In celebration of Allen Iverson's first home game with the Pistons today, against the Celtics, Reebok is passing out T-shirts and posters throughout metro Detroit that say: "Detroit Now Has The Answer." But come next summer, it's very possible those T-shirts and posters will be collector's items.
"I want to be somewhere where I can be happy and have a chance to win," Iverson said. "That's it. Meeting the people in the organization when I first got here and the commitment that they're making to me, I would be crazy if I didn't feel that I wanted to be here after this summer is over. If there is going to be a way they can present it to me, hell yeah, I want to be right here."
The Pistons acquired Iverson for guard Chauncey Billups, forward Antonio McDyess, and center Cheikh Samb last Monday. You would think that acquiring a three-time All-NBA first-team selection who can score at will would bring big excitement to Motown.
But gone is the beloved Billups, a fan favorite, a three-time All-Star, and the 2004 NBA Finals MVP. It's also not a guarantee that McDyess will return to Detroit once his contract is bought out by Denver.
And Iverson will be a free agent next summer. Time will tell whether he fits in with the offensively sharing Pistons and jell in a backcourt with Rip Hamilton and second-year sensation Rodney Stuckey.
Hamilton was upset about the trade and didn't talk about it until Thursday. Iverson understood all the apprehension.
"I had to deal with it in Philadelphia when they had to move Aaron McKie and Eric Snow, guys who I've been on the  Finals team with, been through the wars with," Iverson said. "It was tough on me. I definitely understand where [Hamilton] is coming from."
The 33-year-old Iverson's chances of returning could also be affected by the outstanding 2010 free agent market, if the Pistons want to get younger. Toronto forward Chris Bosh would be a likely Detroit target if there is salary cap space. With a future star in Stuckey, Hamilton at shooting guard, Olympic gold medalist Tayshaun Prince at small forward, and young Amir Johnson at center, Bosh would be a natural fit at power forward.
Don't forget, however, that Iverson averaged 26 points per game last season. What if the eight-time All-Star does fit in, sparks the Pistons to the Eastern Conference finals or NBA Finals, sells countless jerseys, and is a fan favorite? That would make it tough for Detroit not to bring him back.
"I'm trying to be a smart man, and if we're not successful, then it won't be a good thing, obviously, as far as me trying to be here in Detroit," Iverson said. "But if we do successful things, the chances are better that I will be."
Said Pistons president Joe Dumars, "We talked about playing it out and seeing how things turn out."
Even if Detroit ends up wanting Iverson back, competition for his services can be expected.
Portland, Atlanta, Miami, the Clippers, Oklahoma City, and Memphis all could have salary-cap space. With point guard Mike Bibby a free agent next summer, keep an eye on Atlanta, since Iverson owns an offseason home there. He could be the final piece to make the Hawks an NBA power and would sell tickets. Miami and Portland could also use a veteran star point guard.
"The whole thing about it is I want to go somewhere where I have a chance to win a championship and be where my family can be happy," Iverson said. "That's the most important thing winding it down. I'm not talking about winding it down in a year or two. My goal is to play until I'm 39 years old and hopefully I can stay in one city for that long until my career is over."
For an NBA pioneer, this is greatest victory
Barack Obama moved one of the most significant African-American sports figures to tears.
Earl Lloyd, the first black to play in an NBA game, is a man who endured racism on and off the court for many years. Growing up in segregated Northern Virginia, he never had a conversation with a white man until he was in his 20s and couldn't attend the same schools or use the same libraries as whites as a kid. The Hall of Famer couldn't play in a preseason game in South Carolina because he was black and was once asked by a white fan if he had a tail.
With that past in mind, it's understandable why the 79-year-old Lloyd was moved to tears when Obama was elected president last Tuesday.
"Aside of taking my wife out of the equation, all of the good things that happened in my lifetime, I would put it in a bowl and trade it in for this," said Lloyd, who broke in with the Syracuse Nationals in 1954-55. "This was so uplifting. Now, for the first time in my life, I can go to a school - and I've made a thousand speeches - and look a kid in the face and I can truly say, 'You can be anything you want to be.'
