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Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009

Iverson signs with Grizzlies

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Believing he still has something to prove, Allen Iverson signed a one-year contract on Thursday with a Memphis Grizzlies team that hasn't reached the NBA playoffs since 2006 and has never won a playoffs game.

News photo
Playing a new tune: Four-time NBA scoring champion Allen Iverson holds a Beale Street Blue Gibson guitar that was presented to him at a news conference announcing his signing with the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. AP PHOTO

Though the 10-time All-Star and former league MVP has scored more than 23,000 points in his NBA career, he wasn't a highly sought-after free agent.

The 34-year-old guard heard all the talk that he's lost a step, that last year's dip in offensive production indicated he's on the downside of an All-Star career, maybe even ready for retirement.

But Iverson wants to prove those critics wrong, and he'll get his chance in Memphis, which won only 24 of 82 games last season.

"This year for me is so personal," Iverson said.

"It's basically going to be my rookie season again. It hurts, but I turn the TV on, I read the paper, I listen to some of the things people say about me having the season that I had last year and me losing a step, things like that. They're trying to put me in a rocking chair already."

The Grizzlies and Iverson's agent, Leon Rose, declined to discuss contract specifics though Rose said the deal was laden with team-oriented incentives. None are tied to Iverson's individual statistics.

A base salary reported at about $3.5 million was increased after the Grizzlies withdrew a qualifying offer to guard Juan Carlos Navarro, freeing up more money for the signing.

The 13-year veteran was welcomed with a standing ovation by fans in the lobby of the FedExForum.

Iverson, dressed in a white shirt and a wearing a Grizzlies ball cap, saluted the hundreds of fans who yelled out "We Love You, Allen," and chanted "AI, AI, AI."

Cheerleaders, the team mascot and even the drum corps were there. One fan presented Iverson a book during the news conference. The Convention and Visitors Bureau gave him a Beale Street Blue Gibson guitar.

The Grizzlies are hoping Iverson's signing will lead them well beyond just making the playoffs, and boost interest in a team struggling to sell seats in Memphis.

"This guy has many years of basketball left in him . . . and he is eager. He expressed it to us to get going with the task of helping our team reach a whole other level of success," GM Chris Wallace said.

Refs facing lockout

NEW YORK (AP) NBA referees are prepared to be locked out for the start of the season after negotiations with the league on a new contract broke down this week when David Stern ended the latest bargaining session.

No further talks are scheduled — and when they do resume, it'll be without the commissioner.

Referees spokesman Lamell McMorris accused Stern of acting childish and not negotiating in good faith, so Stern removed himself from the process.

Stern said Thursday he told McMorris that, "In fact if it was going to get personal — which apparently he's decided to make it by calling news media and leveling a series of inaccurate allegations — that I would absent myself from the negotiations, which I have."

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