NBA: Bobcats may be eyeing Iverson
By Mike Cranston
CHARLOTTE ó 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.