Updated: Dec. 10, 2006, 6:56 PM ET

SPECIAL WEEKEND EDITION Iverson, new ball both gone?

Editor's note: ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein supplies each item for this around-the-league notebook edition of the Daily Dime.

It's been a rather newsy weekend already, thanks to Mr. Iverson, but here's more of what I'm hearing:

Minnesota's Kevin Garnett isn't the only All-Star out there saying, "Bring it on, I love The Answer."

Boston's Paul Pierce, sources say, still wants Iverson as a teammate and remains hopeful that his team has a shot. Danny Ainge, meanwhile, is said to be a longtime Iverson fan, with AI apparently possessing the Michael Jordan brain type and with the Celts' personnel boss known to be a big believer in brain-typing.

The problems? Although it's not exactly dealing from a position of great strength or leverage, Philadelphia has a natural desire to send Iverson to the Western Conference and certainly keep him away from a longstanding divisional rival. Even in June, Boston needed to find a third team to take on Wally Szczerbiak to have a real shot.


Early indications are that Iverson, unlike Ron Artest a year ago, faces zero danger of getting hit with a $10,000 fine for demanding a trade.

The distinction?

Artest issued his trade demand on Dec. 10, 2005, in the Indianapolis Star, prompting the league to fine him for "making public statements detrimental to the NBA."

Iverson's desire to be traded was first revealed in Friday's New York Post by veteran NBA writer Peter Vecsey, but not through quotes from AI. The Sixers were actually the first source of first-hand public confirmation of Iverson's request, which came from club chairman Ed Snider.


One more Artest comparison: The Sixers have the option to keep Iverson on the inactive list, with pay, while they try to make this trade happen.

The inactive list made its NBA debut last season and enabled Indiana to sequester Artest from the team without suspending him.

It figures that Philly is considering a similar approach, judging by Snider's admission that Iverson has "probably" played his last game in a Sixer uniform.


One Eastern Conference executive points out another potential obstacle in any Iverson trade. The Sixers are already carrying a league-maximum 15 players on their roster. That would suggest they'll have to make more than a couple cuts if they're forced to take back three or four players to match Iverson's $17.2 million salary.

Iverson, incidentally, has two seasons left on his contract after this one, at just over $19 million and $20.8 million. But he does have the option, like Garnett, of bypassing his final season to become a free agent in the summer of 2008.


Don't forget the other trade front: New ball for leather ball.

In the latest strong signal that commissioner David Stern is seriously considering a ball swap just three months into the new microfiber composite ball's first season, league sources tell ESPN.com that all 30 teams were due to received calls by Friday from Stern staffers. NBA officials want to know how many leather balls each team has in storage from last season, in case the decision to switch comes quickly.

Teams were allotted 75 new synthetic basketballs at the start of the season, but Stern has acknowledged that the cuts various players are suffering while handling the microfiber version could force him to make a surprising in-season recall of the old ball . . . which might include emergency orders with Spalding for teams that have little or nothing left from last season's leather shipment.

• Talk back to ... Marc Stein | The Daily Dime gang

• Dimes past: December 1 | 2-3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8


Comeback Trail
Larry Brown
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images
Larry Brown is pictured here not because of his relationship with AI, but because of his connection to Brooklyn. (See Box 3.)


Eastern Conference

I don't bring this up now because Lawrence Frank blamed himself for Thursday night's epic double-OT loss to Phoenix.

I don't bring it up because Frank slammed his own decision to expose Vince Carter to a situation late in regulation that resulted in Carter's sixth foul ... or because Frank similarly shredded his orders on defensive coverage before the Steve Nash triple that forced the first overtime ... all of which resulted in Frank encouraging assembled reporters to "write it" as a "coaching loss."

Nor do I bring this up because the Nets entered the weekend at 7-11 and take more ribbing than any team in the Titanic Division.

I bring it up simply because I was recently convinced that it makes down-the-road cosmic sense.

If you're wondering about Larry Brown's next stop, since we're all in agreement that there's no way he'll let the New York nightmare stand as his farewell to coaching, New Jersey is a natural.

Think about it.

Larry is from Brooklyn, where the Nets want to move.

Larry has unfinished business with the Nets thanks to the 1983 mess where he forced the team to fire him just days before the playoffs began by planning a move to the University of Kansas.

And ...

No job out there carries the potential for Larry to stick it to the Knicks more than coaching the Nets.

It's not something that'll happen tomorrow, obviously. Just something to file away.

Frank, frankly, would appear to have more job security than any coach in the Titanic. That might not be saying much -- since Toronto's Sam Mitchell, Boston's Doc Rivers, Philadelphia's Mo Cheeks and, of course, New York's Isiah Thomas face job-security questions almost every day -- but he's been a quality coach for the Nets for nearly three years and an undeniable Cinderella story, rising from the humble beginnings of team manager at Indiana under Bob Knight to NBA sideline fixture. He's also under contract with the Nets through the 2007-08 season.

