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Iverson's Destination Remains Unknown

By DAN GELSTON
The Associated Press
Sunday, December 10, 2006; 9:52 PM

PHILADELPHIA -- Here's what an NBA team in the market for a former MVP would get with Allen Iverson:

One night, Iverson scores 45 points in 48 minutes against Miami, the second time he tops 40 points in three games. Two nights after scorching the Heat, Iverson is whacked with a heavy fine for blowing off a Philadelphia 76ers' bowling event for season-ticket holders and corporate sponsors.

He's always been a hoops icon, and an iconoclast, all wrapped in one.

For most of Iverson's 11-year career, the Sixers were willing to look the other way and put up with Iverson's indiscretions as long as it meant deep runs in the playoffs, a packed house every night and those No. 3 jerseys selling out around the globe.

Larry Brown vs. Iverson? Iverson stuck around while Brown won a title in Detroit.

Chris Ford vs. Iverson? Please. No interim coach could control him.

Now with the Sixers (5-14) on a seven-game losing streak and playing to dwindling crowds, and Iverson butting heads with coach Maurice Cheeks, the franchise player and the franchise have finally had enough of each other.

Iverson did last week what he always swore he wouldn't do: request a trade. The Sixers are ready to grant his wish. Now, it's up to Sixers team president Billy King to find the right deal for the seven-time All-Star.

"I'm trying to do what's best for this organization," King said Friday night.

The Sixers sent Iverson home the last two games and said on Sunday the four-time scoring champion will be inactive again for Monday night's game against Portland. The Sixers then play three more times this week, against Boston on Wednesday, and a Texas back-to-back at Dallas and San Antonio, meaning a deal will likely have to come soon before the situation really gets ugly.

Sixers chairman Ed Snider said Iverson has "probably" played his last game in Philadelphia. Iverson acknowledged a trade was for the best and thanked Sixers fans for 11 great years. The next time those Philly fans see Iverson live again, it will be in another team's jersey.

But which one?

Besides the combustible nature of his personality, the biggest obstacle to a deal is Iverson's hefty salary. He's due the rest of his nearly $18 million this season, and a combined $40 million through the 2008-09 season. A third team might have to be included to swing a trade.

"In the NBA, it's not easy to make moves because you have to take money back and all these other things, but we're going to have to deal with it," Snider said.

Plus, while King sorely wants to deal the franchise player, he can't just give Iverson away. No one in Philly can forget the Sixers only getting Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry for Charles Barkley in 1992. And the Sixers traded Wilt Chamberlain to the Lakers in 1968 for Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark and Darrall Imhoff.

Still, Snider said "half the league" had called about Iverson's availability.

While Iverson's maybe a half-step slower than he was 10 years ago, that's still a step quicker than most players in the league. Iverson leads the league in scoring with 31.2 points, averages 42.7 minutes and 2.2 steals, making it easy to imagine him providing a needed jolt to a franchise trying to make a championship run.

King reportedly had a deal to send Iverson to Boston around NBA draft night, but the Celtics no longer have the No. 7 draft pick they were dangling as bait. King is close friends with Indiana Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh, making it likely those two talked about a deal (perhaps involving point guard Jamaal Tinsley?).

Denver (with Andre Miller); Minnesota (with King fan Randy Foye); and even still the Celtics remain strong targets. Minnesota's Kevin Garnett and Boston's Paul Pierce openly have campaigned for their general managers to bring Iverson in, surely forming what might be a 1-2 punch toward the playoffs.

But could they fit? After all, Iverson never clicked with Jerry Stackhouse, Larry Hughes, Keith Van Horn or Glenn Robinson and couldn't win with Chris Webber.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he wouldn't rule out a trade that would send Iverson to Los Angeles and pair him with Kobe Bryant.

"I think he has trade value. Certain teams know what he could do for them," Jackson said. "Other teams would say no thank you at this time.

"I wouldn't say outright we have no interest."

The next time Iverson is late for practice, skips a team function or clashes with a coach, King simply can smile. Iverson will be stirring with some other team, and won't be the Sixers' problem anymore.

But when Iverson rattles off a stretch of 30-point games, packs arenas with his electrifying play and leads a team to the playoffs, King will have to wonder why the relationship had to sour like it did.

"Allen has done a lot of great things for this organization and I wish him well," Snider said.

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AP Sports Writer John Nadel in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Associated Press