"Before, you could say it and it wasn't true. But now, this breaks down a major barrier and everything in between. You can leave a school and feel good about telling a kid he could be president of the United States. But before it wasn't a valid statement.
"Based on my history, if Tuesday night doesn't make me cry, something is wrong with me. How can you not?"
The Knicks top the NBA's payroll list. A look at the top five teams:
New York $97.9 million
Dallas $94.3 million
Cleveland $90.8 million
LA Lakers $81.8 million
Boston $80.7 million
"[Kevin Garnett] told me that Bill Russell sent him an e-mail or something telling him, 'You can't be satisfied. You guys haven't done nothing. You can't be arrogant.' He is up for the challenge [to repeat] and the team is up for the challenge."
Bucks guard Tyronn Lue
Agent provocateur: Pistons guard Rip Hamilton is still reeling about getting ripped off. Former University of Connecticut team manager Josh Nochimson has been decertified as an agent by the NBA Players Association in large part because he has been accused of stealing about $500,000 from Hamilton, a former UConn star. Hamilton said his lawyers are working on the case and plan on eventually taking Nochimson to court. Hamilton said his representatives haven't been able to locate Nochimson since he moved from Detroit. "When you think you know somebody, you think they have your best interest," said Hamilton. "You bring him around your family. Everybody trusted him, respected him. Even though people didn't think he was good at the time, they respected it because he was my guy. But when he [expletive] you like that, you can never trust anybody. My dad always told me that, but I fought myself though because I really don't trust anybody." Bulls forward Luol Deng, whose brother played with Hamilton at UConn, fired Nochimson as his agent prior to signing a six-year, $71 million extension last offseason. Hamilton said he made Deng aware of his problems with Nochimson.
New style in Denver: So why did Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony give up his trademark cornrows for a simple quo vadis haircut? "It was time for a change, and something I had to do," Anthony said. "I had been planning to do it before the start of the season and the opportunity sort of presented itself." Another thing that has changed is the Nuggets, who acquired Denver native Chauncey Billups in a four-player trade that sent Allen Iverson to Detroit. Anthony says the trade "should work out" and that the Nuggets can make a title run with Billups. Asked how the trade affects him, Anthony said, "I just have to keep playing and working hard and supporting my team as best I can and being a good teammate to Chauncey." Anthony has opened a barber shop close to the Nuggets' Pepsi Center called Studio 15. Customers can also get manicures, pedicures, and massages. "I grew up going to my old barber shop in Baltimore, The Cutting Zone, about once a week, and I remember listening to everyone talking and discussing different things. I learned a lot just sitting there," said Anthony. "So I wanted to create the same experience for Studio 15."
Tax purpose: The Celtics' payroll is $80,784,135 this season, well over the $71.15 million luxury tax threshold, so they must pay a tax of $9.6 million. The highest-paid player is Kevin Garnett at $24.7 million while the lowest-paid is rookie Bill Walker at $542,114. Ray Allen makes $18.3 million while Paul Pierce makes $18 million. Pierce actually has an opt-out for 2010, but considering he would be making $21.5 million during the 2010-11 season, it would be doubtful that he exercises it. The Celtics have six other players making less than $1 million in Sam Cassell, Glen Davis, J.R. Giddens, Patrick O'Bryant, Leon Powe, and Gabe Pruitt.
Free throws: Lakers star Kobe Bryant would like the opportunity to win another Olympic gold medal in London in 2012. "I'll be 34 years old," Bryant said during the Olympics. "If I'm good at 34 and they ask me to come back, I'll come back gladly." Asked how many members of the US team he expected to return in 2012, Bryant joked: "All of these young guys. They all got Similac on their breath still." . . . Cavaliers forward Ben Wallace, who won an NBA title with Detroit in 2004, on the challenge of trying to repeat as champs: "Everybody makes their season by beating you, whether a team wins 50 games or 15 games. They want to make their season by beating the defending champs. When you're at the top, everybody is gunning for you, from the best team to the worst team. You're going to get everybody's best game. Everybody you are playing against is trying to give you everything they got to prove themselves. You're definitely going to be hunted."
Marc J. Spears can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org