AI is headed to Memphis

Per the Memphis Commercial Appeal

Free-agent guard Allen Iverson informed the Grizzlies this morning that he will accept a one-year offer to bring his explosive scoring to FedExForum this season, according to an NBA source.

Iverson’s decision came following a Monday night meeting in Atlanta with Griz owner Michael Heisley, general manager Chris Wallace and head coach Lionel Hollins. Iverson, a 34-year-old, 13-year veteran, will play for a contract that pays $3.5 million (what the Griz have left under the salary cap) and the deal will be loaded with incentives.

Iverson confirmed his decision on Twitter.

Iverson will join MIke Conley and O.J. Mayo in the Grizzlies’ backcourt. Coming off the bench hasn’t worked for AI in the past, so I’d expect a deal was made that would have Iverson start, likely alongside Mayo.

AI is a veteran with a unique skill set, so the fact that he landed with the Grizzlies instead of joining a contender is a testament to the current state of the economy and his unwillingness to accept a lesser role to play for a winner.

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Grizzlies make an offer to AI

It’s that time of year in the NBA. Free agency is winding down, training camps are still a few weeks away and the news is generally slow.

So when the worst team in the league makes an offer — doesn’t sign, mind you, only makes an offer — to a 34-year-old former MVP whose best years are behind him, it becomes the lead story on ESPN’s NBA page.

Iverson is one of the most high profile, unrestricted free agents remaining on the market, and there were reports in recent days that he was leaning hardest toward reuniting with his old coach, Larry Brown, with the Charlotte Bobcats.

But the Bobcats are for sale and are under severe financial constraints, and Iverson’s other strongest suitor — the Miami Heat — is already more than $3 million into luxury tax territory and has not been willing thus far to make Iverson a substantial financial offer.

Memphis is approximately $3.5 million under the salary cap for the 2009-10 season and thus could easily outbid Charlotte and Miami for the services of the 10-time All-Star, whom Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley sees as a strong gate attraction.

Iverson could help a contender, but his stint in Detroit leaves the impression that he doesn’t play well with others. This is why teams like Charlotte and Memphis are in the running for his services.

Allen Iverson struggling to find a home

Allen Iverson continues to explore his options on the free agent market, but it’s not like he has teams tripping over each other for his services. There’s mutual interest between AI and the Heat, but Miami doesn’t want to pony up.

Allen Iverson asked for the $5.8 million midlevel exception from the Heat in a one-year deal, but Miami has been reluctant to pay him much more than $2 million, if that. Iverson also is exploring Memphis and Charlotte, but Miami would be his preference if money is equal. The Heat spoke with the agent for Andre Miller — who’s in a stalemate with Philadelphia — but hasn’t pursued a sign-and-trade, and Miller wants more than the midlevel.

Memphis is also interested and Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley speculated about why the Heat aren’t willing to offer Iverson a mid-level deal.

Heisley indicated Sunday that Iverson is “only looking for a one-year contract,” which actually would mesh with Miami’s intent to add no players with contracts stretching past next season to preserve maximum flexibility to re-sign Wade and land him at least one marquee teammate in the summer of 2010. Yet it’s believed that the Heat are reluctant to come close to the $5 million for next season that the Grizzlies are reportedly prepared to pay, since Miami is already in luxury-tax territory.

The Heat are sitting at about $69.86 million which is a hair below the threshold of $69.92 million. If they sign Iverson, they’ll go into luxury tax territory and will have to essentially pay a dollar-for-dollar tax on AI’s entire salary. Not only would they miss out on the reward for being under the luxury tax, but they’d have to pay the tax themselves. Therefore, a contract worth $2 million could perhaps cost the Heat $5.5 million (or more), depending on how many teams are over the threshold and how big the payout turns out to be.

It’s strange to see a player of Iverson’s stature fighting for table scraps on the free agent market. He was once a franchise player, but his disastrous stint in Detroit (resulting from his distaste for coming off the bench) and his ball-dominant style has created an environment in which most teams are extremely leery of utilizing his services. True contenders don’t want to participate in an experiment that has a good chance of backfiring while the lower echelon playoff teams don’t see Iverson as the game-changer needed to put them over the top.

He has proven that he is not willing to what’s best for the team (by coming off the bench), so why would a good team want to add him? The Heat are interested because he’ll put butts in the seats and would probably add a few wins, which might help to convince Dwyane Wade to stay in Miami.

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