotiate a no-trade clause. He was a full-fledged unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2004 and, having just completed his eighth season and after flirting seriously with the Clippers, signed a new seven-year, $136 million contract with the Lakers which includes a no-trade provision.

Iverson?

Turns out he's apparently never been eligible for a no-trade clause, even though this is his 11th season with the same team. His four-year, $72.4 million extension with the Sixers, which began last season, operates under the same main terms -- without a no-trade clause, in other words -- as his previous contract, which he signed before he had eight years in the league.

The league, on top of that, now has the right to suspend players who refuse to report to their new teams after trades, following the Alonzo Mourning debacle in Toronto after the Nets swiped Vince Carter from the Raps in December 2004.

Yet the league's authority in such matters didn't stop the Bobs from quickly abandoning any thoughts of adding Iverson to their quartet of promising kiddies: Emeka Okafor, Adam Morrison, Raymond Felton and Sean May.

The Kings have likewise announced that they're no longer bidding for Iverson, even though they have a history of ignoring star players' initial resistance to Sacto (Chris Webber and Artest) and trading for them anyway.

Iverson, sources say, would welcome a move to either Minnesota or Boston, but the issues confronting the Wolves and Celtics haven't changed. The Wolves don't have a first-round pick to package with the young lead guard Philly covets (Villanova alumnus Randy Foye) and the Celts (so far) can't get Philly to take the daunting step of trading Iverson within its own division unless it includes Al Jefferson and/or Gerald Green in the deal.

My ESPN The Magazine colleague Ric Bucher reported Tuesday night on "SportsCenter" that Iverson is open to an Indiana move as well. The Pacers and Denver Nuggets -- presumably another team Iverson would sanction given the presence of Carmelo Anthony -- increased their interest Tuesday and both are better-positioned than the Wolves or Celts to assemble a trade Philly likes.

All four, though, have one thing in common. All see their odds increase, no matter what above variables tell us, if Iverson can continue to dissuade the teams he doesn't like from making bids.

Without even having official trade-blocking power.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.