Updated: Dec. 18, 2006, 6:14 PM ET

SPECIAL WEEKEND EDITION Iverson rumors affect many

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

A side source of entertainment for everyone on Allen Iverson red alert is the flurry of names around the league that have been quickly dragged into ESPN.com's Trade Machine with AI.

Almost everyone.

It's actually anything but entertaining for the guys subjected to the speculation, as you can imagine, but spinning through the list of players linked to Iverson one way or another seems timely, as we await a definitive destination for The Answer.

It's actually anything but entertaining for the guys subjected to the speculation, as you can imagine, but spinning through the list of players linked to Iverson one way or another seems timely, as we await a definitive destination for The Answer. KYLE KORVER

There is no Sixer more coveted than Korver.

Or, put another way, no Sixer who'd be welcomed by more teams than Korver, Iverson included.

Several clubs, according to NBA front-office sources, have tried to get in on the Iverson swap as a third-team conduit in hopes of prying Korver loose from Philly.

But there's a reason you've actually heard very little about Korver in the past week. The Sixers, sources say, have made it clear to the world that Korver and his silky shooting are extremely unavailable. He's one of the pieces Philly wants to build its future around.

COREY MAGGETTE

After Iverson, Maggette remains the league's Player Most Likely To Be Dealt.

No one in Clipperland is even trying to mask this any more. It's been an inevitability ever since Maggette was almost dealt to Indiana for Ron Artest last January, but word leaked recently that Maggette has formally asked to be dealt this season.

It's likewise no secret what the Clippers need in return: A shooter!

They probably can't get anyone as good as Korver, but it'd be nice if the Grizzlies' ownership situation resolved itself so the obvious trade had a chance: Maggette for Mike Miller.

Actually ...

Why wouldn't the Grizzlies want that deal under any circumstance? Maggette has only two seasons left on his contract after this one. Miller has three, meaning Memphis saves money no matter what.

TROY MURPHY

I thought so, you thought so, Murphy thought so, Chris Mullin thought so and Don Nelson thought so.

Everybody figured Murphy -- a big man who could shoot -- would flourish under Nellie.

Hasn't happened, sadly. Murphy has been nagged by a fresh run of injuries since the season began, but it's also evident that Nelson prefers Andris Biedrins and the athleticism of his latest Cinderella -- Matt Barnes -- to any scenario that involves playing Murphy and Mike Dunleavy together.

With Warriors management still high on Ike Diogu as well, even though they still have to determine what they really have with Diogu, Murphy is clearly at the front of Golden State's available list. The issue remains finding a new home for Murphy's contract, which has four seasons to go after this one at a tidy $42.3 million.

VARIOUS DENVER NUGGETS

Earl Boykins (as covered last week) is eminently available along with Joe Smith as two of Denver's most attractive trade chips. (Smith has an expiring contract worth almost $7 million; Boykins makes just under $3 million this season and is expected to opt out of the final season on his deal and enter free agency in July, effectively making him a last-year guy.) But ...

The Nuggets aren't trading Marcus Camby to Chicago as part of a three-team Iverson deal ... and have never considered it. I'm also hearing whispers that George Karl now prefers to hang onto Reggie Evans, if possible.

As for Nene, it's difficult to envision Portland or anyone else taking on the Brazilian in Year 1 of a dubious six-year, $60 million contract while he's A) still recovering from knee surgery that cost him all but one game last season, B) still not a scoring threat in the post and C) still carrying excess weight that robs him of the quickness that made him a unique big man to begin with for personnel types.

VARIOUS YOUNG STUDS

Andris Biedrins, Andrew Bynum, Monta Ellis, Randy Foye, Gerald Green, Devin Harris, Al Jefferson, Shaun Livingston, Kevin Martin, Craig Smith, J.R. Smith and Dorell Wright.

You've probably heard some or all of those names, listed in alphabetical order, in connection with an Iverson deal.

Reason being: Philly is naturally targeting the best youngster(s) from any team that has shown AI interest.

Yet it shouldn't come as a great surprise that the Sixers have roughly zero shot at pretty much all of them, especially this early in the process. Biedrins, Ellis, Livingston and Martin, in particular, have been identified by their teams as untouchables. The others aren't far off, either.

At this point, Foye and Wright are the only names you'd be inclined to classify as gettable ... and even that's a risky assumption. Minnesota, sources say, does not want to part with Foye, but the Wolves know they can't get Iverson otherwise. It's less clear how strongly Miami feels about Wright, but the same holds. He'd almost certainly have to be in an Iverson deal.

