Posted Jun 30 2009 9:20PM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The Charlotte Bobcats have an owner who's losing millions and looking to sell. They've struggled to move tickets, win games and become relevant in a town that used to adore the NBA.
Allen Iverson could change that. Pair the polarizing guard with coach Larry Brown again and they wouldn't just be talking about games in Charlotte, they'd be talking about practice, too.
Whether Iverson is reunited with his former adversary-turned-buddy Brown is Charlotte's most intriguing storyline as the NBA's free agency period opens Wednesday.
Iverson is a 34-year-old free agent, far removed from his NBA MVP days and certainly about to be paid much less than the nearly $22 million he made last season, when he was traded from Denver to Detroit.
Seven years after Iverson's famous "We're talking about practice!" rant directed at Brown when they were in Philadelphia, the two have made up. Iverson was spotted in Charlotte in May, when Brown said he'd have no problems coaching him again and Iverson's agent indicated his client would be open to playing for the Bobcats.
Leon Rose declined further comment on Tuesday, but he's expected to talk to the Bobcats as the free agency negotiating period starts Wednesday.
"Even though there are things that went on during our careers, the work he did was phenomenal," Brown said recently. "He wants to win, he competes every night, he plays hurt."
Brown did question whether the Bobcats, who have never won more than 35 games in a season, would be a good fit for a player seeking to win an NBA title before retiring. But Rose said his client would have no qualms coming to Charlotte.
The Bobcats were the lowest-scoring team in the NBA last season, but Iverson's role here would be uncertain.
The Bobcats have depth in the backcourt. They drafted shooting guard Gerald Henderson with the 12th pick to back up Raja Bell. D.J. Augustin is expected to again back up point guard Raymond Felton.
Charlotte last week gave Felton a one-year, $5.5 million qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent and plan to sign him to a long-term deal this summer.
"I don't see any situation where he will not be with this team," managing partner Michael Jordan said. "Granted, we've got a lot of business decisions to make and a lot of negotiations ahead. But I anticipate us keeping and signing Raymond Felton, without a doubt."
Under that scenario, Iverson would likely have to take on a lesser role, something he resisted in Detroit last season.
It's also uncertain if the two sides could agree on a contract. The Bobcats, who are over the salary cap, will probably not offer more than a midlevel exception of about $5.6 million for a free agent.
Management has been told by owner Bob Johnson, who has slashed non-basketball payroll and is exploring selling the team, not to exceed the luxury tax threshold of about $70 million.
"I don't think it's fair for us to get anywhere close to the luxury tax numbers," general manager Rod Higgins said. "We're just trying to get to the playoffs. We're not there yet, so it's going to be hard pressed for us to go to ownership and say we want to go to the tax level."
The Bobcats' biggest need is the frontcourt. Injury-prone power forward Sean May becomes an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday after Charlotte declined to give him a one-year qualifying offer of $3.7 million.
The Bobcats could still try to re-sign May for less, and they must address Boris Diaw's backup because veteran Juwan Howard is also a free agent. Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess, both of whom have played for Brown, are available.
Charlotte has big money tied up in reserve big men Nazr Mohammed ($13.2 million owed over the next two seasons) and DeSagana Diop ($19.4 million over three years), but didn't make a draft-week trade to clear cap space to be a major player in free agency.
But with Cleveland, Orlando, Atlanta and Washington all making recent deals, the Bobcats may have a tough time becoming a playoff team in an improved Eastern Conference next season if they don't make a move or two to upgrade offensively.
Notes: Johnson again declined an interview request Tuesday, two days after the Houston Chronicle reported former Rockets executive George Postolos made an inquiry about buying the Bobcats. Postolos declined comment in an e-mail response. ... With the Bobcats not fielding a summer league team to save money, Henderson will play for Minnesota's entry in Las Vegas July 10-19. Second-round pick Derrick Brown will play for Utah in Orlando July 6-10.
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