I'd also venture to say that plenty of good came out of the Phoenix heartbreaker. The Nets finally played with some of the passion that's been solely lacking, finally clicked in the up-tempo game that they should be able to play better than anyone else in the East and even managed to work prized rookie Marcus Williams in alongside the star trio of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson. Perhaps it was the performance, even in defeat, that gets the Nets' season started.

That said ...

I can picture a Brown return to Jersey someday. I don't see him going out with one graceless season in Gotham as his final NBA act, but I also struggle to see him wanting to coach a group of years-away kids like the Bobcats, who are mentioned often as a possibility because of Brown's ties to North Carolina and new Bobcats president Michael Jordan. The idea of Larry rejoining the Sixers, furthermore, figures to lose steam if Philly indeed trades away Allen Iverson.

After the mess with the Knicks -- the only NBA team in Brown's career that he wasn't able to turn around and take to the playoffs -- I suspect the next team that does hire him will have to be a franchise that knows him well. The Nets obviously qualify.


The two guys who've been racking up 30-point games for fun met Wednesday night in Denver: Atlanta's Joe Johnson and the Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony.

Strange thing happened, though.

Two strange things, actually.

As if the Hawks pulling out a two-point win wasn't wild enough, taking them to a heady 2-1 on their five-game trip through the Western Conference, neither scoring machine hit the big THREE-OH.

Johnson finished with 27 points, falling three points short of his recent norm for the first time in six games. Anthony managed just 24, his first miss in seven games.

In case you missed it.


You've heard me lobby for one or two additional changes to the playoff seeding system.

Either guarantee division champions nothing more than a playoff spot and seed all eight playoff teams in each conference according to record ... or give division champs home-court advantage in the first round, no matter what the records say, if you're going to give them a top-four seed.

The league tweaked the format in the offseason to ensure that the top teams in a conference can't meet in the playoffs before the conference finals, as seen last spring when Southwest Division powers Dallas and San Antonio wound up dueling in the second round. But I feel like they could (and should) have gone a step farther.

Take the popular Atlantic Division, for example.

Let's move past the obligatory joke -- yes, please take the Atlantic -- and make the (safe) assumption that the eventual division winner finishes with a less-than-stellar overall record.

I contend that there's no point giving, say, New Jersey a top-four seed unless the Nets also get home-court advantage in the first round.

The league, sadly, doesn't share my view.

"I don't quite connect that dot," said NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson. "Our thinking is that a team should be rewarded for winning their division [with a top-four seed]. We felt strongly that winning your division should be worth something. [But] because the teams play in a given conference, a team that wins more games earns the right to have home-court advantage."



Chatter Box

One man's take on the Indiana Pacers, from Dimedom's web of front-office executives, coaches and scouts:

"[Rick] Carlisle is doing a really good job, as usual. A lot of people said he wouldn't be able to open up the game, or that he wouldn't want to, but the Pacers' offense is a lot more random than it used to be. I don't mean like Philadelphia, where it looks totally disorganized. I mean random in a good way. It's a systematic randomness.

"When you used to scout the Pacers, if they ran 90 plays, at least 80 of them would play all the way out. There's not a play call every single time down [the floor] now. I'd say about 60 of the 90 plays are [strictly] executed based on the play call. On the rest, Carlisle is having [Indiana players] make reads, looking for early offense, letting them probe. He looks more content with them playing in the open court than he's ever been.

"And he's so good at teaching spacing -- he and Pop [San Antonio's Gregg Popovich] are the best -- that his players are always in the right place. Organization is sometimes perceived as just running the play that's called. But they can look organized even when they're not running a play, because they're so well-coached on how to space themselves in relation to the basketball.

"I know they're having some turnover problems, but I think this style is better for them. They're taking about five more shots a game than they did last year and being more random means they don't have to go through Jermaine O'Neal every single time down. Their whole game is no longer dependent on O'Neal's effectiveness."




All Eyes On A.I.
Allen Iverson
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
Usually it's his play or tats that speak the loudest; this time it was his trade request.


Western Conference

It's probably time to revise the long-held presumption that Denver's first move this season has to involve one of its many power forwards.

That's not only because Kenyon Martin's need for a second microfracture procedure and Nene's slow recovery from his own knee tear have actually opened up minutes for Eduardo Najera, Reggie Evans and Joe Smith.

It's more because the Nuggets, according to NBA front-office sources, have made little Earl Boykins more available than anyone else on the roster.

Of course, with Boykins making only $2.95 million this season -- and shooting just 31 percent from the floor amid complaints that he's pounding the ball too much -- he'd have to be packaged with another Nugget or two to be part of any significant swap.

