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David Aldridge

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Can Allen Iverson accept a reserve role in Los Angeles?
Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Bench may be biggest hurdle in Iverson-to-Clips deal

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst
Posted Jul 14 2009 6:58AM

LAS VEGAS -- Yes, the Los Angeles Clippers are having talks with Allen Iverson. But a signing does not appear imminent, because Iverson is still chafing at the idea of coming off the bench.

Sources confirmed the Los Angeles Times' report that the team has offered Iverson a one-year deal at the mid-level exception of $5.8 million for next season. But, those sources said, Iverson remains reluctant to take a reserve role, which would be behind incumbent Baron Davis at the point or Eric Gordon at the two, just as he chafed in Detroit this past season playing behind Rip Hamilton. Even though Iverson would like to play in a big city, or, at the least, for a contending team, he's given no indication yet that he'd be any more willing to be a bench player in Los Angeles than he would be elsewhere.

One source with knowledge of the team's intentions said that Iverson was not the only player the Clippers were approaching. They also spoke with representatives for Milwaukee guard Ramon Sessions, as well as Indiana's Jarrett Jack, before Jack signed an offer sheet with the Toronto Raptors, in their pursuit of a backup point. Another source said that Coach Mike Dunleavy needed some assurances from Iverson's camp that he could accept a reserve role before getting completely behind the pursuit of Iverson.

In the interim, Iverson is still being pursued by Miami, Memphis and Charlotte.

However, the Clippers do remain a strong possibility for Iverson. Los Angeles could provide all kinds of ancillary income opportunities for Iverson. And the Clippers could have significant room under the cap after this season, which would give Iverson a chance to recoup some income if he were to accept the one-year offer at the mid-level.

Pistons eyeing 'Big Baby?'

Meanwhile, the Pistons, no longer among the Eastern Conference's power teams, are trying to build a new team on the fly, and will try to add anther piece in the next week at the expense of one of their old rivals, the Boston Celtics. A Monday trade of guards Arron Afflalo and Walter Sharpe to the Denver Nuggets was done to help make a run at Celtics restricted free agent forward Glen "Big Baby" Davis, according to several sources.

But the Pistons will have trouble creating enough cap room in order to make a serious run at Davis, who starred for the Celtics in Kevin Garnett's absence in the playoffs. After Monday's trade, which cleared an additional $1.8 million in cap room, Detroit only has eight players under contract, not including its three drafted players -- Austin Daye, DeJuan Summers and Jonas Jurebko. (The Pistons will keep all three of their rookies.) The Pistons' current outlay next season for its eight veterans, including the newly signed Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, along with other monies like the $1.9 million that remains on its cap after waiving veteran center Fabricio Oberto and the first-round money due to Daye, is about $53.8 million. With the cap set for next year at $57.7 million, that only leaves a little less than $4 million if Detroit wanted to sign Davis to an offer sheet. But the Celtics would likely match such an offer.

If the Pistons decide not to offer a sheet to Davis, they will likely sign one or two veteran big men for the league minimum.

Detroit's latest move was only one on another busy offseason day.

Magic paying big to stay in East race

The Orlando Magic went all in on massive luxury tax payments next season when it decided on Monday to match the five-year, $34 million offer sheet the Dallas Mavericks made to free agent center Marcin Gortat. It was a decision that shocked many at the NBA Summer League -- not because Orlando, clearly a legitimate championship contender, decided to protect an asset, but because of that asset's cost.

Orlando is already way over the cap, and over the projected luxury tax of $69.9 million next season. So when you factor in the dollar-for-dollar tax the Magic will have to pay on Gortat's first-year salary of $5.854 million, the total comes to $11.7 million for a backup center who averaged 3.8 points and 4.5 rebounds last season.

Including its new contract for forward Brandon Bass, whom Orlando signed to a four-year, $18 million deal Friday, the Magic's payroll at the moment is a staggering $79 million, meaning the Magic will pay almost $10 million in tax and lose millions more in possible revenues they would have received if they stayed under the tax threshhold.

The Magic is moving into a new arena for the 2010-11 season, which will produce a large spike in revenues, but yikes, that's still a lot of money to spend.

"Our ownership has given us all the resources we need to do our job," Orlando GM Otis Smith said by telephone Monday. "They basically said, OK, we're in the tax, but we're committed to winning. And that's all we've talked about from day one -- what do we need to win a championship?"

