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Who Will Blink?

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When Allen Iverson was first told not to show up to Wachovia for a game and it became obvious to all that he would never play for the Sixers again, word was leaked immediately that they wanted to get a deal done FAST.  With Iverson sitting at home continuing to draw a massive pay check, that seemed to make a lot of sense.  That was 9 days ago and counting.

Marc Stein on the other hand argued that the Sixers should be patient (Insider required), and wait for the right offer, on the assumption that the bidders would become more desperate with time.

It has also been mentioned that maybe, just maybe, the Sixers want to suck real bad this year.  Their first round pick in 2007 actually goes to the Warriors if they make the playoffs - and in the Atlantic, you have to suck real bad not to win the division.   (Chris Sheridan mis-reported this draft pick situation ever so slightly in his chat the other day.  He said they keep it if they are 1-15, but it's actually 1-14, i.e. the lottery.  The lottery is for non-playoff teams, not simply the 14 worst records.  So if the Sixers won the Atlantic with say the 10th worst record in the NBA, which is what New Jersey has today, they would still lose the pick.)

It's interesting that the NBA created an entirely ridiculous lottery 26 years ago to keep teams from losing games intentionally, but they allow for these positionally-protected draft picks, which create potentially greater incentives to tank.  And don't get me started on last season's playoff format.

Do they have any incentive at all to act sooner rather than later?  Well, I would argue that they have an obligation to the fans in Philadelphia, but then again, these are the same fans that booed Santa Claus.  Still, on a ten game losing streak and with a post-Iverson attendance average that would be last in the league by a long shot, they could do severe damage to their fan base if they don't do something.

Meanwhile, the news around the league seems to be centering on why teams have decided NOT to pursue Iverson.  So as of now, the waiting strategy would seem to be driving demand down.  Denver, the team universally rumored to be in hottest pursuit, may not be so enthusiastic about a trade after all.  I've questioned the logic of pairing Anthony and AI all along, but am embarrassed to say that I missed another obvious problem with Denver as a destination:  the luxury tax.  Chris Tomasson of the Rocky Mountain News at least asked the question.

The dollar-for-dollar tax threshold is $65.4 million this season and should be slightly higher next season, but the Nuggets have about $69 million already committed for then. If the Nuggets were to trade the expiring $6.8 million contract of Joe Smith in an Iverson deal and get back similar money, they could end up paying that much more in tax dollars.
That could result in the Nuggets paying $26 million next season for Iverson.
Through a team spokesman, Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke had no additional comment on his willingness to pay the tax. Karl declined to speculate on what Kroenke might do.

The Clippers are as interested in Iverson as ever.  Obviously distracted, playing uninspired ball, and in danger of falling out of contention in the hyper-competitive Western Conference, there's no question that the Clips would like to make a deal NOW.  But do they want it enough to include Shaun Livingston in their offer?

Saturday's Philadelphia Inquirer related something from John Nash during a recent broadcast:

Former NBA executive John Nash reported last night on Comcast SportsNet that the Sixers were considering trading Allen Iverson and either Kyle Korver or Rodney Carney to the Los Angeles Clippers for Corey Maggette, Cuttino Mobley and Sam Cassell or Shaun Livingston.

If you want to read into it, you can get a lot of meaning from the above statement.  AI and Korver for Maggette, Mobley and Cassell is of course the deal I caught wind of on Thurday night.  Replacing Cassell in the deal with Livingston and Korver with Carney would keep the salaries in line.  It seems clear to me at this point that the Clippers proposed the deal with Cassell and Korver, and Philly countered with Livingston and Carney.  So, we've known this for awhile, but it's another indication that AI would be in red, white and blue tomorrow if the Clippers were willing to give up Livingston.

So, which team will blink?  The Sixers season is lost, but can they continue to alienate their fans?  The Clippers season is not yet lost, but is headed in that direction, especially if the team can't get focused.  Not that they were playing terrific ball before, but they have one win and four ugly losses since AI went on the block, and the uncertainty of the situation is surely at least partially responsible.