The Los Angeles Lakers wouldn't even generate a mention in the Allen Iverson Sweepstakes if Phil Jackson, when asked about it over the weekend, hadn't gently tossed them into the derby.
A few days later?
There's really no new evidence to suggest that the Lakers are in this, or that they want to be, but Jackson isn't exactly backtracking from his original disclosure that he "wouldn't outright say we have no interest."
Without revealing whether L.A. is still contemplating a serious play for the league's top scorer, Jackson did insist Wednesday night that he had little doubt Iverson and Kobe Bryant could flourish in the same backcourt, not just co-exist.
"When I was with New York, we had a really good basketball team, [but] the chance to pursue Earl Monroe came to the Knicks ... which would give us [Bill] Bradley, [Dave] DeBusschere, [Willis] Reed, [Walt] Frazier and [Earl] Monroe," Jackson said.
"The natural assumption is, 'How are you going to accommodate a guy who scores 26 points a game and takes that many shots?' [But] when I expressed concern to Bill Bradley, he said, 'Oh, we'll fit him in, he's a good team player.' And we did.
"I think Allen's of the age," Jackson continued, "where he's ready to do [something similar]."
What's stopping the Lakers from making a run at the 31-year-old who scores 31 a game?
Why couldn't they join the leaders of the Iverson chase in Denver ... and the clubs (Minnesota, Boston and Indiana) trying to hang in?
They'd almost certainly need the help of a third team to acquire AI, but there are worse pieces to start building a package with than Andrew Bynum and future draft considerations.
There is likewise no coach in creation who'd have a better chance of getting Iverson's best.
The answer? The Lakers really don't need The Answer.
This isn't December 2005, when the Lakers' situation looked desperate. When it looked like they had to jump at any risky trade possibility in search of a home run.
This also isn't Ron Artest, whose defensive gifts and multi-position potential -- provided Jackson would have harnessed it -- could fill in some of the holes around Bryant better than Iverson.
L.A. already has a dynamic scorer. The Lakers also have a good bit more hope than they had this time last year, when Artest was made available by Indiana, because the shared ability of Jackson and Bryant -- and Phil's system -- has taken them so far in a year's time.
You used to hear D-League jokes about Kobe's supporting cast. Now? The Lakers have been sufficiently united, organized and lifted by the Jackson-and-Bryant tag team that -- despite doomsday predictions from yours truly after a nightmarish training camp -- they'll stay competitive in the West until the right trade opportunity presents itself. One that brings a better point guard than Smush Parker ... or the outside shooting L.A. still needs to open up the floor for Bryant ... or maybe more dependable size.
I'd be surprised to hear that Bryant went to his bosses to lobby for an Iverson trade, like he did for Artest, but not only because he's waiting for something better or the likelihood that he's less-than-thrilled with the idea. It's also because he takes an almost fatherly pride in the development of this crew.
Kobe never shows public concern, even when it's understandable or when he probably is fretting, but he went out of his way Wednesday night to sound unworried, happily engaging in Iverson hypotheticals despite the seriously bad news confirmed just hours before: Lamar Odom will miss at least a month, and much of it on the road, with a sprained knee.
(Kobe's pre-game calm, incidentally, didn't look out of place when the Lakers, on the second night of a Texas back-to-back and in their first full game without Odom, guarded almost no one and still managed to rattle the reigning Western Conference champs with some execution and poise after halftime in Dallas' unconvincing 110-101 triumph.)
"It'd be interesting," Kobe said of an Iverson-Bryant backcourt. "It'd be a lot of competitive juices flowing. I don't mind it. I'm sure you [media] guys would have fun with that.
"I can't see [the Lakers] entertaining that, but for your column's sake, let's entertain that."
"I got you," he said. "I got you."