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Iverson in LA - Is it 2006?

I realized that I have not yet posted on the front page of Clips Nation concerning the Allen Iverson rumors.  I've been at summer league, watching games, commenting on threads - in fact, when someone asked me for my thoughts about AI on the Clippers-Lakers thread I just told them to go look for what I said on the earlier thread.  But I just realized that sifting through hundreds of comments probably isn't the best way to communicate on this one. 

I was watching the Suns-Mavs game when I first became aware of the rumor via Lisa Dillman's Twitter about referencing 'very serious talks'.  As it happens, Mike Dunleavy, Neil Olshey, Kim Hughes, Fred Vinson, Tony Brown and Marcus Camby were standing about 100 feet from me.  So I hopped up onto my little cub reporter feetsies and sauntered over non-chalantly and asked them about Iverson to the Clippers.  Unfortunately, I had loaned my voice recorder to PhoenixStan, so I don't have exact quotes for you.  Here's what I wrote in the thread at the time:

I just asked them [MDsr and Olshey] about AI. They have no comment. Actually, they feigned surprise that the rumor is out there. Of course, what are they going to say?

The word 'feigned' in there is perhaps a little unfortunate.  But the point is, they said stuff like "This place is one big rumor" (that is a direct quote from Olshey) and Dunleavy gave me a "Oh we're signing Iverson?  Really?  I didn't know that" sort of a reaction.  But Ric Bucher had been sitting next to MDsr for about a half hour talking to him directly before this, so obviously, even if the story was floated by Iverson's camp, they were well aware that it was out there. 

(Upon further reflection, the timing is really interesting.  I had been over to talk to MDsr just moments earlier, and posted my 'mini-interview' with him on some pretty mundane topics at 3:57.  When I approached him, he was reading and replying to a text - no doubt Iverson related in retrospect, as Dillman sent her Tweet about 4 PM, and Joel Meyers referenced the rumor on air at 4:15 PM.  So I must have looked like a complete idiot.  "Hey coach, I want to ask you about the breaking news story of....  Thornton's rehab."  D'oh!)

I saw Andy Roeser, asked him, got a 'no comment.'  I saw Kevin, told him about the rumor, he asked Olshey, got "We're talking to a lot of people." Of course these are all classic non-denials.

Dillman's source was 'close to Iverson' and it goes without saying that they could have an ulterior motive here.  In fact, only the day before the story was that AI's choices were down to Miami for a couple of million or Memphis or maybe some vague unconfirmed interest from Charlotte (who has major cap concerns and general money concerns as well).  The lede on that story was that Iverson was looking for 'better options' so it actually made all the sense in the world for his camp to imply that there was another, big market team interested.  So my initial reaction was to dismiss this as a rumor started by Iverson's people to create some buzz.  Here's a later comment I made on the game thread:

The source is ‘close to Iverson’. And obviously Iverson’s camp has a vested interest in implying that there’s interest out there. So it could be cut from whole cloth. Again… MDsr and Olshey didn’t say anything they wouldn’t have said if it was absolutely true. But it smacks of one of those crazy "It’s the Clippers" rumors.

But I'm now convinced that there's too much smoke here for there not to be at least a little fire.

Chris Tomasson of ProBasketballNews (Tomasson used to cover the Nuggets for the defunct Rocky Mountain News and so has a relationship with Marcus Camby and Iverson for that matter) got some quotes from Camby and Eric Gordon on the subject (hat tip to citizen ASoMS).  It is entirely possible that Camby is lobbying Clipper management to bring in his former teammate - telling them he's got a lot left, that he doesn't deserve all of the blame that's been placed on him in Denver and Detroit.  Remember, Camby's here and was with the entire coaching and front office staff when this story was breaking.

And Chris Sheridan of ESPN now has a story that Leon Rose, Iverson's agent, is setting up a face to face meeting between the team and the player. 

So yeah, it seems like something is happening here.

And the next question is, why?

Lisa Dillman provides one type of justification: "They have long been intrigued by Iverson, having come close to acquiring him in the past."  But whereas it's true that the Clippers tried to acquire AI back in 2006, that was literally a different team at the time - only Chris Kaman remains from the roster, and they were coming off of a playoff appearance.  Adding a former MVP to a team believing (however misguidedly) they were ready to take the next step into NBA contention is one thing - adding him to a 19 win team building around two 20 year old future stars is quite another.

Again, going back to my off the cuff comments at the time, I said things like "It would be extremely out of step with the way the summer has gone" and "It makes no sense".  But whereas it's true that it would be out of step, it's not entirely without sense

In fact, the Clippers' most glaring needs are for backups at the guard positions and a backup at small forward.  They've stated that they'd like to find a veteran to play point for them, and not have to rely on Mike Taylor this season.  Well guess what?  Iverson can play either guard position and obviously he's a veteran.  And at some level, if you're serious about signing someone in that role, who are the options? 

Comparing Allen Iverson for instance to Fred Jones is a great Rohrshach test of what you want this team to be.  Iverson is a former MVP with a 27 point per game career average.  Fred Jones is a career backup who was out of the league at the start of last season.  So it's a no-brainer right?  Of course, Iverson is also a headcase who has said he'd rather retire than come off the bench and who could easily be a detrimental influence on the Clippers' young core, while Jones is by all accounts a great teammate who doesn't even drink alcohol.  So it's a no-brainer, right?

Sheridan says that the Clippers are also interested in Ramon Sessions, who would clearly fit the youth movement and long term plans better.  But Sessions is a restricted free agent and it's unclear whether the Bucks would match on him.

In the end, I think the 'seriousness' of the talks to this point have been overstated by Iverson's camp - but clearly the Clippers are considering the move, and you can see why they would.  And there's one more thing to think about in all of this:  star power.  Might Allen Iverson sell more tickets for the Clippers, get them on TV more?  He might.  John Ireland blogged about the Clippers becoming 'relevant' with this signing.  He says with AI "you would actually want to go to Staples to see who would win.  And I'm talking about the Clippers here."  Of course, Ireland is such a Lakers hack that he can't even wirte about the Clippers without begin pejorative and couching the whole thing in Lakers terms - Iverson can still play because Ireland saw him light up the Lakers twice - in Dec. 2007 and Nov. 2008!  What more proof does anyone need?  He also betrays his ignorance of all things Clippers by assuming that Iverson would start and Gordon would come off the bench - that is clearly not happening.  Still, if Ireland sees this signing in those terms, you can rest assured that other LA media types do as well.

In the final analysis, I think the Clippers will pass on Iverson.  Regardless of what he says now, he's shown by his actions last year that he won't be happy coming off the bench - and there is no other option.  Davis is the starter at point guard and Gordon is the starter (and the future) at shooting guard.  So, fine, they can do some due diligence and let Iverson try to convince them that he's a team player at this point in his career.  And maybe it will help him get a better deal in Miami.

There will be more on this story coming soon no doubt.