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Trade talks heat up as Iverson sits two games

PHILADELPHIA -- Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers
appear headed toward a bitter parting.


Iverson is talking about bolting Philly -- and the Sixers might
finally be ready to show their franchise player the door.

"We're going to trade him," Sixers chairman Ed Snider said
Friday night.

"At a certain point, you have to come to grips with the fact
that it's not working. He wants out and we're ready to accommodate
him."

Iverson's 11-year career in Philadelphia took another tumultuous
turn Friday when the former NBA MVP hinted that a trade might be
best after the Sixers sent him home and ruled him out of their next
two games.

"As hard as it is to admit, a change may be the best thing for
everyone," Iverson said. "I hate admitting that because I love
the guys on the team and the city of Philadelphia. I truly wanted
to retire a 76er."

Snider said Iverson has "probably" played his last game with
the Sixers, ending a career that placed him with Julius Erving,
Charles Barkley and Wilt Chamberlain among the team's greats.

"I think it's time for him to move on, for us to move on and
find out where everything stands," Snider said. "I really didn't
see it coming because Allen says all the right things."

The possibility of Iverson being traded to Minnesota boosted Kevin Garnett's spirits just minutes after a big win over Utah.

"Bring it on, I love 'The Answer," Garnett said. "We welcome A.I. with open arms. Where's Kevin McHale?"

McHale, vice president of basketball operations, would not comment on rumors that Iverson would end up in Minnesota. But his star player went so far as to look into a local television camera and make a plea to Iverson.

"Come on, boy," Garnett said. "I can't think of anyone who wouldn't want to play with him."

In a pregame interview, coach Dwane Casey deflected questions about Iverson.

In a surprising turn of events, Iverson was banished by the Sixers
and didn't play in Philadelphia's 113-98 loss to Washington on
Friday night. Team president Billy King said the move was not a
suspension and Iverson's future would be re-evaluated after
Saturday night's game at Orlando.

King and coach Maurice Cheeks said Iverson was sent home because
he did not practice on Thursday and left Wednesday's blowout loss
at Chicago with back spasms. However, the move to bench their
captain comes with Iverson's name swirling in heavy trade rumors.

King would not say before the Sixers' game against the Wizards
if Iverson had asked for a trade or if he was actively trying to
trade the four-time NBA scoring champion. Snider confirmed that
Iverson did ask this week to be dealt.

"Allen was not able to practice yesterday because of the back
and today Mo made a decision not to play him tonight or tomorrow,"
King said. "We told him to just take the night off and tomorrow."

However, Iverson told a different story. Iverson, whose
off-court behavior and coaching clashes often overshadowed his
gritty, highlight-reel play, released a statement through agent
Leon Rose stating that he told the Sixers he was healthy enough to
play.

Iverson said he was told not to participate in shootaround and
instead watched from the sideline. He joined the Sixers in the
huddle, then was told by Cheeks not to come to the Wachovia Center.

"In my entire career, even the doctors haven't been able to
tell me not to play," Iverson said. "I've played through injury
and illness. I think everyone knows how much I love being out on
the court, competing and winning. That's why it was so
disheartening to be told that I couldn't play, knowing that I was
ready. It hurt even more to be told not to come at all."

Iverson, second in the league with 31.2 points per game, left
Wednesday night's 121-94 loss at Chicago in the second half,
complaining of the spasms, and did not practice Thursday. The
Sixers are 5-13 and have lost six straight and 13 of 15 overall.

"This season has been very frustrating for everyone," Iverson
said. "We've lost 12 of 14 games and nothing seems to be working.
I have expressed my frustration to my teammates, however, I have
continued to give 100 percent night in and night out. Apparently,
it hasn't been enough to help our team win."

Even with the Sixers sinking toward another lottery-bound
season, Snider said Cheeks and King's jobs were safe.

The losses and Iverson's petulance also have led to a splintered
relationship with Cheeks. Iverson left a practice last week
reportedly after a disagreement with Cheeks and skipped a team
bowling function for season-ticket holders later that night. He
apologized and was fined by the organization.

"It happens," Cheeks said. "Sometimes coaches and players
disagree."

Cheeks said he expected Iverson to finish the season in
Philadelphia.

The floundering Sixers missed the playoffs last season for the
second time in three seasons, leaving King to proclaim at the NBA
draft lottery it was time to "change the culture." It has
changed, but arguably for the worse.

Iverson reportedly was nearly dealt last offseason to Boston,
and complained the trade talk took a toll on him and his family. A
late July visit from King finally assured Iverson he wasn't going
anywhere, and Iverson repeated a familiar pledge in training camp
that he wanted to end his career with the Sixers.

"I always wanted to stay here because of the loyalty, but it's
all I know," he said then.

Iverson, the No. 1 pick in the 1996 draft and a seven-time
All-Star, has won four scoring titles, two All-Star game MVPs and
the MVP award in 2001 after taking the Sixers to the NBA finals.

"He's one of the greatest basketball players of all time, he
has incredible talent, he's done a lot of great things for this
organization and we wish him well," Snider said.

With his rants about practice, his run-ins with the law and
former coach Larry Brown, and a failed rap career, Iverson was
often a magnet for trouble off the court.

Iverson and Brown formed a turbulent combination during the six
seasons they spent together in Philly. Brown criticized Iverson for
taking too many shots and accused him of being selfish at times.

Iverson often arrived late for practice or missed them entirely
for various reasons. In one infamous blowup at the end of the 2002
season, he repeated "talking about practice" nearly 20 times
during a rambling monologue. He now pokes fun at the memorable
meltdown.

Brown and Iverson eventually reconciled and Brown selected his
former guard co-captain of the 2004 United States Olympic men's
basketball team.

"I appreciate that in my 11 years in Philadelphia, the fans
have always stood by me, supported me, and gone to bat for me,"
Iverson said.