A Journeyman Center Haggling Over $1.2 Million Prevented Allen Iverson From Joining the Detroit Pistons Before AI’s MVP Season

The Detroit Pistons‘ 2008 trade for Allen Iverson came eight years too late. That move — which saw Pistons great Chauncey Billups go to the Denver Nuggets — backfired spectacularly, as AI was well past his prime while Billups still had a pair of quality seasons in him. However, Pistons fans likely won’t forget the organization had an opportunity to acquire Iverson in 2000, just before The Answer became the MVP of the league.

The Pistons likely would have been able to get Iverson, too, if not for one of AI’s teammates holding the deal up over $1.2 million.

The Pistons were on the verge of acquiring Allen Iverson from the Philadelphia 76ers in August 2000

Allen Iverson was a legitimate cornerstone player by the summer of 2000. He was also a pain in Larry Brown’s side.

The Philadelphia 76ers head coach frequently butted heads with his star player, including levying a suspension after Iverson missed practice in March 2000. One infraction after another led to the Sixers threatening to trade AI, and the Pistons nearly capitalized on his availability.

Former Pistons great Joe Dumars took over as Detroit’s general manager that summer. After orchestrating a sign-and-trade to send Grant Hill to the Orlando Magic, he turned his focus to an Iverson blockbuster. According to then-ESPN reporter Marc Stein, the Pistons were on the verge of acquiring Iverson from the Sixers as part of a four-team trade, with former Philly executive Pat Croce saying the framework was “close” to being finalized.

So, why didn’t the trade go through? Well, because former Sixers center Matt Geiger refused to waive a $1.2 million trade kicker.

Former Sixers center Matt Geiger killed Iverson-to-Detroit

Allen Iverson and his Sixers teammates look on during Game 4 of the 2001 NBA Finals
Allen Iverson sits on the floor in front of the bench as 76ers (L-R) Dikembe Mutombo, Tyrone Hill, Aaron McKie, and Matt Geiger watch the final minute of Game 4 of the NBA Finals, 13 June 2001, at the First Union Center in Philadelphia, PA | Jeff Haynes/AFP via Getty Images

Matt Geiger hardly seems like the kind of player capable of killing a blockbuster trade. He had a respectable 10-year NBA career but typically filled the role of a reserve center.

However, Geiger was indeed responsible for the purported framework falling apart.

The former Sixers center was supposed to be the other piece going to the Pistons in the trade. But Geiger, in the second season of a six-year, $47 million contract, would not waive the $1.2 million trade kicker for the final four seasons of his deal.

Geiger said the following summer that he refused to waive the trade kicker because he did not believe he and Iverson would be in a more ideal situation in the Motor City.

“I looked at Detroit and didn’t think Allen and I would’ve been better off there,” Geiger said in June 2001, via ESPN. “So the decision was easy.”

If nothing else, Geiger’s choice essentially cinched Iverson’s status as a Sixers icon. Meanwhile, the Pistons jumped through other hoops to assemble a championship roster.

The Answer won the 2000-01 MVP and became a Sixers legend, but the Pistons still got their ring

The 2000-01 season officially marked Allen Iverson’s leap from an All-Star guard to one of the very best players in the NBA.

Iverson won a scoring title, averaging 31.1 points. He tallied 4.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game while leading the NBA in steals at 2.5 pilfers per contest. The numbers, though, only tell part of the story.

Philadelphia’s roster was devoid of a second star. Iverson had to shoulder the offensive load for the Sixers on a nightly basis. Never was that more evident than when he scored 48 points in 41 attempts during a shocking upset of the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

The Sixers would go on to lose that series to LA, and Iverson never got his ring. But he forever ingratiated himself to the fans in Philly.

The Answer was in his age-33 season and nearing the end of his career when he came to Detroit in 2008, likely leaving some fans to imagine what could have been if the Pistons had acquired AI back in 2000. Still, it might be just as well that they didn’t complete the Iverson deal.

Detroit used cap space to sign Billups in free agency and then flipped Jerry Stackhouse — initially part of the Iverson framework — in the deal that netted them Richard Hamilton. Those two were integral to the Pistons’ 2003-04 championship team, but they probably wouldn’t have played for Detroit if the Iverson deal had been consummated.

In other words, both Pistons and Sixers fans might actually do well to thank Matt Geiger for using his $1.2 million trade kicker as a holdup during those negotiations in the summer of 2000.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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