Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tweet twist: Where's Iverson going?
By Chris Sheridan ESPN.com
Iverson's Twitter account: "When you see me again you will think that I am fresh out of Georgetown!"
Are Miami, New York and Charlotte the teams that Allen Iverson is interested in signing with? Yes, according to a post on Iverson's Twitter account on Tuesday.
"My people just informed me that we are getting close to a deal. I asked them to call me when its done. I am so ready to know!" said a post on Iverson's Twitter account late Wednesday morning.
The next post, 18 minutes later, said, "I have not been this eager with anticipation since the night before the NBA Draft in 96. Then I knew where I was going, now I want to know."
So, what's the deal?
Are the Heat, Knicks or Bobcats legitimately interested in the eight-time All-Star coming off the worst season of his career? And what about the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies, two other teams that have been linked to Iverson this summer?
We have some answers, based upon conversations with league executives and other NBA sources.
But first, here's another look at posts from Tuesday on Iverson's Twitter account:
• "If you think that I am just going away-Think again! I am getting ready for the NBA season. Waiting for the call. Charlotte, Miami, NY."
• "Getting in shape, running, lifting and thinking about which team that I will help compete for a championship! Whoever gets me will be happy."
• "I have had a year to get ready, my back is fine now don't worry. When you see me again you will think that I am fresh out of Georgetown!"
• "I have heard all of the doubters, but they should know that I will not be broken and I will remain true to my fans."
"There are financial factors, and there's also the problem of the availability of minutes in our rotation with Ray [Felton, a restricted free agent], Raja [Bell] and D.J. [Augustin] -- and those are a couple of major obstacles we're trying to overcome," Bobcats coach Larry Brown told ESPN.com Tuesday. "But at the end of the day, I want to help him, and it might be as his coach again. We'll have to wait and see."
Translation: With the franchise up for sale, it won't be easy for Brown and team executive Michael Jordan to convince owner Bob Johnson to make Iverson a financial offer that would not be considered insulting to a player of Iverson's stature. The guard made $21.14 million last season with the Denver Nuggets and the Detroit Pistons, but the Bobcats' offer would be much closer to the league minimum, which is $1.306 million for players with 10 or more years of experience.
More from Brown: "I've spoken to a lot of people on his behalf, because last year was a difficult situation for him being put in where he was, replacing Chauncey Billups. That would have been a difficult situation for anybody. But I know he's comfortable with me, and we've had a lot of discussions. When he played for me was probably when he played his best. Would I like to coach him again? Absolutely."
The Knicks were in touch with Iverson's camp early in free agency, and a source close to Iverson said they "were still in the mix, but certainly are not the front-runner."
But a source with the Knicks contradicted that statement, saying New York has dropped out of the picture, even though Iverson would be agreeable to playing under a one-year contract that would not take up any of New York's precious 2010 cap room.
Heat president Pat Riley has gone on record this summer noting that somebody is going to get a tremendous bargain when Iverson eventually signs -- one of several indications that Miami should probably be considered the front-runner.
But the problem here is an economic one, too. Miami is already more than $3 million over the $69.92 million luxury-tax threshold for the upcoming season, and any deal the Heat would agree to with Iverson would cost them double in real dollars because of the tax penalty.
How could that problem be solved? Well, a giveaway of Udonis Haslem and his expiring $7.1 million contract would open up playing time for Michael Beasley and Joel Anthony along the front line while also clearing room to sign Iverson for $3 million to $4 million for one year without eating into the cap space the Heat have set aside for the summer of 2010. Still, there is no indication that the Heat are ready to take that step.
There was quiet progress on this front until quite recently, and Iverson was even set to fly to Los Angeles to speak with team officials, two sources told ESPN.com. But the Clippers then were presented with the opportunity to acquire Rasual Butler from New Orleans for next to nothing: They jumped on it, and Iverson never got on that airplane.
A potential signing here was never a certainty, though, for chemistry reasons. Foremost among the Clippers' concerns was whether Iverson would accept and embrace a role coming off the bench, and whether his presence would hinder the development of their starting 2-guard, Eric Gordon.
Here we have what may end up being Iverson's best fallback option if dollars become the deciding factor. Memphis is well under the cap, could make a better offer than Charlotte and, like the Bobcats, would love to have Iverson aboard simply for his box-office appeal.
But the Grizzlies are for sale, too, and are in no hurry to overpay Iverson (don't forget, they just took on Zach Randolph's contract). One team source said Memphis is content to let the summer play out to wait and see whether Iverson's options continue to dwindle.
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.