Source: Sixers offer Iverson deal

PHILADELPHIA -- Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers are closer to a reunion.

The Sixers offered a one-year, nonguaranteed contract to Iverson on Tuesday, a source confirmed to ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher. Iverson had not yet accepted the deal, according to the source.

Iverson, his agent and business manager met with team president Ed Stefanski, coach Eddie Jordan and two other members of the organization Monday during the first formal meeting between the Sixers and their former MVP.

CSNPhilly.com first reported the offer.

A person with knowledge of the deal, who also spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the talks had not been made public, said Iverson's decision should come Wednesday.

The person says the 76ers are taking a chance on Iverson because he's the best free-agent guard available and the financial commitment is minimal. The Sixers would owe just under $650,000 if they guarantee his contract for the remainder of the season on Jan. 10.

Iverson would still need to undergo a physical before the deal is complete.

Iverson announced his retirement last week after an ill-fated stint with the Memphis Grizzlies. The 10-time All-Star was NBA MVP in 2001 when he led the Sixers to the NBA Finals.

ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported early Tuesday that the Sixers, according to two sources close to the situation, were targeting Monday's home game against the Denver Nuggets for Iverson's return to the team that drafted him in 1996.

After club officials met face-to-face with Iverson and his representatives for nearly two hours Monday before Philadelphia's 104-102 loss to Dallas, three of the organization's key figures -- Jordan, Stefanski and Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider -- all insisted publicly that no firm decision has been made on re-signing Iverson for the rest of the season.

But sources stressed to ESPN.com that plans behind the scenes had progressed to a level where Iverson's return was now regarded by both sides as far more likely than not. Although it remains unclear whether Iverson has the leverage to command anything more than a prorated share of the $1.3 million veterans' minimum, all indications late Monday suggested that only an unforeseen about-face by the Sixers could prevent Iverson from formally rejoining them by week's end.

The 6-foot Iverson, a four-time scoring champion, played three games this season with Memphis before taking a leave of absence to attend to personal matters. He was waived after the two sides agreed to part ways, and no team has expressed interest in signing him.

He's on the brink of getting a second chance with the Sixers. The Sixers (5-13) have lost seven straight games entering Wednesday night's game at Oklahoma City and need Iverson to spark sagging ticket sales and their playoff chances.

This reconciliation was once thought foolish after their acrimonious split three years ago. Iverson's last game with Philadelphia was Dec. 6, 2006 in Chicago. He refused to play the fourth quarter and was banished from the team two days later. He was eventually traded to Denver as part of the Andre Miller deal, and bounced to Detroit then Memphis.

The Sixers finish their four-game road trip Saturday against the Charlotte Bobcats and Iverson's former nemesis, coach Larry Brown.

If Iverson accepts the offer, his likely debut would come Monday night at home against Denver. In a double-dose of intriguing timing, the Sixers play at home Dec. 9 against Detroit.

Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley told the AP on Tuesday that he spent almost an hour on the phone with Stefanski before his meeting with Iverson.

"I told him I thought Allen had the game and I thought he would be a positive contribution to his team and was sorry it didn't work out with us. I thought to get back with Philadelphia, it was a good chance it would work out for them. I feel extremely happy about it," Heisley said.

"Quite frankly, I'm sorry that we couldn't work it out between us and Allen. I don't feel duped. I don't feel upset. I quite frankly arranged for the severance, which we could've stopped which would've stopped him from being able to play for anybody. I did it so he would have an opportunity to go play."

One source told ESPN.com that the team has already made tentative plans to send assistant coach and former Iverson teammate Aaron McKie home from the Sixers' current road trip to meet Iverson in Philadelphia later this week and work him out to ensure Iverson's readiness for the Denver game. The Sixers play Thursday in Oklahoma City and Saturday in Charlotte before returning to Philadelphia.

Although another team insider cautioned that no deal with Iverson should be considered done until it's official -- especially after the New York Knicks seemed to get just as close to signing Iverson earlier this month before electing to back out at the 11th hour -- there was an unquestioned sense of inevitability in the locker room in Dallas that Iverson will soon be a Sixer again.

"No doubt he's coming back," one source said.

Information from The Associated Press, ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein and ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher was used in this report.