Updated: Dec. 14, 2006, 12:35 PM ET

A perfectly acceptable Answer

Answering a few questions about Allen Iverson, whom I coached for one year in 2004-05 with the Philadelphia 76ers . . .

What was his reaction when, in a team huddle, you called him the worst defensive point guard in the history of the game?

After that, he told me it was the first time he'd ever been called the worst in anything.

But he's not hypersensitive.

Not at all. The best part about Allen is that he had no problem being criticized in front of his teammates. You don't find that to be the case with superstars.

In fact, he encouraged you not to sit on any criticisms.

Yes. Another example was at halftime I got on him pretty hard about defense. Before we got back on court he said, "Listen, tell me to right then, don't wait till halftime."

I'm not saying we didn't have issues over 82 games, but generally the idea is to go behind closed doors and not to the media. He told me he wanted to be straightforward and when he thought I wasn't, he called me on it.

You coached Iverson when he was coming off a tough time with then-coach Chris Ford. You sat down with Iverson after a season in which his team had struggled. And you had traveled to Turkey to get to know him before the 2004 Olympics.

He said he didn't want me to manage him through the media -- that wasn't a problem because that's not how I coach. I told him that I wanted him to be a leader, that he would have to be a person who was going to be on time and be ready to lace 'em up.

And I told him I would never have him leave his legs on the practice floor. He had to stretch with the team and start practice with us, but leave it to me to take him out. I never had a problem with him about practicing.

His famous "practice" comments came in 2002. Can we talk about practice?

It's true he doesn't need practice to be a great player. But back then what he sometimes did not recognize is that for the team to play its best he needs to practice -- the group needs reps to gel defensively and offensively.

Makes sense. So, what's he like?

He's very, very likable to be around, fun to be around. His teammates really like him, although they're not always comfortable playing with him.

He's going to have new ones soon. Think he could be a "final piece" guy?

I think he's going to bring a tremendous amount to a team that is positioned to go deep in the playoffs.

And if they're not?

If he's on a team no better than the Sixers, then he's going to have to be the guy who dominates the ball and it will be a difficult situation.

The best fit for him?

A metro area like Boston fairly near the casinos. The best situation would be in the bigger markets. Minnesota is a smaller market, but it would be interesting to see him there.

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Sign And Trade
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
Looks like the elves have some work to do to accommodate the wishes of these fans at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, in limbo while waiting for a deal.

Thorpe Speed: Size Helps
shaun livingston

SHAUN AND ON: I've been critical of Shaun Livingston in this space watching him do a whole lot of nothing. But I'm seeing signs of progress. He leads all guards in blocked shots per 48 minutes, and is getting more buckets in the paint. Using his size is an important part of his development and a big step up from where he was.

BARG LARGE: I'm often telling young people that many players can make consecutive long-range shots in games, but hitting three in a row is difficult. Andrea Bargnani hit four straight in the fourth quarter, three over a two-minute span, with Darko Milicic in his face on two of them . . . on the road against a conference-leading team. That's big time. His stroke from deep is what made him the No. 1 guy instead of a late-first rounder.

BOXED OUT: Show me a tip dunk, and I'll likely show you an undisciplined defender neglecting to block out because he is trying to block a shot that he has no chance of getting.

THREE TENS: He is so good, so consistent, and so "unspectacular" in his 33-year-old body that we often overlook how special Jason Kidd is. But his 10, 10, and 10 last night was his 80th triple double, good for 3rd all-time behind The Big O" and Magic. That's Hall of Fame Good. And the Nets are 9-12, same as last season.

-- David Thorpe

Price Of Admission: Truth
steve nash

Mark Cuban was wrong, and so was I.

In July 2004, when Steve Nash got a six-year, $65 million offer from the Phoenix Suns, Cuban thought it would be a mistake to match it. That was because he thought Nash, as a 29-year-old player at a position where players tend to decline quickly with age, would be unlikely to provide value commensurate with that salary, something Cuban outlined in incredible detail on his blog:

"I said ... that if another team came in and paid him a max-like deal, what I called an extreme deal, outside the norm, then he would have to take it," he wrote then. (When I emailed Cuban to ask if he had any further comment, he said, "It's all in the blog.")

I used similar logic in chiding the move. At the time I wrote, "The Suns took a huge risk in giving him five guaranteed years and part of a sixth. At the end of his contract, he'll be 35, making well over $10 million a year, and probably won't be more than a bit player."

Well, we all know how the rest went.

Nash won consecutive MVP awards and helped the Suns become instant contenders. This season, he's been even better.

In addition to his perennially league-leading assist total, Nash is shooting 52.8 percent from the floor, 48.8 percent on 3-pointers and 90.8 percent from the line, producing an insane 65.5 true shooting percentage.

The full John Hollinger story Insider

Mavs Top Odom-Less Lakers

Mavs, Lakers now both 15-7

Blazing Suns
Steve Nash
AP Photo/Alan Diaz
Steve Nash offers a surprise dish in the Suns' 12th straight win, a 99-89 win over the Miami Heat, also giving the Suns a five-game sweep of its East road trip.

Extreme Behavior
Vince Carter

Wednesday's Best
Nets guard Vince Carter: After this night (36 points, nine assists and six boards) in the Nets' 108-95 win over the Bucks, let's roll this out there: AI in Jersey! (Note to Stern: Change rules to allow playing with two balls at once, like a multi-ball pinball machine.)

JR Smith

Wednesday's Worst
Nuggets guard J.R. Smith: He's up. He's down. He's . . . less than a week ago, he dropped 37 on the Heat. But he was 0-for-5 (two points!) in 18 minutes of a 29-point loss to the Wizards.

Quotes of the Day
"It's kind of scary, 18,000 Andys. I don't think I could come to the arena if we had wig night all the time."

-- LeBron James, commenting on the Sideshow Bob frizzy wigs handed out in tribute to teammate Anderson Varejao

See how all 272 who played stacked up

-- Andrew Ayres

Phil's Pearl Of Wisdom On Talent

Without revealing whether L.A. is still contemplating a serious play for the league's top scorer, Lakers coach Phil Jackson did insist Wednesday night that he had little doubt Allen 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]."

The full Marc Stein blog Insider

Sixteen Sweet

The Suns currently have five players averaging 16 points or more... which brings us to our stat of the night. Only four teams in NBA history have had five players average 16 points or more for an entire season. It hasn't been done in over 35 years. Here's the four teams:

1969 Baltimore Bullets
1968 New York Knickerbockers
1967 San Francisco Warriors
1957 Boston Celtics

Suns currently over 16 ppg:

Steve Nash: 20.2 PPG
Shawn Marion: 20.2 PPG
Leandro Barbosa: 16.8 PPG
Amare Stoudemire: 16.6 PPG
Raja Bell: 16.0 PPG

-- ESPN Research

Mystery Machine

Jamaal (Trenton): Since you are a pro trainer, maybe you can answer this question: Allen Iverson has been able to last 11 seasons playing at a very frenetic pace, and has seemed to get better with time. He has said in the past that he never lifts weights. Is that actually possible in this day and age of athletic training by opposing players?

David Thorpe: I will never try to understand how AI does what he does. He is as much a "freak" as anyone who has ever carried that nickname.

The full David Thorpe chat Insider



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