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The Iverson Watch

Believe it or not, my proposed Iverson trade, almost EXACTLY, was printed in the Philadelphia Daily News today, albeit with more disclaimers than a clinical trial drug:

In Rumorville - and, please, there is no hard confirmation of anything here - there is speculation of discussions with the Los Angeles Clippers that could net some combination of Corey Maggette, Sam Cassell, Zeljko Rebraca and a first-round draft choice...

Wow.  About the only thing that's missing is calling big Z an F-DEC.  Did the Clippers really discuss this trade with the Sixers?  It would appear that the Daily News got their tip from, well, me.

Combine the above rumor with a decidedly SOFTER stance from the likes of Mike Dunleavy Sr and Elgin Baylor and things are getting interesting in ClipperNation.  Saturday's LATs quoted a team source as saying that the Clippers were not interested because of AI's contract (admittedly huge) and his style of play (which I say should not be a problem).  In today's OCR, Art Thompson III had this from MDSr:

Dunleavy said every team is interested in Iverson but the prevailing factor in any projected deal would be cost. Iverson is due to make $17,184,375 this season, $19,012,500 next season and another $20,840,625 the year after, in the final season of his seven-year contract.

But Dunleavy said Iverson would not have any problem fitting in with any team that acquired him.

"The way he plays, his ability to score points, he can do it in a lot of different ways," Dunleavy said. "It would depend on which team got him, and what the components that went with it were. But I don't particularly see him as a tough guy to work in."

He basically addresses the two issues, point by point, that were raised by the `team source' on Saturday.  So, salary is an issue (duh), style of play is not.  Glad we got that cleared up.

I'm sure the Sixers are still asking for Shaun Livingston, and would do the deal in a heart beat if Livingston were thrown in.  I just don't think the Clippers are going to do that, though perhaps they should.  As the Sports Guy pointed out when he made Shaun the cover boy for Tremendous Upside Potential (TUP), we all know that Shaun could be great, but still, "it's not happening, it's not happening, it's not happening..."

Stephen A. Smith says that the Warriors are the frontrunners and the Celtics are a close second in this podcast (Insider required).  But here's the thing about Stephen A - he's an idiot.  For instance:  

"I know for a fact that the Philadelphia 76ers desperately want somebody like a Monta Ellis because they like his skills and they love his contract. And that's the one guy that Golden State desperately wants to hold on to. But I think they ultimately have to unload him in order for the Sixers to pull the trigger and make the deal. So I would say Golden State's the front runner right now."

They love his contract?  He's got one year left on a minimum deal.  Of course they love it.  And they better love it a LOT for the next 4 months, because then it's time to sign an extension, and they'll have to pay him a LOT more or risk losing him.  So basically Ellis' contract does nothing to offset the AI trade under the cap rules, and then the Sixers have to pay him in 18 months, just when CWebb was coming off the books and they were hoping to be a big player in the free agent market.  Instead they'd be spending that cap space to keep Ellis, so they better like his SKILLS a whole hell of a lot more than they like his CONTRACT.

If AI ends up in Oaktown, Billy King is dumber than I thought (and I thought he was pretty dumb).  GS has almost nothing to offer.  All of their contracts run at least as long as Iverson's, and Ellis isn't signed long enough to make it a bargain.  Maybe Biedrins is interesting...  but still.  Iverson for Biedrins and no cap relief?  C'mon!

Likewise, I don't see the Sacramento angle.  Great, the Maloofs are gamblers.  I get it.  Pairing Iverson and Artest would be an exciting gamble.  Yadda yadda yadda.  What the hell do they have to offer the Sixers in return?  If they take 28 year old Mike Bibby, who has two more years and $28M left on his contract, what have they gained?  I repeat, Billy King would have to be pretty stupid.

Yesterday I said I thought the Bobcats had a real chance.  David Aldridge reports in the Philadelphia Inquirer that a Charlotte deal was basically done, but that Iverson himself nixed it.  

The Sixers, according to a source, were close to sending Iverson to the Charlotte Bobcats for a package of players yesterday afternoon. But Iverson indicated his displeasure with being sent to the Bobcats - the league's newest team, having begun play in 2004 - and the deal died, the source said.

Now I ask you, what the hell?  Did Philly acquiesce to AI's demand, or did Charlotte?  Because if it was Philly, I do NOT get it.  The guy asked to be traded, and when they accommodate him, he says, 'No, not there.'  And why?  Because Charlotte won't be good?  I've got news for you - it's the Eastern Conference!  Anyone could go to the Finals!  And by the way, good teams don't want you!  They're already good!

But enough about the rumors.  I've got an actual scoop for you.  I haven't seen them mentioned ANYWHERE, but I'm told that the real front runner right now is Orlando, offering Jameer Nelson and Grant Hill.  This one makes a lot of sense.  The Sixers get almost $17M in cap relief from Hill's contract, plus the young, Philly-bred point guard they want - and Nelson, unlike Randy Foye, has proven he can play at this level.  Meanwhile, Orlando gets to pair AI with a young superstar who, like KG and EB, is more about rebounds and put backs.  In other words, AI can have the ball 90% of the time and Dwight won't mind.  You heard it here first.  (If it shows up in the Philadelphia Daily News tomorrow without attribution, I'm suing.)

Back to the Clippers for a moment.  Obviously the team is not playing well, and something needs to happen.  Watching warm-ups last night, with no Kaman and no Maggette, I wondered briefly if one or both of them had been dealt.  Of course Kaman to Philly makes no sense, as the Sixers already have a young, talented, underachieving center making 8 figures, so they probably don't want two of them.  But they obviously need to shake things up.

I'm told that Maggette could have played last night.  I really think Corey's been a trooper through all this - he's said the right things about helping the team, coming off the bench, etc.  But he was the leading scorer for this team two seasons in a row, and now he's SEVENTH in minutes per game.  13 minutes last week against Miami.  When he finally got his first start (8 Clippers have more starts, by the way), MDSr's explanation was a total insult to Corey.  Not "We need Corey's offense in the game."  It was, "We need Q on the bench so he can match up with Manu."  Corey is a completely forgotten man, and the writing is on the wall.  Other teams value him more highly than Dunleavy does, and he'll be gone before the end of the year.  I'm hearing it could be to Memphis for Mike Miller, but I'm not buying that.  Why would they make that trade with Gasol almost back from his injury?

After the debacle that has been the first 20 games, and in the particularly humiliating experience of playing a good team twice in four days, the Clippers should be on the phone to the 2-1-5.  Elgin has the pieces to put together a decent offer for AI.  At this point, there's no excuse for not trying.