Answer for sale?

Maybe this is the ominous silence. That scene in the movie where the entire room has come to the same realization and everyone gets silent and still, waiting for someone to make the move. You’ve also seen this in television commercials, when there’s one remaining slice of pizza or a solitary donut, and everyone stares one another down like it’s an old Mexican standoff.

Maybe this is what is happening in the NBA this summer. Maybe this explains the tenuous disquiet surrounding this Allen Iverson situation. Maybe this is the calm before the storm.

Not that the rumors haven’t been there before-they have come up from time to time. But they’ve been more like murmurs and whispers than real, tangible possibilities-the “what-ifs,” as it were. But this summer is different. The whispers are on the verge of turning into an all-out yell. The message is coming across loud and clear: Allen Iverson is available. The Sixers are ready and willing to sell. And for 50 cents on the dollar, no less.

And yet, not only has no one pulled the trigger, but no one even seems to want to talk about it. Nationwide, general managers-even those on teams desperate for a top-tier scorer-aren’t commenting. Or they say they aren’t interested. Except the Celtics, of course. Everyone keeps hearing about them. But that’s just one team out of 29-where is everyone else? Did they lose their collective balls, or are they just biding their time?

It would be hard to believe that Iverson’s reputation has been so unfortunately sullied that no one wants to take a chance on a 31-year-old guard who still happens to be among the elite of today’s NBA.

I’d like to think that NBA GMs wouldn’t be so clueless as to suspect that the ’76ers’ disappointing performances the last few years have more to do with Iverson’s supposed “selfishness” than the fact that Philly general manager Billy King is kind of an idiot. The kind of idiot who has gone through four different head coaches the last few years. The kind who has wasted Iverson’s prime by surrounding it with a mediocre roster full of overpaid players who can’t score or play defense.

In fact, the very indication that King is dangling Iverson should be proof enough to every other organization league-wide that the deal is worth making. And maybe teams are just posturing-maybe there’s a lot of interest and it just hasn’t been reported yet. I mean, you’re telling me Isiah Thomas isn’t scrambling around in his brain trying to figure out how to unveil the first-ever five point guard lineup, with Iverson front and center? You’re telling me Kevin Garnett wouldn’t love to have A.I. in the backcourt?

Ironically enough, the team most likely to get Iverson-the Celtics-is one of the most questionable destinations. I don’t know how I feel about giving up Al Jefferson and Gerald Green to get another guy who, like Paul Pierce, likes the ball in his hands. A combination of Iverson and a frontcourt scorer would work best-kind of like Billy King tried to do with Chris Webber, except for the fact that Webber is 56 years old and a tragedy on the defensive end.

The fact is that teams across the league need to get in on this. Lots of them. I could think of probably 18 or 20 who could desperately use Iverson’s services. The Warriors were interested, but reportedly passed, as if Baron Davis and Mike Dunleavy are going to take them to the promised land. The Hawks promised their fans earlier this summer that they’d make a play for Iverson, but apparently that would put too much of a kink in the team’s plans to employ an all-small forward lineup.

Obviously, you don’t want to mortgage your future-but there are plenty of ways to get Iverson. There are plenty of player and draft-pick combinations that could land him. And in a league where, year in and year out, only a few teams have any realistic shot at winning it all, this could be the best chance we’ve seen in a while for a team to make a real summer splash. Iverson could be, if you’ll forgive me, the answer to your problems. Is anyone listening?