Orlando is but one of several contending teams that's loaded up for a title run next season. Cleveland (traded for Shaquille O'Neal, re-signed Anderson Varejao, signed free agent guard Anthony Parker), Boston (signed Rasheed Wallace), the Lakers (signed Ron Artest) and San Antonio (traded for Richard Jefferson, signed Antonio McDyess) have all put in claims.

But the arms race is making many around the league a bit queasy, especially considering the cleavage between the haves and the have nots.

"It's not a good business model, and it's obviously something we're going to have to look at over the next couple of years, to figure this thing out," said Spurs chairman Peter Holt, in town for Tuesday's Board of Governors meeting.

"And then you overlay it with what the economy's doing, if anybody has a crystal ball, please let me know, but if you were a betting man, you'd figure it was going to get worse before it gets better," Holt said. "So, no, we're going to see what happens. And then, we're going into labor negotiations."

Smith had repeatedly said that he would not use the mid-level exception to re-sign Gortat and that he did not believe in spending that kind of money for a backup for Dwight Howard, the role which Gortat will now return to next season in Orlando.

"I don't believe everything I read," Smith said Monday, with a chuckle.

While Smith said he wasn't always certain he would match the offer sheet, he ultimately decided that it was more prudent to protect an asset in Gortat than let it get away for nothing. And while some believe there's no way Orlando is planning to keep the 25-year-old Gortat for the long term, it's important to remember two things: one, under the rules, the Magic can't trade Gortat until Dec. 15, and two, Gortat will become, for trade purposes, a base-year compensation player under his new contract, meaning he would only count for half of his first-year salary ($2.9 million, half of $5.8 million) if he were to be included in a deal.

"He's a young center in a league that doesn't have a lot of centers," Smith said. "That's the reason he got the offer to begin with. The second thing is, why can't we protect our assets? He's been with us for five years. We have been developing him. He was ours to lose. And we didn't want to lose him."

If Orlando does want to shave payroll, the likeliest candidate would be guard J.J. Redick, with an expiring contract that pays $2.8 million next season. Moving him to a team under the cap or with a trade exception it could use to absorb Redick's contract for a draft pick or cash would save Orlando $5.6 million in salary and tax payments.

The Mavericks wanted to make Gortat their starting center, hoping he would allow them to play a more up-tempo style next season than they've been able to play in recent seasons using Erick Dampier as their starter. But the Mavericks still feel they'll be able to run with newly acquired Shawn Marion playing alongside Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, in an interview on NBA TV, said that Dallas has been in contact with the agent for Lakers free agent forward Lamar Odom, whose negotiations with Los Angeles are going slowly. But Odom is not likely to sign anywhere for the mid-level that the Mavericks now, again, have at their disposal; he's accepted that he'll face a pay cut from last year's $14 million, but doesn't want to go down that much.

Orlando's ownership had indicated it would be willing to pay luxury tax next season in order to keep the Magic team that won the east and lost 4-1 to the Lakers intact. Those plans were accelerated when the Magic acquired Vince Carter and his remaining three years (at $51 million), along with forward Ryan Anderson, from New Jersey on draft day for Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston and Tony Battie.

The plan detoured a bit when Hedo Turkoglu agreed to a five-year, $53 million deal with Toronto that became part of a four-team, sign-and-trade deal with the Magic. But Orlando beat out New Orleans, Cleveland and Dallas to get Bass, and with Gortat, the Magic's frontcourt holes have all been plugged. Now, Orlando can play big, with Bass at power forward and 6-10 Rashard Lewis back at his normal small forward spot. They could play Gortat and Dwight Howard together. They could play the way they did last season, with the sharpshooting Anderson at the three and Lewis at the four. And they again have size and fouls to deal with Cleveland's Shaquille O'Neal and Anderson Varejao, and Boston's Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace and Kendrick Perkins.

The Detroit-Denver deal had been in the works for a week or so, once the Indiana Pacers signed away Denver's starting two guard from last season, Dahntay Jones, to a four-year, $11 million contract. Denver believes the 24-year-old Afflalo can step into the starting spot next to Chauncey Billups (whom, sources indicate, was a big Afflalo advocate, having played with him in 2007 in Detroit) and handle the defensive assignments Jones did while being a better perimeter shooter

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