Basketball

Bobcats consider signing Iverson

They're both guys with Carolina ties, and each supervised Allen Iverson over parts of his first 12 NBA seasons.

Former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Billy King warns that Iverson can be stubborn and self-absorbed, and doubts he'd change that as a Charlotte Bobcat.

Denver Nuggets coach George Karl is more complimentary. He acknowledges Iverson puts up some ill-advised shots and lacks ideal size for a shooting guard. But Karl says Iverson's respect for Bobcats coach Larry Brown could make this notion work out.

Unrestricted free agent Iverson is on the Bobcats' radar. Iverson apparently wants to play for Brown again, and discussions have occurred between the team and Iverson's representatives.

It's not automatic Iverson, nicknamed the Answer, will end up a Bobcat. There are roster and payroll issues in the way. Also, the Memphis Grizzlies have made him a contract proposal in the past few days.

But the Bobcats could use a scorer. The Bobcats were last in the NBA in points per game last season, and Iverson's career average tops 27 points per game. They could also use his star power, as a team struggling to sell tickets.

King, a former national defensive player of the year at Duke, spent 10 seasons in the Sixers' front office, eventually trading Iverson to the Nuggets.

"Everything is about Allen, and it can't all be about Allen at this point in his career," King said. "He's no longer that intimidating figure who can just blow by everybody. So he's got to do other things, and I'm not sure he will."

King believes Iverson is so conditioned to a certain mind-set that it's too late, at 34, for him to re-invent himself.

"[Iverson's] personality is to say, 'I can still do this. I can take all the shots and stay out late and do everything I did in my 20s,' " King said. "He needs to get to the foul line [to be effective], and if that doesn't work, he'll be very quick to yell at the referees for not giving him calls."

Iverson was traded early last season from the Nuggets to the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons asked him to play as a reserve late last season before shutting him down with a back injury. Iverson reportedly said he'd rather retire than accept a limited role and called last season his "most miserable."

His scoring average last season -- 17.5 points per game -- was nearly 10 points below his career scoring average. His trips to the foul line dropped from about nine per game for his career to roughly six last season.

King says Iverson no longer can drive by almost everyone in the NBA. That makes him more dependent on jump shots, and King describes Iverson's jumper as "average at best."

The difference between Iverson and Bobcats managing partner Michael Jordan, King said, is that Jordan was cerebral enough late in his playing career to make it work beyond his prime -- Jordan became more of a passer, rebounder and screen-setter.

"Allen never made the people around him better in the first place, because it's always about Allen," King said.

Karl, a former North Carolina point guard, understands the challenges of coaching Iverson. But he enjoyed it.

"I had very few problems from A.I., in terms of him doing everything I asked him to do," said Karl, who coached Iverson for most of two years.

"I heard all the stories, but he said he was coming to make the basketball team better. We didn't hit a home run, but we got better."

Still, Karl agrees with King that Iverson has to remake himself to continue playing effectively.

"He's a volume scorer, and I think he'll have to make himself into an efficient scorer," Karl said of Iverson, a 42.5 percent career shooter from the field.

"A volume scorer is a guy who can go through a period of time in a game when he breaks out of the system. That can have a negative influence on the team. A coach prefers the team be successful, rather than the individual be successful."

Karl and King agree there's a bond between Iverson and Brown from their time together in Philadelphia and at the Olympics. They both say if anyone could convince Iverson to remake himself, it's Brown.

"He's got to have a lot of minutes. The only guy in the NBA who could convince him his role has to change is Larry," King said. "Just like he convinced [Iverson] to be a shooting guard" instead of a point guard.

Karl added, "Coach Brown and A.I., because of the [mutual] respect they have, I think they'll have an ability to conform to one another. They'd figure it out in training camp. ... But it will take a period of time."

Iverson is a point guard in size, but a shooting guard in approach. As King described, "When Allen plays the point, nobody else touches the ball."

Karl was more diplomatic: "He obviously can play some minutes at the point, but the best approach is to say, 'A.I, go get me points.' "

It's a given that playing Iverson at shooting guard means using a point guard big enough and strong enough to guard the opposing team's shooting guard.

Karl agreed, saying, "There's no question the trend in the league is to make the 2-guard position bigger."

King calls Iverson the toughest player, pound for pound, in NBA history.

"He's like that football player who might not practice all week but is ready every Sunday," King said. "Only he does that for 82 games, playing every one like a football player on Sunday."

The problem, King says, is that indestructibility can breed hubris.

"It's like telling Jack Nicholson he has to start playing bit parts," King said. "Once he gets on that stage, he's going to say, 'I'm Allen Iverson!' It's going to be about him because it's always been about him, and I can't see that ever changing."

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