Sunday, September 6, 2009
Updated: September 8, 7:53 PM ET
Iverson, Grizzlies meet Monday
By Marc Stein
Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley, flanked by coach Lionel Hollins and general manager Chris Wallace, met with Allen Iverson on Monday in Atlanta in hopes of finally signing the four-time NBA scoring champion to a one-year contract.
Iverson has dropped numerous hints via Twitter in recent weeks that he is open to joining the Grizzlies, but the sides have yet to strike a deal even though Memphis is believed to be the only NBA team actively pursuing the 34-year-old.
"I want to help them develop a winner," Iverson tweeted Sunday night.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal, quoting a source with knowledge of Monday's talks, described it "as a very positive meeting on both sides."
The Grizzlies are believed to be offering Iverson a one-year contract worth $3.5 million. The Commercial Appeal quoted its source as saying: "I think it'll go down."
In confirming the scheduled meeting Sunday night, Heisley told ESPN.com: "[The meeting] does not mean it's a done deal. [Iverson] wants to meet and have some questions answered and we want to meet."
"We had a meeting today in which we did not make any progress," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said. "No further talks are scheduled."
But Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace, in a radio interview Tuesday with WHBQ-AM in Memphis, sounded hopeful about Iverson ultimately joining the team, saying: "We had a very productive meeting yesterday where both sides got to know each other and what our expectations were. We got to hear Allen out, he got to hear us out and I thought it went pretty well."
Asked specifically about Iverson's well-known aversion to coming off the bench, Wallace said: "He indicated to us that he just wants to come in and help a team out, to get better, to win, and he'll shine during that process. I think Allen Iverson is going to be very fine with whatever role he would end up fulfilling here in Memphis. ... He knows where we're coming from, we know where he's coming from and I think if he comes here it's going to be a very productive marriage."
The Grizzlies, at Heisley's behest, have been trying to convince Iverson to join them since free agency began, ignoring concerns about the 34-year-old accepting a reserve role or his ability to co-exist in the same offense with O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph because of Iverson's presumed ability to generate interest and sell tickets for a franchise that languished in the shadow of John Calipari's Memphis Tigers.
Monday's sitdown was the first face-to-face contact between Iverson and Grizzlies officials since the process began, with Memphis negotiating to this point primarily with Leon Rose, Iverson's agent.
Iverson has spent much of the past two months hoping that a firm offer would materialize from the Miami Heat, New York Knicks or Charlotte Bobcats -- the latter to reunite with former coach Larry Brown -- but was ultimately forced to concede that only the Grizzlies have the financial flexibility and definite interest to make a commitment to Iverson after his nightmarish 2008-09 season with the Detroit Pistons.
"We're heading into the home stretch before the season, and we have had interest in Allen all summer," Wallace told ESPN.com in late August.
Last week, Wallace described the prospect of Iverson signing with the Grizzlies as "50-50" in an interview with the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
"We'll see," Wallace told the newspaper. "... He's in new territory. He's never been a free agent. He's never been a free agent this late in the offseason. I'm sure he's trying to turn over as many scenarios as he can until he has to commit."
Iverson played in only 57 games between Denver and Detroit last season and averaged a career-low 17.5 points, hampered by a back injury and his open struggles to cope with coming off the bench for the first time in his career. He would end up leaving the team in April by mutual agreement before the playoffs.
But Iverson has insisted in recent days that he is amenable to whatever the Grizzlies have in mind for him as well as the steep drop from last season's salary of nearly $21 million, writing via Twitter: "Memphis is a place that I would love to play. The Grizzlies have good young players with a great upside. I love the city of Memphis, too.
"I would lead by example," Iverson wrote.
In a July interview with ESPN.com, Heisley scoffed at suggestions that signing Iverson -- the sort of drawing card that the Grizzlies have never had in an eight-season run in Memphis marked by notoriously low attendance figures -- was dangerous given the presence of Mayo at the same position and the recent arrival of Randolph.
"What appeals to me?" Heisley said, repeating the question. "He's one of the greatest players in the last 10 years in the NBA.
"Obviously I think he'd be a crowd pleaser in Memphis. But like I said ... we're in there but I don't know whether or not we're going to get him."
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.