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Toying With Foye
Randy Foye
David Sherman/Getty Images
Minnesota wants A.I., but lacks trade assets beyond Randy Foye ... unless the Wolves could throw in a few Foye bobbleheads.


Eastern Conference
Only three teams in the league have salary-cap room this season, as we speak, and they're all in the East.

Charlotte has $14.4 million in cap space, still sitting $1.2 million below the league's minimum team payroll after signing Derek Anderson. (At present that would mean, according to league rules, an end-of-season payout of some $80,000 to each player on the Bobcats' roster.)

Atlanta is $7.4 million below this season's $53.135 million cap.

And Toronto is $2 million below, but word is only the Bobcats and Raptors -- not Atlanta -- are making themselves available as a potential third-team facilitator in an Allen Iverson trade.


Allen Iverson

I know, I know, I know.

I know there's a whole community of folks out there who don't want to hear me imploring the Sixers to take their time before trading Allen Iverson so some of these early lowball offers get better.

Fantasy owners.

How do I know?

You don't have to be Eric Karabell or Rick Kamla to understand the math that makes Iverson such a valuable property in that universe. It'll be pretty clear when you hear that Iverson, because he's scored so many points already this season, can't drop out of the league leaders until the day after Christmas.

Even if he sits out that whole time, AI still qualifies through Dec. 26 with a tidy 468 points in just 15 games played.

When the trade finally goes through, furthermore, Iverson will become just the fifth player in league history to be dealt after or during a 30-ppg season. The previous four: San Francisco's Wilt Chamberlain to Philadelphia in January 1965, Houston's Moses Malone to Philadelphia before the 1982-83 season and two absolute Stein Line all-timers.

World B. Free went from San Diego to Golden State before the 1980-81 season ... and Bob McAdoo got bounced by Buffalo to New York in December 1976 travesty that made a 7-year-old in Olean, N.Y., cry real, real hard.


Turns out that the first game of Iverson's exile in Philadelphia was lamentable for two things.

The second?

No-nonsense referee Joey Crawford, unquestionably one of the best, suffered a knee injury in Philly's ESPN-televised loss to Washington on Dec. 8.

Joey has sent word that he's targeting a Feb. 1 return.



Question Marc

From the Stein Line e-mailbag:

Scott (Minneapolis): The Wolves have a trade exception worth about $4 million from the Ricky Davis-Wally Szczerbiak trade last year. Can that be used in the Iverson deal and is it valuable to Philadelphia?

Stein: Unfortunately for the Wolves, not really.

The actual value is nearly $4.2 million, but trade exceptions -- as we learned during the interminable Al Harrington saga over the summer -- don't equal salary-cap space and can't be added to player salaries or other exceptions to make trades easier to complete.

As explained in the peerless NBA Salary Cap FAQ by Cal State Fullerton's own Larry Coon, Minnesota can't just tack the exception on to the salaries of Randy Foye, Ricky Davis and Eddie Griffin and create a money match for Iverson.

To try to simplify this as much as possible, trade exceptions pretty much only help teams acquire players who earn up to or less than the amount of the exception plus $100,000. Iverson, as you surely know by now, is a $17.2 million player, not a $4.2 million player.

So in Iverson's case, chances are the trade exception would only prove useful to the Wolves if they're the third team in a three-team deal. Not the team that lands Iverson, in other words.

A hypothetical example would be Denver packaging Reggie Evans and the cap-friendly contracts of Joe Smith and Earl Boykins as part of the minimum $13.7 million it needs to ship out before taking Iverson back ... and Minnesota volunteering to use its $4.2 million trade exception to absorb Evans' $4 million salary so Philly doesn't have to take a long-term contract back.

The potential lure for the Sixers here would be the potential payroll slashing from nearly $10 million in last-year deals (if Boykins opts out) and the two late June 2007 first-round picks Denver can include. But there's a reason this is hypothetical: Minnesota would appear to have less of a need now for Evans (a longtime Wolves target) with Craig Smith blossoming . . . and the Wolves surely couldn't bear to help the Nuggets land Kevin Garnett's little buddy. Right?




Long Shot
Kyle Korver
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
Teams love shooters of Kyle Korver's caliber. None more than the Sixers, who won't be parting with him anytime soon.


Western Conference

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, a long-time Allen Iverson admirer, will admit to one scenario where Dallas would be chasing Iverson.

"If they bought him out and waived him," Cuban said, knowing full well that's not an option Philly is about to consider.