Boykins has one more year on his contract after this one but can opt out of next season's $3 million in July and become a free agent.


Most surprising aspect of the Lakers' start?

This would have to be up there: Vladimir Radmanovic, L.A.'s marquee offseason signing, had zero starts in 18 games entering Friday's play.

Radmanovic's free-agent move from the Clippers to the Lakers has obviously been complicated by a nagging injury in his shooting hand that messed with most of his training camp.

But he still can't get the starting spot he was said to have been promised over the summer. That promise is seen in Clipperland as the clincher that convinced Radmanovic to switch locker rooms at Staples Center, but Luke Walton continues to play his best-ever ball, consigning Radmanovic to reserve status by averaging nearly 12 points and five rebounds nightly while shooting almost 52 percent from the floor and just under 55 percent on 3s.


Hornets coach Byron Scott insists that there's no regret in New Orleans (or Oklahoma City) about parting with J.R. Smith in the trade that landed Tyson Chandler.

Not even with Smith suddenly playing at a much higher level in the Rocky Mountains.

Said Scott: "I'm happy for him. Maybe he learned something last year as far as being a professional, coming ready to play every single night and trying to do it at both ends. Maybe his time with us -- and not understanding all those little things and what he had to do every single day in practice -- maybe that kind of hit home with him and he's got the right idea now."

Hornets guard Chris Paul, quite tight with Smith throughout Smith's clashes with Scott, echoed those sentiments.

"It's not hard to watch 'cause I wish him the most success," Paul said. "Someone interviewed me about him having 36 [points against Chicago] and I told them that won't be his career-high. J.R.'s in a great situation where they really get up and down and he just plays freely. The offense they run may suit J.R. better. It was a better situation for both parties."



One-On-One ... To Five

Five questions with Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace:

Q: You had four technical fouls after four games and you've had only three in the 15 games since. Have you adjusted to the way refs are handing out Ts now?

A: No, I didn't make no adjustment. It's because the league knows what's coming. They knew the players' union was going to file a grievance [about] that. So they're trying to tone it done themselves now.

Q: You had to serve a one-game suspension last season when you got to 16 technicals. If the refs are indeed backing off, are you less worried about suspensions this season?

A: I don't care about that tech [stuff] at all, man. They can go ahead and do what they do, but I'm still going to do what I do. That's not going to change me.

Q: Thoughts on the new ball?

A: The new ball sucks. Dictator just went on and threw it out there [without] asking guys and testing it. That ball sucks. They had some Spalding guy create quote-unquote microfiber and all that. You got guys who never played the game before who want to change the ball.

Q: You guys have just beaten Dallas after losing to Charlotte and Portland. How do you assess the first quarter of the season?

A: I knew we weren't going to come out and have that big jump like we did last year [37-5]. I know we weren't going to come out like that this year, because we had a couple new additions. It's just a matter of us getting used to each other.

Q: Who misses who more? Does Ben Wallace miss you guys more or do the Pistons miss Ben more?

A: I really don't know. I think it's a mutual thing.



King's Quest
Kevin Martin
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images
Kevin Martin's breakout season isn't exactly surprising. The fact he's still being called by someone else's nickname is. (See Box 10.)


Marc's Quote

Chris Bosh

"I don't know, man. It's just been a slow start. We'll be the best conference second half. I'm always an optimist, man."

Toronto's Chris Bosh, when asked to explain the struggles of an East that, as of Friday morning, still had just three teams with winning records and no one in the five-team Atlantic Division better than the Raps at 7-11.



Question Marc

Kevin Martin

From the Stein Line e-mailbag:

Bradley (Parts Unknown): Isn't it something of a misappropriation for everyone to refer to Kevin Martin as K-Mart? I know it's his first initial and an abbreviated form of his last name. But Kenyon Martin hasn't even been gone for a month and the media has already given away his nickname. Am I the only one who's uncomfortable with this? Can't you guys come up with something different?

Stein: You're absolutely right. I can't control the media at large, but you've inspired this longstanding Kenyon fan. Starting right now, I'm going to crusade against those references. Especially since Kevin Martin has apparently never asked folks to call him K-Mart, even though it's been happening for years.

Reggie Miller this week addressed the natural body-type comparisons in circulation and called Martin a "real mini-me." More of a mini-me, Reg says, than Rip Hamilton ... and, yes, that's a compliment.

Sacramento teammates, meanwhile, are apparently referring to Martin as "Prince," but I really don't see the Artist Formerly Known As Whatever when I look at him.

What's clear is that we've got some work to do. I was originally leaning toward something Reggie-related -- Pocket Reg, perhaps -- but it's probably best to seek some input from Kings fans here. I'll bring it up in Tuesday's SportsNation chat session and see where that takes us.



 

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