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David Aldridge

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Grizzlies' owner, Iverson's agent in contract talks

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst
Posted Jul 9 2009 6:21AM

Free agent Allen Iverson is in talks with the Memphis Grizzlies about a new contract, but owner Michael Heisley said Wednesday that talks between the team and the 10-time All-Star are only in the preliminary stages.

On the same day that he agreed to let his team take part in the three-team deal that sent forward Shawn Marion to the Mavericks in a sign-and-trade deal, with his Grizzlies taking the contract of guard Jerry Stackhouse, Heisley acknowledged in a telephone interview that the Grizzlies had had discussions with Iverson's agent, Leon Rose, and he said he would like to meet with Iverson in the coming days to assess Iverson's desire to come to Memphis.

"It's something we've talked to his agent about," Heisley said. "We have not come to anything close to an understanding. We're just exploring."

The 34-year-old Iverson is looking for a new home after last year's trade from Denver to Detroit ended disastrously, with Iverson chafing at coming off the bench for then-coach Michael Curry and saying he'd rather retire than be a reserve. Citing a back injury, Iverson and the Pistons agreed that he would be left off the team's postseason roster, and the team moved quickly to use the $20 million in cap room created by not giving Iverson an extension, agreeing to deals with Bulls guard Ben Gordon and Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva.

In this economic climate, no team is going to give Iverson anything close to the money he used to make as one of the NBA's true superstars in Philadelphia. And it may even be difficult for Iverson to find a team willing to give him the full mid-level exception for next season, starting at $5.854 million. But Iverson has been linked by various reports to both the Grizzlies and Miami Heat, and the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported Wednesday that Heisley was giving serious consideration to giving Iverson a one-year, $5 million deal.

Heisley didn't say that the Grizzlies wouldn't ultimately sign Iverson only that such a decision has yet to be made.

"More or less, we're going to have discussions initially with his agent," Heisley said. "But it's very, very early. I don't want people to think there's more to it than that. It's very, very early and it's nothing more than exploratory."

Heisley also said that the Grizzlies would accept Stackhouse's $7 million contract from Dallas in order to create the trade exception necessary for the Mavericks to be able to take Marion's new five-year, $40 million deal from Toronto. Otherwise, the over-the-cap Mavericks wouldn't have been able to offer Marion anything substantial, because they've already committed to using their mid-level exception to sign Orlando restricted free agent center Marcin Gortat to an offer sheet.

Only $2 million of Stackhouse's deal is guaranteed, however. The Grizzlies are expected to get cash from Toronto, and possibly a low-salaried player like backup center Kris Humprhies. Toronto will get cash from Dallas to make the deal more even economically. Dallas and Toronto turned to Memphis after other teams with cap room that could have facilitated a deal, such as Oklahoma City, took a pass. The Thunder would only agree to such deals, a source said, if they got up-and-coming players on their rookie contracts to go with their young core of Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook and first-round pick James Harden.

Otherwise, the Thunder plans to hold onto its cap room until at least next February's trade deadline, or could simply turn it over and use it to start signing its young stars to contract extensions as they become eligible.

"We've agreed, from our point of view, what we would do with Dallas," Heisley said.

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