"I've always liked the way he plays. The money just doesn't work."

Dallas, you see, is facing the league's second-highest bill for luxury tax at season's end at $10.2 million, trailing only New York's $44-plus million.

So for all the inevitable questions about how Iverson's game would mesh with Dirk Nowitzki's -- and, of greater concern, how Iverson's well-chronicled aversion to practice would sit with coach Avery Johnson's given the Lil' General's reverence for it -- finances have dissuaded the Mavericks as much as anything.

Their offense in support of Nowitzki could certainly use a consistency jolt, having generated two 20-point scorers on the same night only nine times in the Mavs' first 22 games. That puts them on a pace for 34 games with two 20-point men, compared to 48 last season.

But Dallas will continue to be a luxury-tax team for the next two seasons after this one if they absorb Iverson's contract. The dollar-for-dollar tax would thus make him an $80 million gamble for the Mavs, compared to the mere $40 million left on Iverson's contract in 2007-08 and '08-09.


So how does a team try to replicate the Phoenix Suns' offense?

Especially when they don't have Steve Nash to play the point?

George Karl says his answer is practicing with a 16-second shot clock at all times, as opposed to the usual 24 seconds ... although Nuggets assistant coach Doug Moe apparently wouldn't mind shaving a couple more seconds off the timer.


Two shot-clock notes in one week is two more than usual, but this one grabbed me as well.

Why was Kobe Bryant shooting 48 percent from the field entering Friday's play? That would represent a career high if he can maintain it all season ... and the word from at least one segment of the scouting community suggests that it's not simply because the Lakers played almost exclusively at Staples Center for the first six weeks of the season.

L.A. -- like Phoenix and Denver -- is apparently another team that has been scoring quite efficiently in the 11-to-15-second range of the shot clock.

Bryant, according to numbers available at 82games.com, entered this week shooting better than 70 percent from the field in that time range, with roughly half of those baskets set up by an assist.

From the scout's perspective, it means that the Lakers are successfully running early offense to punish defenses with a quick play once they've been lulled into thinking they've contained a transition opportunity.

Force Bryant to take a shot with at least 21 seconds gone and, not surprisingly, he's shooting closer to 30 percent.



One-On-One ... To Five
Carmelo Anthony

Five questions with Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony:

Q: How does it feel to know that, in a couple months, your long wait to be an All-Star will finally be over?

A: I came into this season knowing I didn't really have to worry about it. I don't think I have to worry about that.

Q: Bernard King was one of my favorite players and your game is frequently compared to his. Have you studied tapes of him? Do you see a connection?

A: He's one of my favorites, too. That's like my favorite basketball player of all time. He was in my commercial last year. When I was growing up, I used to pattern my game after his.

Q: How are you and George Karl getting along these days?

A: (Laughing) Cool. He's still on me, but I live with it.

Q: OK, you know what I'm going to ask next. Do you want to play with Allen Iverson? Can it really work if you both need the ball? Are you pushing for that trade?

A: I wouldn't mind playing with him. I think we can [play together]. But I try to stay out of it. If they want my opinion, I think they'll come to me and ask me for it. I'm letting the front office handle that.

Q: As the team stands right now, how good are the Nuggets? How worried are you about Utah's fast start?

A: We've still been snakebit with injuries, with Nene and Kenyon [Martin]. But I still think we can win 50 games.



Mamba And The Answer
Kobe, A.I.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
Kobe and A.I. both have a Philly connection, and together they've had many memorable battles on the court. Could they be sharing the same backcourt next? (See Box 10.)


Marc's Quote
Phil Jackson

"It shows the insignificance of camp."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson, on what people should take from his team's 15-7 start after Jackson and Kobe Bryant missed almost all of training camp with their recoveries from hip and knee surgery, respectively.

Jackson, though, did acknowledge that he initially viewed the Lakers' favorable early schedule -- 16 of their first 20 games at Staples Center -- as "unfortunate" because of L.A.'s slew of early injuries. "We thought if we didn't make hay ... wow," Jackson said, before an Opening Night victory over the Phoenix Suns (without Bryant) quickly allayed those concerns.



Blog Excerpt

"It'd be interesting," Kobe said of an Iverson-Bryant backcourt. "It'd be a lot of competitive juices flowing. I don't mind it. I'm sure you [media] guys would have fun with that.

"I can't see [the Lakers] entertaining that, but for your column's sake, let's entertain that."

Thanks, Mamba.

"I got you," he said. "I got you."

Read the full Marc Stein blog Insider



 

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